Monday, May 31, 2010

God's Invasion: His Fullness

Preached May 30, 2010, Trinity Sunday

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:22-41; John 16:5-16

There was something going on in the streets of Jerusalem during the Jewish festival of Pentecost. The disciples had been praying together in one of the houses of Jerusalem. The first chapter of Acts tells us who would have been there: the apostles, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the brothers of Jesus, and perhaps others. (Acts 2:1; Acts 1:13-14)

A sound of rushing wind filled the room and there was fire in the air coming to rest upon them. It was as if they were human candles or human torches, and they began speaking in languages that they did not know.

They went out into the crowded holiday street and there were people in the crowd, on that street, who understood them. Some of the people on the street heard them describing what they called, “the wonders of God”. Other people on the street only heard giddy babbling and said, “These people are drunk!”

Have you ever heard of people who don’t like it when other people are happy? They criticize it, or try to put a wet blanket on it. The fact that other people knew something about the wonders of God, that they didn’t, put them on the spot. They had nothing to compete with it. This made them intensely unhappy, and they could only be happy again by finding fault with the joy of others.

Still there were these wonders of God. What were they? Peter explained what these wonders were. They had to do with Jesus. They were what Jesus had poured out. They would have been the things that had lately happened with him.

Some of the things seemed absolutely horrible, and others seemed impossible; unless God could do such things. Could God do such things?

Jesus had been hated by the authorities, and their hatred had grown until they couldn’t stop themselves from arresting him. He had been put on trial in a mockery of the law. He had been presented to a manipulated crowd during the Passover festival, and denounced by them. He had been falsely condemned, beaten, and whipped, and killed on a cross. Jesus’ bloody body had been laid to rest in the cool darkness of a tomb, and Jesus had risen from death to life on the third day.

Then Jesus spent those wonderful weeks with his disciples. Then he had taken them out of the city walls, to a quiet place, where he went up into the sky and disappeared in the clouds. Angels told them that Jesus would come back the same way they had seen him leave. These were the wonders of God.

Peter said that all these things were the doing of God; the work of God. “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)

Then Peter did a strange thing. He accused his audience of being guilty of crucifying Jesus. This was probably not true, but they believed it anyway. They knew where they had been and had not been. They knew what they had done and had not done. Jerusalem had many holy festivals and the calendar made Jerusalem a revolving door of religious crowds; people on pilgrimage. One crowd would stay the week of Passover and go back to their homes, only to be replaced by a new crowd who decided to come to Jerusalem for Pentecost, fifty days later.

Some of the Passover crowd had helped crucify Jesus. The Pentecost crowd came after the fact, but they somehow knew that the events of the cross and the resurrection included them, even so. In the same way those events include us and everyone in the world.

Jesus had said this would happen. Jesus had said that, even when he seemed to be gone from their sight, the Holy Spirit would “convict the world of guilt.” (John 16:8) The Holy Spirit would take the work of Jesus and make a powerful statement of it all in the consciences and hearts of those who would hear the message.

The injustice and the sin that were laid on Jesus on the cross would become the injustice and sin felt in the heart of those who heard the message. The wrongness of not believing in a God who would take upon himself the sins of the world would come home to the conscience and heart of those who heard. The righteousness of the one who had identified himself with us on the cross, and rose from the dead to give life to the world, going up to heaven to command the world (the truth that this was good and right) would sink into the conscience and heart of those who heard. The clear failure of the devil, the so-called prince of this world, in his effort to defeat God by capturing the human race in sin; and the power and beauty of God’s way of dealing with this sin, and setting us free, and giving us new life would be brought home to the conscience and hearts of those who heard. The Holy Spirit would have the power to convict and convince the conscience and the heart of those who heard the message.

In Jesus, sin, and death, and the devil got their proper judgment. The Holy Spirit would shine his light on the hearts and minds of those who heard, so that they could see the truth and be changed by it.

When Peter told the crowd that what they were seeing and hearing had been poured out by Jesus, he meant that our knowing our need for Jesus, and our knowing how Jesus has met our need, was being poured out that day. The crowd at Pentecost had not crucified Jesus, but their part in the injustice and sin of the world had crucified Jesus. It was not true that they had shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” and yet they had. We all have. And we all find grace, and life, and freedom through Jesus standing for us, dying for us, rising for us.

And this all goes together with the strange way Jesus describes his presence. He says he is going away and neither this world we live in nor we ourselves will see him, and yet we will see him, and the Holy Spirit will bring Jesus and his Father to us. “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” “The Spirit will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:16 and 16:14-15)

All this tells us essential things about our selves and the world we live in. Although we live in a world of many conflicting and confusing messages, we also live in a world where God is speaking; where Jesus is speaking, through the Holy Spirit, and the Father is speaking too.

We live in a world where we can see Jesus. Seeing by faith is not sightless seeing. Through Jesus we live in a vast mystery every day, living in the presence of the fullness of God. The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are always there to make themselves known to us.

This means that we do not live for Jesus, or live for God. We live in Jesus. We live in God: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We don’t only speak for God. We speak in a chorus of voices; the voices of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and also in chorus with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We are never alone as individuals. And the church is never alone. This also means we must stop thinking and acting as if we were on our own, and as if we have to hold on for dear life to what we have got. We can be free. We can let go. We can take up a cross and follow Jesus because we are not walking somewhere behind him at all. And we are far more than with him. We are in him, and he is in us. Through Christ we are “filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)

We can know this and live this, because Jesus has poured it out upon us and upon our world.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for passing by and taking the time to comment. Your blog is an oasis in the blogosphere.
    And thank you for your inspirational comments on my blog!
    Have a great Thursday!