Exploring the Word | Spreaker

Sunday, June 19, 2011

living by the Spirit, 6.12

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
3bNo one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Acts 2:1-21
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes 11Cretans and Arabs — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17  ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
     that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
          and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
     and your young men shall see visions,
          and your old men shall dream dreams.
18  Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
          in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
               and they shall prophesy.
19  And I will show portents in the heaven above
          and signs on the earth below,
               blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20  The sun shall be turned to darkness
          and the moon to blood,
               before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21  Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

            We’ve got two passages about the Holy Spirit on this Pentecost Sunday. We celebrate Pentecost as the church’s birthday, because it was really the Holy Spirit that made the church what it became. At his last supper with his disciples Jesus told them that he would send the Spirit to comfort and guide them. Jesus told them that by the Spirit’s power they would do even greater things than he did. The risen Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came to lead them out in ministry.

            So the disciples prayed and worshiped and waited in Jerusalem. On Pentecost they were together and the Spirit finally came. Often we have to really pay attention to notice the Spirit, but that day there was nothing subtle about it. The Spirit came like wind and fire and filled the room. The Spirit filled the disciples with power and gave them the ability to speak other languages.

            With that power the disciples went out into the streets and started sharing the good news. They started talking about what God had done, how God loved everyone deeply and welcomed all kinds of people into community. The Spirit stayed with those disciples and gave them the courage to share their faith not only in Jerusalem, but throughout the wider area and across the seas. The Spirit gave the disciples power to heal the sick and drive out demons. The Spirit allowed regular people to stand up to powerful leaders in the name of Jesus.

            And the Spirit wasn’t just with those first disciples; the Spirit filled each new believer who heard God’s word. The Spirit guided the church as a few believers grew to thousands of disciples gathered in hundreds of house churches throughout the Middle East.

The Spirit still guides the church today as we continue Christ’s ministry. The Spirit guides big churches and small churches. The Spirit guides Baptists and Presbyterians and Catholics. The Spirit guides the whole church because there is truly only one church. Every church has its own personality, just like every individual Christian has his or her own personality, but with all our differences, we are one in Christ.

That’s what Paul is getting at in the piece of the letter to the Corinthians we read a few minutes ago. The Holy Spirit gives each believer different gifts: gifts of healing, teaching, wisdom, understanding and so on. But as different as God’s gifts are, and as different as we are, God’s Spirit is the same. God gave Lisa powerful gifts of music. God gave Mary and Amanda gifts of financial wisdom. God gave Mildred the gift of faithful persistence. God gave Jim spiritual wisdom and the list goes on and on. Everyone here has gifts from God. God’s gifts are so varied and generous that many of us have gifts we haven’t even discovered yet.

Paul connects those spiritual gifts to baptism, because the prophets and John and Jesus all talked about how Jesus would send the Holy Spirit as a baptism for believers. So it’s appropriate that we talk about the Holy Spirit as we baptize a new Christian today. Oliver is part of a long line of faithful Christians. Dick and Doris, and Beverly all paved the way for Lisa’s vibrant faith, and this part of Christ’s church called Beacon Presbyterian has supported Lisa and Tony as they started and grew their family.

Today Oliver not only becomes part of his family’s story at Beacon, he becomes part of the body of Christ. That body includes men and women around the world who are different in every imaginable way. And yet that body is one body because it is Christ’s body. That body is led and guided by one Spirit because it is God’s Holy Spirit. With all our gifts and differences and disagreements, we are one body in Christ. Today Oliver becomes part of that one body where he will discover and share his unique gifts. Wherever Oliver goes, wherever each of us goes, God’s blessing and calling goes with us.

Paul talks about how the diversity of gifts are all part of Christ’s one body. That story goes both ways. The body of Christ is diverse with many members but one body, and the body is one but reaches out in every direction. The story of Acts is the story of that one body reaching out in new directions. When the Holy Spirit first filled the disciples, they immediately started speaking in other languages so all kinds of different people could hear the message of Jesus.

God still does the same thing in other ways. Some of us have been blessed with the ability to speak other languages literally. But God has also equipped all of us with different experiences that help us to reach out to different kinds of people today. Your life, your work, your unique story gives you a style, a language, that God can use to reach the people you come across in a way others can’t. God uses your words and actions to reach out to others with the love of Jesus.

Baptism and faith are not just about coming together to worship. They are not just about the story we have built here at this building on the corner of Cumberland and Cedar over the last hundred and thirty some years. Faith is about reaching out with God’s love today too. Whatever the future holds for this building and this congregation, God can use our witness to touch others with the good news that God is love and that love has no limit.

People in this community need to hear that message. They need to hear and see it in different ways, through the word proclaimed, through lives lived full of grace, through care for those in need. Some may connect with Christ’s message through art, some through music, some through the presence of Christians in the everyday lives of this community, through how we treat others when we shop and clean and drive.

People in your life, in your neighborhood, in your workplaces need to hear and see the message of God’s love too. God has given each of us the gift of the Spirit, the baptism into Christ’s body not just for ourselves but for others too. You have a language that only you can speak; you have a story that only you can tell. God wants to use your life and your story to continue the amazing story of Jesus until all creation is finally reconciled to God in love.

Thanks be to God.

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