Elizabeth M. Deibert
19 May 2013
When I was growing up I had no idea there was a day called Pentecost. We had Christmas and Easter, and you can be sure we had plenty of Pentecostal churches in rural N. Carolina. You could go there and possibly be slain in the Spirit, something I didn’t think I wanted to do. When I got to seminary, I learned about the church year – about Advent and Lent, about All Saints Day and about Pentecost.
In the last couple of decades, the Holy Spirit has received more attention from churches, and that’s good, because otherwise, we’d be worshiping the binity, instead of the Trinity. Yes, the Holy Spirit is sometimes forgotten by those who pray to God the Father and God the Son. The Spirit, she got the short shrift – even in the great Apostles’ Creed, which many of us recited weekly in worship. That’s why I made a Friday afternoon change to the service. You see, ordinarily for Baptisms and Confirmation, the Apostles’ Creed is recited, but because today is also Pentecost, we will use the other ancient creed of the church universal – the Nicene Creed, because it speaks more about the Holy Spirit. Emily and Kelsey, I want you to understand that you are not just being baptized and confirmed into Peace Church, but into the Church Universal of all the ages. So when we use an ancient Creed, remember that we are saying it with all kinds of Christians past and present and future.
You heard earlier the narrative story of the dramatic experience of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost, and now we will read from the Gospel of John, Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and Paul’s discussion of the Holy Spirit’s power at work in us. While it is difficult to relate to the first Pentecost – fire, wind, tongues – we can relate to the Spirit who is our Advocate, our support, and the One who works in us to transform our fleshly desires into godly ones, and the One who when we are suffering, prays with us by sighs too deep for words.
This is the Holy Spirit I love, that feminine presence of God, gentle and mysteriously powerful, reminding me of things I should know, guiding me to do the right thing, upholding me in trials, that Spirit who falls fresh, who melts me and molds me, fills me and uses me, even me.
Prayer… God of power, may the boldness of your Spirit transform us, may the gentleness of your Spirit lead us, may the gifts of your Spirit be our goal and our strength, now and always.
John 14:25-27 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (NRSV)
Romans 8:14-17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (NRSV)
Romans 8:22-27 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (NRSV)
What does Jesus say the Holy Spirit will do for us? Teach us everything and remind us of all he has said to us. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is speaking quietly in that still small voice to us all the time. Let me give you a little taste of what the Spirit is quietly telling me as I walk through the day because I expect the Spirit is saying some similar things to you. “Pray for that one. Call this person. Email that one. Wait. Do this now and that later. Are you managing your time well or are you being wasteful? Get your head thinking about good things. Dwell on what is pure and right and holy and true. Bad thoughts are like bad actions. They are taking you away. Don’t fill your mind with thoughts that don’t glorify me.” These are the kinds of things the Spirit says to me. I think to you also. Are we listening?
When I am shopping, I hear the Spirit saying, “Do you really need that or do you just want it? Will having that make you love me more? Have you thought of the poor? Have you been generous this week toward those who have less than you?” These are times when it is easier to ignore the voice of the Spirit, but I am so much better off when I listen.
When relating to others, the Spirit tells me, “Are you reaching out or living in your shell? Whoah. Hold your tongue. What you are about to say you will regret. Think before you speak. Listen well. Ask good questions. Show that you care. Encourage your friends and family. Don’t cut them down. Watch out. You are slipping into gossip. Why are you so negative about your life? Where’s the gratitude?” The Spirit helps me with gentleness and patience, if I am open to this self-control.
When I get overly busy and distracted I hear the Spirit saying, “Have you said midday prayers today? Why not? Are you taking care of your soul by stopping to give thanks to me and turn over your burdens to me?” In the kitchen I often hear, “Why are you eating that junk food? Does it really taste good or are you comforting yourself with carbs when what you really want is to be closer to me? Put it away. Your body is a temple. Go outside. Renew yourself with fresh air –breathe in my Spirit. Be amazed with my glorious flowers and sunshine. Take a walk. Get some exercise. Plant something to remind you of me – of my tongues of fire.”
As I go through the day, I hear the Spirit saying, “Are you listening to me or just doing whatever you want? When are you going to forgive that person? You keep dwelling on the comment that hurt you. You are replaying it in your head over and over. Let go of it. Put it away. Yes, I know you cannot forget it, but you can actively put it away and stop letting it control your thoughts.
Have you called your mother? Have you affirmed your spouse or someone in your family for something today? Have you prayed for your children? Are you setting a good example for them and for others who are watching you?
Where are my fruits in your life today – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. ” These are the kinds of messages that come from the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.
The Spirit is described as wind and fire in Acts, but the Spirit is also the still small voice, constantly with us. The Spirit is speaking to us as often as we are breathing, but like breathing, which we can ignore, so the Spirit can be easily overlooked.
When in Romans Paul speaks of the power of the Spirit he points to our inclusion in God’s family, the covenant with the Jews now open to us in Christ. The Spirit makes us “children of God” (8:14) and so we now understand God as a Father or even a “Daddy” (as Abba might be translated -- see 8:15). In addition, Paul suggests we are now “heirs” with Christ (8:17). In other words, all that the Son shares with his Father (peace, life, righteousness) has now been given to us as well. (Mark Tranvik – Preach this Week)
The Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming our own desire to be in control, helping us draw nearer to the heart and soul of Christ, the one who forgave his enemies, who loved those who were despised. Kelsey and Emily, today is your day to commit yourselves to live by the Spirit – to boldly claim your identity as a disciple of Christ, not counting the cost. The Spirit is descending on your like a dove, reminding you that you belong to God. I pray that you will cultivate your ability to listen for the Spirit in worship, in scripture, in prayer, in nature, and in those spiritual nudges of which I spoke. Trust those spiritual nudges when they are consistent with scripture and the teachings of the church. Even now the Spirit is blowing away all your doubt and fear. The Spirit is burning away all your complacency, your sin, leaving your heart warm and clean. The ultimate Truth of Life, this trustworthy Spirit of God, is in fact your Comforter, surrounding you in love and filling you with power and with the grace to live as Christ’s follower. When you are weak, the Spirit will groan and sigh with you. When you need prayers, the Spirit will be connecting you to God and God to you.
Emily and Kelsey, live by the Spirit and know that you are adopted as true daughters of God. Live by the Spirit and know that you are being transformed into the likeness of Christ so that you may lead others to be transformed too.
Live by the Spirit, because you are daily being freed from sin and empowered to be faithful disciples. Live by the Spirit, hear the Spirit’s groaning for the pain of others, and keep responding for the rest of your life, as you are doing today, saying, as did Moses and Mary, Isaiah and Paul, Lydia and Joanna, and as did perfectly our Savior Jesus, “Here I Am, Lord. Are you calling me? I will go, Lord, if you need me. I will hold your people in my heart.”