Marked by the Spirit Acts 8: 14-17

We should not fear because the Spirit and the gifts are ours!

I have had the privilege to attend some great sporting events and the build-up is usually the same.  All fans enter the building or stadium with a level of energy; and the collective energy can be overwhelming.  When the event starts there is the exhale of the roar of the crowd.  Then throughout the match or game there is the drama that unfolds that can take your breath away.  Finally as you come down to the ultimate moment the crowd holds its breath, anticipating the end.  When the outcome is determined, everyone, both winners and losers leaves the event feeling ecstatic because they were able to be present at this breath-taking experience.  What if coming to church was like that some Sundays.  It can be!

The first Pentecost commemorates the historical arrival of the Holy Spirit.  We are moving toward the celebration of Pentecost throughout this month of May.  Let’s treat the month of May, like December; thanking God and celebrating with great fervor because we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This preacher wishes there were times he could get as excited in the prayers he prays and in the message he delivers, as he does toward some of his favorite sport teams.

The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not.  This gift enables us to experience an inner power and expressive joy because of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  These are gifts we can know whether our days are full of challenge or noted with success.  We should free ourselves to experience and express these divine gifts that come to us because we are marked by the Holy Spirit at our baptism.

At Jesus baptism, he humbly identified with sinful humanity.  The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove.  The event marks Jesus acknowledgement he had the favor of his Heavenly Father and was marked by the Spirit for life and ministry.  The baptismal experience of Jesus was needed because he did have everything he needed to be the Messiah when he was a five year old running the Nazareth synagogue.  He had to gain his own understanding of his identity at his baptism; there he came to fully know his life as marked by the Spirit.

At our own baptism either we or someone on our behalf acknowledges the gift of the Spirit.  This acknowledgement is followed by promises we make for ourselves or for the child whom is baptized.  This acknowledgement of the Spirit and promises to God in the midst of the community of faith enable us to grow into our true identity as children of our Heavenly Father.  We cannot come to know our relationship with God on our own.  We see clearly who we are in God when as we are marked by the Spirit of God through baptism; the more we nurture that gift the more we come to know that the Holy Spirit knows us better than we know ourselves.  Baptism is God’s way of telling us who we are by marking us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

We grow into our baptismal identity within the fellowship of other the children God.  Spiritual growth doesn’t happen naturally by our own will or magically by God’s direct intrusion.  Spiritual growth happens in the context of a spiritual family.  Jesus was born into a family, which brought him to weekly Sabbath services.  My guess, if he thought of skipping, his parents prevented him; knowing the importance of learning about who and whose he is in God eyes among other sisters and brothers of the Hebrew faith.

Jesus faithful participation in the faith community helped him more clearly hear the scriptural words from the Hebrew bible spoken at his own baptism.  “You are my beloved Son”, comes from Psalm 2:7; a coronation song that connected him to King David.  “In you I am well pleased” is from Isaiah 42, which Jesus would know the Spirit’s presence was not just for him, but he had a greater purpose for all people.

The family of faith helps make known the message of the Holy Spirit is speaking to our lives, perpetually seeking to confirm our identity as children of God.  Consider our responsibility to be the Spirit’s mouthpiece of blessing in our church for the sake of others.  What we say to each other enables others to more clearly hear they belong to the heavenly Father and are expected to grow in wisdom and stature like their big brother Jesus.

In our passage, we find Peter and John laying hands on Samaritans who have been baptized in the name of Jesus.  Peter and John are acting as agents of the Holy Spirit; confirming in these new believers, the living presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  We are better able to know our identity as children of God when we are grounded in relationship to God’s people in the Body of Christ.  We all need each other to be God’s agent of the Holy Spirit; reminding us again and again not only whose we are, but what that means.  The better we maintain spiritual connections, the better we can discern the impact of the gift the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We become more distinctly marked by this Holy Spirit; making it more obvious we are children of God who belong to the family of God.

The outcome of the gift of the spirit always includes call.  I am convinced the way forward for the church of the 21st century is for laity to claim, express and live out their call.  Our first call after our baptism is to be a people (laity) who are ministers of grace.  This precedes the clergy call and should always supersede.  We have lived through a century of reversing the roles; making clergy call primary.  This has unintentionally weakened the church.  I have tried to say in two series of worship experiences in this first year, the more profoundly we come to terms with who we are we in God’s eyes, the more likely we will take on the responsibilities that come with our privileged identity.  Identity always implies vocation.  If we are engaged in a family of faith then we will naturally participate in the family business of offering Christ love to our world.  This is answering the call of God because we are marked by the Holy Spirit.

We all want our lives to be more than what we have always known.  Living a life marked by Holy Spirit lifts our lives to new level of significance.  This will only happen the more we intentionally connect ourselves to a family of faith that engages us in relationship with the person and teachings of Jesus.  The energy we feel should be like going to a great sporting event because we are caught up in the warp and woof of the energy of the Holy Spirit; who compels us to more willing to risk ourselves in service to neighbor.  Life will never be business as usual if we rise each day knowing that because are marked with the Spirit our lives belong to God and others.

Communion also reminds we are marked by the Spirit.  I invite you to come to the rail today and do two things.  First, name and thank God for those sisters and/or brothers of faith in your life that regularly awaken your spiritual self.  Second, ask the Holy Spirit to make known to you whom and/or what you are called to serve this week.  This is what essentially happened on that first Pentecost: a group of gathered believers experienced a spiritual awakening and were compelled to preach, teach and serve in the name of the same Risen One we claim to be our salvation and who gave us this great gift of the Holy Spirit.

Are you ready, Pentecost is coming!

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Published in: on May 14, 2012 at 6:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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