Full of the Spirit Acts 2:1-21

I was a pup preacher bringing the community message on Easter evening at the Church of God in Blossom.  The service started with energy, though bit raucous to my eye.  The singing and praying didn’t prepare me for what was to happen when I rose and begin with these words, “Easter isn’t about baskets, bunnies, or bonnets”.  Immediately the congregation started barking at me as if I had thrown red meat to a pack of dogs.  I concluded with, “It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!”  That sent things into a frenzy.

Ever long for an old-fashioned Pentecostal service?  Anyone baptized in Jesus’ name and marked by his Spirit is Pentecostal; making every church a Pentecostal church.  Yet, the more our faith becomes settled, the less open we are to fervent expression.  Besides, there aren’t many days of high winds in the church, and tongues of fire on the heads of lay people speaking strange languages.  When does the good spiritual stuff happen?

The overuse of spiritual as an adjective has diluted the potency of the word; referring to a feeling or mood; watering down the meaning of what it means to be full of the Spirit.  The word Spirit means “God-present”.  Spirit things are what happen when we experience something that has no explanation except God?  Whenever it is a God thing, the Holy Spirit is behind it.  Even if these experiences seem foreign, we are to live expecting them.

In Acts 2, the power of the Spirit defies human explanation and performs artificial resuscitation on a room full of well-intentioned bumblers.  They become full of the Spirit and a force that changed the world.  This is the same spirit that in the beginning stirred the turbulent waters, spilled forth from prophets and kings proclaiming the word of the Lord, rained down on Jesus at his baptism, still lays its deluge down on God’s people in every age causing women and men to live beyond themselves; full of the Spirit.

Pentecost roots in the Old Testament celebration held fifty days after the barley harvest.  Pilgrims traveled   thank God for the harvest and celebrate God’s giving of the Ten Commandments onMt.Sinai; both life-giving events.  It was fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, during the usual Jewish celebration of Pentecost, the Spirit blew like a rushing wind on a multiethnic, multilingual crowd injecting new life into this diverse group by blowing away their differences; giving birth to Christ’s Church.

The text says, “They spoke in languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  We don’t know if it was foreign languages or heart to heart idiom rather than mouth to ear words.  We do know the disciples were Galileans, not learned people, mostly salty tongued fishermen with limited language skills.  It should not surprise to hear the crowds say upon seeing this scene, “Are not all of these who are speaking Galileans?”  Then it goes on to say, Others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 

No, they were soused by the Holy Spirit, not by distilled spirits.  Rather than impairing their senses and dulling their minds; their thoughts were more acute.  Rather than making their tongues thick and slow, the Spirit loosed them to speak.  The Holy Spirit gave Aramaic-speaking-only Jewish disciples the capacity to speak to the heart of people from all over the world, so they could understand the love of God for themselves.

Peter rose to speak to this audience of congregants from all over the globe and connected their Jewish history and their various experiences with the story of Jesus.  His message wasn’t a well rehearsed, elegant sermon.  He simply lets the words fly.  Instead of them flying everywhere, the wind of the Spirit carried them where they needed, and some 3,000 were added to the church.  God custom fitted the words for each individual by giving the Spirit, which translated the words and transformed people’s lives.  The language we speak when under the influence of the Spirit makes possible a common understanding among different persons in the Body of Christ.

Peter describes heaven’s ultimate hope that persons from every corner will be ONE by quoting from Joel 2, who centuries ago gave witness to the unity of the Spirit despite differences.  Peter says: sons and DAUGHTERS will prophesy, everyone has value!; YOUNG people, whom we might think haven’t lived long enough to see rightly, will see visions; and OLD people, whose future is behind them, will dream dreams.  SLAVES, men and women from the lowest class will possess the Spirit and offer words that matter.  It’s a unity that doesn’t deny differences, but creates a framework for every person to speak their language and remain connected to the epic Jesus story.  The unity of the Spirit includes all people, while transcending a person’s particular story; creating the one Body of Christ. 

We were taken back by the mass of humanity when we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.   Christians from every corner of the world were streaming into the traditional place of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection.  While it never felt reverent, eventually it settled into us all that we were all packed into this holy site for the same reason-a Savior who died, rose and is coming again for each person there.  We were all there for the same reason-the Body of Christ.

What it means to be full of the Spirit is: We bear the mark of our Maker; distinguishing spirits by testing and tasting to see if they are of divine vintage.  We live as God’s children and as joint heirs with Jesus in the resurrected life.  Our Spirit-filled words are neither unintelligible, nor ecstatic, but communicate the wonders of God through our witness of the new life found in Jesus Christ.  We possess a new vocabulary and grammar, so to work in cooperation with God in practicing this new life together under the influence of the Spirit to create the Church.

It’s never easy being a Spirit filled church.  We are required to be, speak, and practice new life.  We’re new people called to boldly speak to a world out of our control, but in God’s hands; yet doesn’t speak our language.  Our peculiar words challenge a world that thinks there’s no alternative to its self-congratulatory narrative of power and control.  This requires practice, practice, and practice that cannot happen in a pew Spirit filled people are willing to be inconvenienced, even at the thought of being peculiar.

Early Christians were known by their peculiarities.  Their lives followed different rhythms than those of the larger society.  Practices like worshiping together privately, keeping a different Sabbath, resisting certain practices of their culture were political acts of nonconformity that placed early Christians in danger.  The practice of loving neighbor and enemy equally with second mile generosity was beyond the scope of accepted behavior.  Their lives gave evidence they were drinking deeply from the Spirit’s well.

Are we better at keeping order intact, rather than reshaping it.  Are we more concerned about keeping the peace enforced by law, than making a peace informed by justice?  In what ways do the people see the pastor and people under some kind of culture-defying influence, so disoriented from the status quo that people say, “Something has taken hold of them?”

We must learn from our forbearers in the faith to forgo attempts to create a homogenous church based on stories other than the gospel.  This means redefining our sense of self and community so that those who are different find us welcoming.  We must not only speak up for the young, elderly, and unwanted; but join in relationship with them in real ways.  We may be viewed a peculiar; but when filled with the Spirit, we have no other choice.

We are a connectional mainline church who can be wary of churches like that church in Blossom.  At times, I think we are so reticent of the Spirit we quench it, instead of being drenched in it.  We treat the gift of the Spirit as if it were offered only for our own personal experience.  There’s nothing wrong with knowing the Spirit has come to us, but the Holy Spirit is not our private reserve.  The primary purpose of the Spirit is to give a power beyond our ability to speak a new language to our world even if we don’t know what to say or how to say it.

We are heading out into the neighborhood this week to pass out water; hoping to know our neighbors better.   We will meet at 6:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. this Wednesday, May 30 and offer hospitality in the name of Christ.  May the Spirit of Pentecost compel us to speak of the love of Christ through our words and actions in all we do.

Pentecost is here and no longer is our individual stories the most determinative factor in our lives.  We’re a new people in a new time, called to live faithfully, in a world that does not understand.  We are to live an alternative witness to the power of God.  Are you willing to be so peculiar others think you’ve had too  much to drink?  By the grace of God there is never a last call.  Are you full of the Spirit, if not drink up!

Published in: on May 27, 2012 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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