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Sermon by Revd Bruce Woolley – Pentecost
As we commemorate and celebrate Pentecost Sunday this week, excitement should be stirred in every one of us. Pentecost is one of those formative events in church history that is often glazed over. But it is also one of those events that we read about in scripture and walk away wondering why the Holy Spirit doesn’t still move with that kind of power in the church today.
This morning, as we celebrate Pentecost, we are taking a step back and laying a foundation to build on. We are going to be taking an in-depth look at the author of the Pentecost story, the Holy Spirit. I am going to sound controversial here, when I say that the Holy Spirit is one of the most misunderstood aspects of our faith. The result of us not fully understanding the Holy Spirit is we just don’t know what to do with Him, like
anything or anyone we don’t fully understand.
What I would like, as we celebrate Pentecost today, is that by laying a foundation of understanding the Holy Spirit, we are building towards each and every one of us having our own Pentecost level experience of the Holy Spirit. I realize that I’m throwing that word around a lot, and we will really do an in-depth look of what we’re talking about in two weeks.
So, to kick things off, we are looking at who the Holy Spirit is, and maybe more importantly, who the Holy Spirit isn’t.
1. The Holy Spirit is a Person John 15:26
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit as a person. He will testify; I will send him to you. Along with laying the foundation that the Holy Spirit is a person, the bible also makes it clear that he has a personality.
A) He is wise
Ephesians 1:17 NRSV
17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,
B) He experiences emotion and pain
Ephesians 4:30 NRSV
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
Acts 5:3 NRSV
“Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land?
Hebrews 10:29 NRSV
How much worse punishment do you think person will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, who has regarded as blasphemy the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Today as we celebrate World Environment Day, do you not think he is feeling emotional and in pain at how we as mankind have let go of our responsibility of being good stewards of God’s creation – the environment, and destroy it more and more each day?
C) He is relational
Acts 15:28 NRSV
28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials:
D) He is creative
Genesis 1:2 NRSV
2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. That wind from God was the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that was present in the Acts 2 reading today. Job 26:13 NRSV
13 By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. I share this with you to help us debunk a few misconceptions about the Holy Spirit.
Misconception #1 – The Holy Spirit is an impersonal force
This idea is why I ended with the creative aspects of the Holy Spirit’s personality. Genesis says the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters, but Job says by His breath the heavens gained their beauty. Both breath and Spirit come from the same Hebrew word, ruach. This word can also be translated wind, and I think this is why we think of the Holy Spirit as having more in common with the Force from Star Wars then the God the Father. Wind and breath are not things that can be known, but rather things that are experienced. But as the passages we read show, the Spirit is a
person that can be known and talked to and taught by.
The problem this misconception creates is that we end up pursuing a “Holy Spirit experience” instead of pursuing a relationship with the Holy Spirit and letting the experience come as a result of the relationship. We chalk the working of the Holy Spirit to unpredictable and random instead of purposeful and directed by a person. I’m convinced that anytime the Spirit moves, and it appears to be random, it is a reminder that God’s ways and God’s thoughts are far above our thoughts and our ways. We cannot fully comprehend the way God works, and if the Holy Spirit’s actions seem unknowable, it is because our finite minds cannot understand.
2. The Holy Spirit is Fully God
Matthew 28:19 NRSV
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Misconception #3 – the Holy Spirit is a part of God This comes from an observation I have made over the years, and it is a tendency of mine
and many other disciples in my life. How often have we been praying for a situation or an event and asked God to send his Holy Spirit? This is not inherently wrong, but why would we ask God to send the Holy Spirit when we have the ability and permission to ask the Holy Spirit to go? I think this misconception is linked to the first one, that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force that only God can direct. But just like he is a person
that can make decisions and talk, he is 100% God and everything that comes with that.
He is all powerful, all knowing, ever present, and eternal. We can pray to the Holy Spirit in the same way we can pray to the Father and to the Son. This has huge implications for the way we understand some of our most basic beliefs and theology. When we surrender our life to Christ, we are told that the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within us; he is the seal of our redemption. There is a big difference between an impersonal force, a part of God, coming to dwell within us, and God himself coming and dwelling within us. It means that all the power, all the wisdom, everything that God is, dwells within you and me.
3. The Holy Spirit and Creation Care
And as we celebrate World Environment Day today, I thought it important to bring this in as well. The Holy Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in creation. He is the active power of God present within creation. The Holy Spirit is involved in creative activity. The Holy Spirit is the breath of life throughout creation. The Holy Spirit is present everywhere in creation (Ps 139:7–8) The Holy Spirit controls nature and history (Is 34:16) The Holy Spirit enables creative achievement (Ex 31:1–5).
As we see in the reading from Acts 2 this morning, At Pentecost – the Holy Spirit expresses himself in different ways in the church and the world. We see the Holy Spirit, and are impacted by in Spiritual gifts given to the church, we see the Holy Spirit and are impacted by the fruits of the Spirit, we see the Holy Spirit and are impacted by God’s creation and the natural environment we live in. God, through the Holy Spirit has made us custodians of this environment. Are we looking after it by being obedient to the Holy Spirit? Just as many are impacted by the Spirit through worship, prayer, laying on of hands, gifts of the spirit, fruits of the Spirit, so too are many impacted by Gods amazing creation in the environment, in nature. We need to appreciate all of God’s creative wonder in the environment and be led by the Spirit to take proper care of it.
4. Conclusion – Bringing it all together
I understand that this message will hit everyone differently. If you are new to faith, this is a lot of information to take in. For some, this has hopefully clarified some confusion you’ve experienced in this part of your faith and walk with God. Maybe you have been a disciple of Christ for a while and desiring an experience of the Holy Spirit. I hope you take the time to pursue the person of the Holy Spirit and allow the experience to
come as a result of the relationship, instead of tirelessly pursuing the experience and missing out on the person who brings the experience. I hope this enriches your prayer life.
No matter where this hits you, take time this week to get to know the Holy Spirit. Take time to remember what happened at Pentecost. Take advantage of the resources that the church offers and get to know the person of the Holy Spirit. Allow him to speak into your life and teach you.
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