Although the changes were good ones, I was not coping well with so much so fast. During the week of Martin Luther King, Jr. Our community had been struggling with some issues and in this service we wanted to confront our students with that reality. We wanted to challenge them to do something like King and like others who had strengthened their communities. We opened the altar at the end of the service and invited students forward to make those decisions, to talk with staff if they needed to, and to come to the altar to pray.
The response from our students was powerful.
They began to pour out of the pews. You could see it, sense it, feel it, know it, and behold its movement among our staff and students. Without warning, without time to prepare, without a plan, without any sense of when it is going to come or what it is going to do, suddenly the spirit just comes. This powerful story lets us know right from the beginning that the community of faith, the church, has everything to do with God and little to do with us.
We like being in control. We want to know. We are much more comfortable with a timetable, with plans, with being in on what is going on, and when it is going to happen. It seems to be human nature to be consumed with knowing. The author of Genesis reminds us in the creation story that it was this whole idea of knowing that got humankind into trouble in the first place.
Let Us Walk by the Spirit
It seems as if God wants us to realize that what he is doing and when he will do it has little to do with us knowing much about anything. That movement has little to do with you or me.
Jesus told those who gathered that day that this day of birthing would come. And maybe that is what it comes down to for us. The faith that we must have in what God in Christ has said will be done. Suddenly, God comes, God works, the spirit of God breaks through, and life is never the same again.
It is amazing what God does in the midst of community. It was not by accident that they were all together in one place. God calls us to be such a community. When the community gathers, who knows what God might do among us? One Wednesday evening, overwhelmed by life, frustrated by change, focusing on me, the community gathered. Suddenly, the spirit of God moved and everything changed.
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Suddenly, thank God for suddenly. The work of fire in the Gospels is that of purification. Luke wants us to know that part of the coming of the Holy Spirit is to purify us. The Holy Spirit refines us and readies us. The nature of fire is not only to refine or purify, but also to consume or to burn away.
It seeks to refine the community so that they are ready to do what it is the spirit of God leads them to do. When Isaiah saw the vision of God he saw himself and his community as they really were, as a people of unclean lips. God sought to refine the impurities of Isaiah with a burning coal from the fire. In the midst of this community on this particular day, as God sought to begin and create this new expression of life, he left no one on the sidelines.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit Sermon Series
A consistent theme throughout the Gospels is the concept that God invites everyone to the table. This theme remains consistent; Luke makes it clear that God filled them all. The work of the Holy Spirit in this time and place was to fill the community. Once refined and purified, those gathered were then filled with the Holy Spirit. The image of filling something or someone is used to instruct: that which fills is then used and poured out.
When I fill a pitcher with water it is for the purpose of pouring it out for others.
When I fill my car with gas it is so that the gas will be used to power the engine of my car. This idea of these being filled with the Holy Spirit implies that the community filled for some reason other than simply to remain full. The point of being filled is to be emptied. In the church, we fall in love with the idea of being filled.
We design worship to be inspirational. We go to Sunday school to learn and to grow. And yet, the follow-up to such activity must do something with the inspiration, must respond to the nourishment we receive, must allow our growth to affect who we are and what we do in life. God filled the community that day. There was a purpose for the filling they received. So many people cannot be filled because they are already full.
They are full of hatred, full of anger, full of resentment, full of pity, full of self-importance, full of so much stuff. Is it any surprise that when we go to worship we leave disappointed? How can we be filled with anything of God when we are so full of so much? The first action of the Holy Spirit as it fills these first followers is that of proclamation.
Their learning, loving, and worshipping deepened. Spiritually, they thrived in the community together. We know at that first Pentecost the number of believers swelled by over people.
But these were mostly Jewish people from all over who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. These believers brought the message of Pentecost back with them to their home areas. Everything has to start somewhere. In the book of Acts and in the history of the Christians church, this is a huge first. Believers going to the Gentiles. We hear it loud and clear in verse 4. The Holy Spirit. The renewed community of faith has changed. Now the Holy Spirit selects some people, called to special tasks.
The one mentioned in our passage, the Holy Spirit sends believers to the non Jewish world. The Holy Spirit led the new believers to faithfulness in their learning, loving and worship. Now he makes this new community into a community sent out into the world. This world wide church of Jesus Christ had to expand from somewhere. The Holy Spirit sends his people out into the hostile world to teach people a new way of life through Christ. Paul and Barnabas are the first two sent by the Holy Spirit on a mission trip of this magnitude. Or, you get fired up.
Maybe you think of a time when you went on a mission trip and one time. In our congregation many are connected with mission work that has happening in the Dominican Republic.
Holy Spirit | Sermon Series | NewSpring Church
Others of us have gone other places. The Holy Spirit still lays opportunities for missions before Christians and motivates them to tell people how to be right with God through Jesus Christ. From our church, here the Holy Spirit has influenced the lives of people in places around the world. The church in Antioch has people gifted as prophets and teachers. It mentions Barnabas and Saul. But also these other gifted people. Simeon called Niger. Most scholars believe this Simeon is actually a Black man, an African Jew that was converted to Christianity.
The name Niger means Black. Its possible that this Simeon was around Jerusalem during the time that Christ was crucified.
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Do you remember the name of the person who carried the cross of Christ? Simon of Cyrene.
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Simeon and Simon are the same name and the reference to another person to Cyrene makes you wonder if these are more than a coincidence. The other interesting person of this group of gifted people is Manaen who grew up with Herod the tetrarch. He might have been a childhood friend of the most powerful Roman official in Jerusalem at the time. With these people in the church, the Holy Spirit speaks to the entire church. The Holy Spirit speaks to the whole church while they are seeking direction from God. Its a vision together of that tells them who to send.
The whole community of people. The whole church fasts and prays. By fasting, they are emptying themselves physically of food and spiritually of preconceived notions. In their emptiness, they call for God to fill them up.