Sermon June 9, 2019

 

I visit my spiritual advisor every three weeks. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to her about my spiritual life and to talk about the normal everyday things where I see God at work. It helps me find balance. Each time I go to see my spiritual director, we begin with an easy breathing exercise. When I focus on my breathing, it helps me to center myself on the issues of God. The breathing helps me turn aside the business of my day and all of the issues I must deal with in my life. We offer a prayer together, asking God to be present in our meeting. Breathing exercises are also used in Yoga. Breathing can help us pay attention to what is important and to block out those things which are unimportant.

As you know, the Hebrew word Ruah means breath or spirit. In Greek the word Pnuema was used to mean both breath and spirit. That Greek word is still the basis of things we have a sense of breath such as pneumonia or pnuematic.

So I ask you to join me in an easy group exercise. Would you please close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing? I ask you to breathe in and out slowly, perhaps counting to four on each inhale and exhale. As you do so, allow your mind to let go of the things of this earth that may be challenging you today. As you continue to breathe in and out slowly, allow your mind to focus on God, in particular the Holy Spirit.

As you continue to breathe in and out, I ask you to consider how the Holy Spirit has changed your life or perhaps, how is the Holy Spirit guiding you today. Let me offer a portion of the prayer said by people at the beginning of a Cursillo program.

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and they shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth”.

Thanks, you can open your eyes now and breathe normally.

Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit. Scripture has always referenced the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is referred to in passages of the Hebrew Scripture such as in Judges chapter 15 when we learn that the Spirit of the Lord descended upon Samson and Samson became so strong that he destroyed his enemies. In the first chapter of Genesis we read that the breath from God swept over the face of the waters. When Peter spoke on that first Pentecost, he offered a quote from the 2nd chapter of Joel, God will “pour out God’s Spirit on all flesh”. In the New Testament, Jesus told his disciples that he would send an Advocate to guide them and watch over them. We have heard of the Spirit many times but Pentecost is by far the biggest event of the Holy Spirit in our Church year.

Today’s lessons begin in Genesis. The people of Babel built a huge tower to take them up to heaven. It is a story similar to the Garden of Eden. Humans wanted to cross the dividing line between humanity and divinity. They wanted to control their own destiny. In response, God divided the people. God scattered the people to all corners of the earth and God gave them many different languages. The people of the earth no longer understood each other.

If we jump forward to the story in Acts, God brings all of the people on earth back into unity once again. The people in Jerusalem understood what was being said despite their different languages. Everyone was united once more through the work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. We tried to recreate that experience as people read the passage in several different languages. Many people spoke but everyone clearly heard that Jesus is the Messiah. Peter proclaimed on that day “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”  Those words are the basis of our faith now. The crowd was so moved that people immediately decided to turn their lives over to Jesus. 

I experience the Holy Spirit in two ways. First, I think of the Holy Spirit as a presence. God is present with us. The Holy Spirit’s presence gives us encouragement to follow God’s path. The Holy Spirit’s presence gives us guidance and advice and the Holy Spirit’s presence helps us to communicate with God. 

I also believe that the Holy Spirit is a power. In the Pentecost story found in Acts, the power of the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. The Holy Spirit brought wind, the Holy Spirit placed tongues of fire on the heads of the apostles. I imagine that the Holy Spirit translated the words of the apostles so that everyone in Jerusalem that day understood what was said by Peter and his friends. It was a miracle of the Holy Spirit, similar to the miracles that Jesus performed while he was alive. The Spirit is a force. 

Each week, I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the words I share in the sermon. I pray that the Spirit will be with me as I give the sermon. And I know that the Spirit works in each of you because people hear different things in any sermon. The Spirit is helping us to hear what we need to hear.

The Psalm is a reminder of the glory of God’s creation and it includes a thanksgiving for the power of the Holy Spirit. We hear about the beauty of God’s creation and God’s wisdom that flows throughout the earth. We even hear of God’s humor for God created the great sea monster, the Leviathon. We know that God created such a creature just for the sport of it. If you listen carefully to the Psalm, you will realize that God, particularly the Spirit, is active in creation each and every day. The Spirit is sent forth and creates life once more and renews the face of the earth. In the Psalm the author suggested that the cycle of life and death is held in the hands of God’s Spirit. 

The gospel for today is a flashback to a time well before the crucifixion. Jesus was talking to the apostles about what was to come. He told them that he would leave them but he shared with them that he would send a power to help them. We call that power the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit was with Jesus throughout his ministry beginning with his baptism when the Spirit descended like a dove. The Spirit went out into the wilderness with Jesus. The Spirit stayed with him every step of the way.

Some of the most powerful words of Scripture are found in today’s gospel. Jesus knew that his time was short. He knew that there was only a certain amount that he could finish before he left us. But he left us the power of the Holy Spirit. That power working in us does wonders. Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” Jesus did many wonderful things. Still he told us that if we accept him and accept the power of the Holy Spirit, we will do more than Jesus ever did. It is hard to believe isn’t it? But that is exactly what Jesus told us. 

Let us not minimize what the Spirit can do. I have heard people say that they feel the Spirit in this place. We even sing about it. “There’s a sweet sweet spirit in this place and I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord”. There are times when the Spirit is quiet. But there are also times when the Spirit is a powerful wind that blows everything to follow the will of God. That Spirit has the power to do mighty things. That Spirit helps us to do things greater than even Jesus did.

May you feel the breath of the Holy Spirit in your body. May that breath give you new life this week. May you find God’s power working in you and the presence of God guiding you and comforting you. Amen.

 

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  • Psalm 42:8
    “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.”