Sunday, 19 May 2013

Sermon: To be in That Place

First Reading: John 14: 8-17
The Spirit who reveals the truth about God
Second Reading: Acts 2: 1-21
The day of Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came they were all gathered together in one place....
I wonder...
I wonder how it felt, what they saw, how many were there, and exactly how long it took for the penny to drop
Was there a moment of “freeze-frame”?
An instant where time stood still – were the reality waited in suspension – for the reaction to come

Like when we suddenly see
Or we are witness to something amazing and it doesn’t sink in at first... when although time seems to stop – it is only a millisecond before everything starts again

Full colour
Full volume
Full impact!
What was it like to be in that place, on that day so long ago?

Being prepared is one thing – and in theory they should have been fully prepared. Jesus had told them it would happen, both before his death and after his resurrection. And they had the words of the prophets from long ago. But somehow, I suspect they were totally unprepared. That hearing those words “my Father, will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever”, went no way at all towards preparing them for the day that came.

As I told the children earlier, Jesus gave us all a Great Commission, and a Great Command, and he made this, the Great Promise: the Helper who stays with us forever.
And the Spirit does amazing things; and wondrous things; and marvellous things.

The Spirit reveals for us The Truth about God.  I cannot emphasis enough how important this is... for we have never needed to hear it more.
We have never needed the Spirit as much as we do today
Not just us, here in Earlston – as we ponder our future
But in Scotland. In the Church of Scotland – as we consider the present
And in the whole world as Christians all round the world struggle to reconcile society and life with the REAL gospel imperative –
Not to judge
Not to exclude
Not to impose our will or our understanding
But to bring the good news – the Good News to the poor
Set prisoners free
Give sight to the blind
Lift up the downtrodden
And share the Good News of God’s Kingdom

What does it mean to be in that place?
Well, I guess it depends what the place is
Is it a real physical position, address, map ref?
Or is it a frame of mind? An outlook and attitude that informs or affirms?

To physically be in that place – is simple. You go, you arrive, you are there and you witness 
But to be spiritually present is something else all together
It implies an openness of mind
And a willingness to receive
For us today, to be in that place, is to be prepared to receive again, or for the first time, the Spirit’s anointing.

To feel it physically
To know it deep within
To absorb it into our very souls
To inspire – literally to breathe in – to inspire the Spirit
We say the Spirit inspires – but really, we should aim to in-spire the Spirit – breathe in and absorb all the Spirit can offer

When Peter stood up and preached his first sermon; his first, Spirit inspired message, he was suddenly able to know, to understand.
All the teaching, all the former experiences came together, to this one, small moment, which turned into one huge, unforgettable, passionate and amazing message – suddenly he understood.
Suddenly the ancient words of the Prophet Joel clarified
Suddenly he understood what those ancient words meant: “I will pour out my Spirit on everyone. Your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams.  Yes, even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will proclaim my message”
Suddenly, it was Peter who proclaimed God’s message
It was Peter who had the dreams and the vision
It was Peter, anointed by the Spirit who proclaimed the transforming, astonishing, renewing message from God

The words of an ancient prophet turned to reality
No longer just words on a page, this was a tangible, real event
It moved from surreal to real
From dreamlike to true
Peter felt it; lived it and responded to it – for him the Helper was a real, terrible, awesome experience which he could not, not share.

So what about us?
What about today?
2013 – so long, long after that Pentecost
What do we think of the Spirit in these days?
We hear, "my Spirit is with you always"
A constant presence
The revealer of truth
These are dynamic phrases, creating vibrant images

People who focus on the Comforter role of the Spirit have a gentler image
And there are times when the Spirit is comforting, is gentle, does act as a sweet encouragement in difficulties. But the Spirit’s main focus is not sweet and gentle; not at all!
God’s Spirit is there to move us, shake us up, to inspire us to bigger and better things
Another phrase used to describe the Spirit is Midwife.... in the letter to Romans, Paul writes: “all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth.  But it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God's gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free, ...the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express.”(Rom 8)

The Spirit brings about new life in us; creates us anew; anyone who has ever witnessed any sort of birth knows – birth is messy, and loud, and noisy; and those who help at a birth cannot be quiet and retiring – they get in and roll up their sleeves. They encourage and shout if necessary, and they move us on until that new life arrives, kicking and screaming – just as does the Spirit as we are moved to a new and deeper spiritual life

When Peter received the Spirit and was made new, he didn’t suddenly have all the answers!
He didn’t hide away either and
He didn’t sit in a quiet corner thinking about it!
He stood up and told it like it was – God’s Spirit is poured out
The day of judgement comes and on the Day of the Lord – whoever calls out to the Lord will be saved

The Spirit reveals the truth about God
whoever calls out to the Lord for help will be saved.
The Spirit reveals it
Jesus promised it


Hope for the future
Hope for the present
Hope for all eternity
Dream the dreams
Grasp the vision
Proclaim the message
God sent his son Jesus
He died for us
And God raised him to life – so that we can know for certain that God’s promises are trustworthy and true
He promised to send his Spirit – to be here for all time – and God’s promises are trustworthy and true

The Spirit makes us new
And moves us forward
What does it mean to be in that place?
To be in this place – to know God loves us – as we are – where we are – who were are
And this is the place to be!

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