Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Spirit Makes A Difference

June 4, 2017 –– Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2:1–11 / Psalm 104 / 1 Corinthians 12:3b–7, 12–13 / John 20:19–23
The Spirit Makes A Difference

Fear and loneliness….. A sense of belonging and being loved…. Those are huge contrasts that come into focus at Pentecost.

The disciples were afraid. They had locked themselves away. It seemed that Jesus was gone. Even though they were together in a room, I wonder if each one didn’t feel surrounded by people they no longer knew––sort of like being at party where you know no one else and loneliness is intensified because everything seems strange.

We can easily have those feelings. It can seem that others see my problems more than they see me. It’s easy to think that so many others are living the Christian life better than I. Why is it that we so quickly sense our problems and weaknesses, and so easily overlook our blessings and strengths?

God did not create us to live life alone and in our own strength. One of the first things God says about his human creation was It is not good for the man to be alone…. (Gen 2:18). Before his death, when he was preparing the disciples for his absence, Jesus told them I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (Jn 14:18).

Yet it had to have been confusing to their ears. Jesus had also told them: It is for your good that I am going away…. (Jn 16:7a). Why? Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you (Jn 16:7b).

Pentecost shows us the meaning and power of what Jesus has made possible. In the body, Jesus could only be with a few people at one time; in the Spirit, the presence of Jesus is available to everyone all the time. The Spirit is like the air around us, present and ready to be breathed. Through his death for us, Jesus makes it possible for us to breathe―spiritually. His death removes our sins; his life gives us life.

The story in Acts describes a bit of the wonder and the power. Maybe we wonder about the different manifestations of the Spirit and even what we might call the “levels” of intensity. Compare two people. One is a baby, new-born and weighing 7 pounds, who has just begun to breathe; the other is a full-grown man, 6 feet in height weighing 190 pounds. Both are fit and healthy; both are breathing properly; and both may be described as "filled with air." What, then, is the difference between them? It lies in the capacity of their lungs. Both are "filled," yet one is more filled than the other because his capacity is so much greater.

The same is true of spiritual life and growth. A new-born babe in Christ is filled with the Spirit. Likewise, a mature and godly Christian of many years' standing is filled with the Spirit also. The difference is their spiritual lung-capacity. The life of the Spirit in the Church means there is a place and purpose for every single person whose life is open to Jesus. This means our fears and loneliness and personal inadequacies do not have to control our lives.

The devil wants us to cower in fear because of our sins. Jesus gives us forgiveness of sins. Our human weaknesses push us to pull away from others. We think we need to be self-reliant. We try to hide our sins and faults. The Holy Spirit living in us is always saying, “Let me help you.” And one way the Spirit helps us is when we join our personal gifts to others so that we all give and receive, and then learn the joy that we do not have to face all the issues of life in our own wisdom and strength.

Just as he did with the first disciples long ago, Jesus is here to breathe on us and say, Receive the Holy Spirit. Believe it. Tell Jesus yes and thank you. Ask Jesus to make his Spirit strong in you every day. Instead of being fearful and lonely, know that you are loved. Know that you belong to the One who is stronger than sin and death.

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