The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Would you pray with me this morning…?
Gracious, all-knowing God! We pause this morning to give youmuch deserved praise for your kindness and your daily provision for our lives. We are ready to shout, “Happy Birthday, Church!!!”on the occasion of the Pentecost.
We ask your forgiveness, and we joyfully receive your undeservedkindness as you grant us unconditional pardon, as we pick up the brokenness of our lives, and are restored as whole human beings through our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Thank you for cleansing us so thoroughly in body, soul, and mind.
Lord, we’re ready and willing to start a new chapter in our lives.We’ve heard there is more than one dimension of faith in yourbeloved Son, Jesus. We’re ready to step up in faith to take holdof your superlative Spiritual gifts and be renewed in a way we’ve not experienced before. We’re not afraid. Send your Holy Spirit to teach us, as you touch us, and show us a more powerful and compassionate way to live and serve.
Enliven us and refresh us in the ways of the Holy Spirit.
We pray in Jesus’ name.
The word for Counselor, meaning Holy Spirit, in koin’ae Greek,is “paraklete”…often, in the Church, we speak of the Holy Spiritas the Paraklete…even though it is Greek, it is often used as partof the English language, because of its exotic sound…
Some time back on Pentecost Sunday, a pastor shared the storyof the birth of the Christian Church upon the occasion of the JewishPentecost. In the sermon he referred to the Holy Spirit as the”Parakete”. After the service, during the social hour, an elderly ladyin the congregation, approached the pastor and asked him the question,”Pastor, did you say that the Holy Spirit is a parakeet…?”
I don’t know what the pastor’s answer was.
It’s the Day of Pentecost in the Christian Church. It’s the birthday ofthe Church. The 2nd Chapter of Acts stands out among the multitudeof Bible verses to remember by heart. For years I have encouragedConfirmation Classes to memorize this portion of the Bible.
The setting of the original occasion is of great interest.
Was the Passion of Jesus not enough for us?
To some it may seem like an addition, an addendum, tacked on to theHoly Week (Passion Week) narrative. We remember. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
The events in the Garden…on Holy Thursday…and…thereafter, Jesus, beaten and tortured.
Good Friday, when Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins.
Jesus’ Resurrection on the Third Day.
The final recall for us…Jesus’ Ascension days later.
For some…that was (is) end of the story…but there’s more to tell…
We’re astonished by the material we read in the 15th and 16thChapter of John’s Gospel.
Friends! The story doesn’t end there.
Okay. We turn to the 2nd Chapter of Acts.
The disciples were together in the upper room. The text says thedoors were locked (John 20:19) for fear of the Jews…that is…”other Jews” of the party that put Jesus on the cross. The word that stands out for me is the word, “…fear…” The situation that catches my attention is that “the door was locked”…because offear…of the Jews of that other party. The story of the cross andthe Resurrection would remain unknown potentially because of fear.
Everything that happened on Passion Week was momentous and earth-shaking, but there was a real possibility that the facts of Holy Week would never be known to the world.
Because of fear!
The Good New of Jesus would travel no further than the walls of the upper room…because of fear…
In a sense, the disciples were much the same as we are today in2021. Our doors are locked — and well they may be. It’s becauseof fear…of the unknown…of all the possible ways we and our familyand our possessions could be endangered. It makes sense…
But there’s another factor of fear. In our case it’s not our doors.It’s our hearts. We’re afraid to share what’s at the center of ourbeing — born anew of God through Christ in the Spirit…
“…I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, butChrist lives within me…the live I live in my body, I live by faithin the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me…”[Saint Paul] (Galatians 2:20)
Often, we do our Christian duty by showing up for worship everyonce in a while, every now and then. The “scoop” around our churches is…don’t volunteer for anything that may commit us to a more meaningful life for us and the cause of Christ.
We are afraid to try on “Christ”…
all fear aside
just doing it all for Jesus
Like the disciples, but for different reasons these days, we’re afraid.
Are we reluctant to declare that Christ has transformed our life? Yup!
Are we ashamed we are Christians? All too often.
Are we even confused about how to explain or share our faith? Yes.
We’ve created unseen locked doors in our lives…and often it’s becausewe really care deeply for things in our lives that have no purpose inmaking us better persons, assisting others in need, and making ourcommunities better places to live in.
The disciples found themselves in the upper room behind locked doors.After everything that happened, after everything Jesus did for them, andus, it would have been of no effect…because the doors were locked…
because of fear
We’re afraid of a substantial commitment to Christ lest we takeup time, effort, and even money, to advance the good news givento us through Christ Jesus.
We’ve been called and saved to share Jesus as disciples.
As with one of my neighbors…I couldn’t care less if he and his family is strangely connected up with a Methodist church in Modesto…when he lives in Pacifica and henever ever goes to church! Who is he trying to kid?
We’re afraid of missing that special television program, or movie,or civic event. When it comes right down to it, normally, these areall in all, of non-effect. Experiencing them doesn’t make a difference.Especially if attentiveness in this regard is merely habitual.
The Christian Church these days doesn’t encourage reading theBible (for ourselves) to develop insight to really bring about personaltransformation in other peoples lives, as well as our own. We don’t seem to find value in enlarging our insight and our understanding inorganized Bible study.
I hear it at least once every single day.
“O, Pastor, I read my Bible all the time. I don’t really need church…”
Can we really develop the insight we need by isolated Bible study apart from the fellowship of believers? The answer is No.
We haven’t developed an increasingly strong sense of being a disciple
of Jesus. We do our “Christian duty”. Of course — Where’s the greatjoy and sense of satisfaction in that? We’re too often content in beinga church member…and all too often a “church member of sorts”. Toooften these days I imagine the Lord saying to Himself…
“What do my followers think they’re doing in their spiritual lives?”
The Spirit within us all too often flickers.
We need a blazing flame.
Like Jesus’ disciples we’re full of fear…but for different reasons. For thisreason, we need the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray for theLord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to us. The contemporary Church is indesperate need for the Holy Spirit to enter the hearts of the people of God.The lack of concentration on the Holy Spirit’s work in our faith lives is a fundamental and foundational problem. The underlying problem is fear.
I sometimes picture our notion of the Godhead as the three persons of theTrinity being in an automobile. God the Father and God the Son are in thefront seat…and the Holy Spirit is in the back seat. We need a Spiritual automobile that will seat “three” in the front seat.
For our lives to work in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit needs to be on an equal footing with the other two persons of the Trinity…we haven’t preached it enough. We haven’t believed it enough. We’ve avoided the underlying problem of motivation and performance in the Church.
We need to bring the Holy Spirit up there with the Father and the Son.
We need to take the Holy Spirit seriously. We need to learn the lessonof what happened to a fearful group of disciples who were more focusedupon fear, than sharing the fact that they were witnesses of all that hadhappened in Jerusalem during Holy Week. After the experience of thePentecost, for the rest of their lives, the disciples of Jesus were fearlessand bold and committed to the power of the Gospel to change the world.
I get it.
What’s Good News if you don’t share it?
What’s Good News if you don’t share it intelligently from the heart?
What’s Good News if you don’t share what happened to bring you around?
Come, Holy Spirit! Come, quickly!