Pentecost Sunday 2016, Bunker Hill, John 14:25-31
14:26, The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you. (CEB)
When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven his disciples had one last question, “Lord, is this the moment when you are going reestablish the Kingdom of Israel?” Jesus, said, “No, the timing for that is the Father’s business, not yours. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit and the power to be my witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout the world.” Then Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Today we celebrate what happened ten days later. With the sound of a blast of wind and fire-like tongues resting on the head of each of Jesus’ followers, His Spirit – filled apostles began to talk about Jesus to the crowd that had gathered. Those people from across the Roman Empire heard these Galileans, who had never been to Mesopotamia, or Cappadocia or Egypt or Rome, talking about God’s mighty works through Jesus their Savior. They were heard in multiple languages. Everyone was amazed and puzzled. Some thought these followers of Jesus had been raiding the wine cellar a bit early in the day. Peter, quoting the prophet Joel asserted that this was the day which fulfilled God’s promise to pour out his Spirit on all people, moving the sons and daughters of Israel to proclaim God’s word. Men, young and old would see visions and dream dreams. Servants, men and women, would be drenched in the Spirit and prophesy. Peter concludes, “And whoever calls on the Name of the Lord, will be saved.” What a day. The Church is born! Praise the Lord.
But what about our day? We still have that same Spirit, not via wind and fire, but by water and word in baptism. The Spirit is still our companion. The Spirit still is present as we gather in the fellowship of Jesus Christ to study the scripture, and share in his holy communion. The Holy Spirit still carries our prayers and speaks in our favor to the Father. However, we have long grown timid. In these early years of the 21st century we have grown afraid of what will happen to us who believe and follow Jesus as our Savior. Our culture has changed. Christians can no longer count on a privileged position in our society. And we have few answers.
Those early Christians were not always as bold as they were on that first Pentecost. They had many questions for Jesus about the future, their future. They had heard Jesus tell of his nighttime meeting with Nicodemus when he had stated that God had such love for the world that whoever trusts in him would not perish but have eternal life. To that end God had sent his son Jesus.
But now in the days preceding his arrest, execution on the cross and his resurrection to life again, it seems to Jesus’ followers that their world was crumbling. Jesus’ was trying to prepare them for what lie ahead. He said he was going away for a little while and his followers couldn’t come there. Peter wanted to know, “Where are you going? Why can’t we come now?” Isn’t that what we would like to know? “Where are you going? When are you coming back? What we supposed do to in the meantime.” Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Can you relate to Thomas question? What’s going to happen to us? A little later, another disciple, Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, that’ll be enough.” Show us something Jesus. We’ve been working on that parsonage across the driveway for a year. Is anybody going to be living there any time soon? Lord, give us something to go on.
Jesus tells his questioning disciples, that includes you and me, “I’m not going to leave you as orphans. I will come back to you. I will ask the Father to send a Helper, a Companion, who is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be my successor. The Spirit will walk alongside you as I did while I was with you.”
You see, that’s what we have since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The disciples and the world had God in the flesh, Jesus walking with them, talking with them, teaching them. We have the Holy Spirit who carries on Jesus’ among us. When Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. The Holy Spirit teaches us the depth of Jesus’ way in our lives. But the Spirit also reminds us, that Jesus said He and the Father will come and make our home with and in you. Think of that. God who is higher than the highest heavens, beyond all knowing and comprehension lives in us who believe that Jesus died and rose again for our salvation. Right now, God is living in us. Wow, Lord, how you doing in there.
If only those folks living in the land Shinar in our Old Testament lesson had known of God living with and in us. They devoted themselves to building a tower, using the latest construction materials, to reach to the heavens in order to be saved. They planned and launched this project out of fear, they were afraid. They needed to secure their future. But any attempts on our part to save ourselves, or our church, or our future does not depend on what we do. Our future is not in the hands of those who seek and hold towers of political power, nor in stacks of laws to protect what we thought would always be our way. Those folks building the tower of Babel were seeking to make a name for themselves rather than calling on the Name of the Lord. In Jesus Christ, God has come down to dwell on earth. Now the Holy Spirit is guiding us in how to build ourselves into a temple bearing the Name of God; built on the witness of the Apostles with Christ Jesus Himself holding the whole project together, making God’s name known in the world. Acting out of faith not fear.
Jesus’ has left us with the same peace with which he greeted that group of frightened followers after his resurrection. The Holy Spirit guides us into that peace which the world cannot understand, nor can we fully grasp it. A peace that is ours even when everything seems to be filled with strife, contention and controversy, in which the powers we had counted on to be our allies have become our adversaries and we are frightened. The Holy Spirit leads young and old, men and women, young men and young women to consider how they might best carry out Jesus words, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” For those who are younger it might just mean that dreams and visions of the future may include following in the footsteps of those apostles who were witnesses to God’s mighty deeds through Jesus Christ and become full time ministers and teachers in the Lord. For many of us it could mean not expending our energy lamenting a lost past. Our hope is not in reestablishing political power, but to be Jesus’ witnesses empowered by the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s power is not along to help us out with our will, but to get into our heads and hearts the will of the Father through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us get it. Then we get on with it.