A People is Empowered

May 31, 2020


Acts 2:1-21, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-31, John 20:19-23

On this Sunday we celebrate an event in the early church. We celebrate that Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit empowered the Jesus followers to proclaim the mighty acts of God. This Spirit filled proclamation then gathered even more people as disciples.
Sometimes we call that Pentecost the birthday of the church.

We read three different passages from the Bible to-day. We read from the book of Acts chapter 2, about that day of Pentecost. We read from 1 Corinthians chapter 12 about the gifts of the Spirit in the body, and we read from the Gospel of John chapter 20 about Jesus breathing the Spirit on the disciples.

And what we hear, from each of these three readings from the Bible, is that the Holy Spirit is the power of the church. The Spirit forms the church. The Spirit sustains the church. The Spirit inspires the church to proclaim the good news of God and to proclaim the forgiveness of sins.

So we might want to first begin by thinking about what the church is. During the sermon series from 1 Peter, I preached about how the church is a people. It is not an association of independent individuals. It is a singular, unified, people.

In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes about this. He actually goes on to great length about how there is one body with many members. And it emphasizes that in the one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body.

The church is the body of believers gathered by the Holy Spirit. It even goes so far as to say, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

You are the body of Christ. This is why not gathering for worship is so terrible. When the church gathers, it gives witness to the presence of the body of Christ. When we don’t gather, we hinder the world from seeing and experiencing Christ among them.

As much as we miss seeing one another at church, that is not the worst part. The worst part is that we are acting against the Spirit and we are dismembering the body of Christ.

I believe it is necessary, and the right thing to do, for us to suspend church gatherings. It is the necessary and responsible way for us to care for our neighbors. But it is a drastic and severe measure to take.

You are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

So, the church is the body of Christ and this body of believers is joined together by the work of the Spirit.

And the primary work of the church is to proclaim, to speak

The first thing that happens to the people on that Pentecost day was that they spoke. Their mouths were opened, and words came out. And those words were heard by people from all over the world. The church is gathered by the Spirit and then it is sent out. The church is drawn in and sent out. Like breath. Breath in—the people are gathered. Breath out—the people are sent.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the disciples what they are to do with this Spirit and this proclamation. He says, “I send you…If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

The church is to proclaim Jesus, how he died and was raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sins.

So we must discern the Spirit. This is a very difficult thing to do. Discernment means to seek understanding of the Spirit’s work and the Spirit cannot be seen and it blows where it will.

As a congregation, we need to focus not so much on what we do, but on the calling and working of the Spirit. We should seek to make all our decisions and do all our works in accordance with the Spirit.

It is the Spiritual gifts, not fleshly gifts that are important. Paul goes on about this in 1st Corinthians. He writes that there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord. In other words, it is the gifts which are empowered by the Spirit, that are important.

Someone may have the gift of leadership, but if that gift is inspired and powered by their will and their drive, then it is not a Spiritual gift. Someone may have the gift of singing, but if they are driven by a desire to be seen on stage, then it is not a Spiritual gift. Someone may have the gift of teaching, but if their motivation is arguing their opinion and spreading their viewpoint, then it is not a Spiritual gift.

Each member has a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. It is a Spiritual gift if it is being used for the common good.

We celebrate the Spirit, but it is a frightening thing be-cause the Spirit is powerful, like a rushing violent wind. It is powerful, and we cannot control it. It is like a sudden windstorm that comes up in the night and when you wake in the morning you find that all of your lawn furniture has been rearranged.

So we pray, “Come Holy Spirit and stir up everything.” We pray for the Spirit to powerfully change us and form us according to God’s will.
And the Spirit does. The Spirit forms us into the church and the Spirit empowers us to be the people of God. Amen.