And the Holy Spirit Showed UpPosted: June 8, 2014
And the Holy Spirit Showed Up
SLIDE 3: STUMBLING OVER ONE ANOTHER’S BAGGAGE
Life in the church can be disappointing. We almost never measure up to Jesus’ behavioral standards for disciples. Jesus says, “Come follow me,” and we bring along all of our personal baggage, our wants, our needs, our egos, our mixed motives. When we get together in groups and start whispering and talking about each other and choosing up sides the results can be positively toxic. We spend a good part of our energy in the life of the church stumbling over one another’s baggage. And so rather than following the way of Jesus and serving as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, we are often working out our own personal agendas in the life of the community of faith.
SLIDE 4: CONFRONTATION OF THE SAINTS
Now lest we assume this is some perverse modern phenomenon, allow me to share with you a confrontation between Peter and Paul as recorded by Paul in his Letter to the Galatians 2: 11 But when Cephas, Peter, came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And with him the rest of the Jewish Christians acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
SLIDE 5: WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT SHOWS UP
Disagreements, hypocrisy, insincerity, confrontations, people acting out of their own agendas, is nothing new in the life of the church. People we call saints were doing it 2,000 years ago. So yes sometimes we are disappointed by the all too human frailties we encounter in the life of the church. But then there are those precious moments when the Holy Spirit shows up.
SLIDE 6: TRANSFORMED INTO FOLLOWERS OF THE WAY
Every once in a while a spirit of cooperation, love, understanding and enthusiasm breaks out in the collective life of the people of God, and we are transformed from petty church people into followers of the way of Jesus, and then suddenly miracles begin to happen. Pentecost is the story of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church after the Resurrection of the Christ. At first, the disciples couldn’t believe it. Jesus their leader who had been tortured to death was alive and active among them. As post-resurrection appearances continued some of his followers began to assume that the resurrected Christ was going to be around indefinitely. Some of them even fantasized that the resurrected Christ, now immortal, might re-establish the Kingdom of Israel. Once he had survived death, who could stop him? Everything was going to be alright and Jesus was going to do it all for them. Even after the “ascension” or the end of the post-resurrection appearances, a strong current of opinion in the early church continued to believe that a second coming of the Messiah was imminent. The Christ would return, Rome would be overthrown and the Kingdom of God would establish a new order of justice and love – bad guys would be punished and good guys would be rewarded.
SLIDE 7: DISCIPLES BECOME APOSTLES
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church was a spiritual empowerment of the followers of Jesus to share the Good News of the Gospel and bring people regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status to the Sharing Table of Jesus – the breaking of the bread. This spirit of empowerment transformed disciples those who followed into apostles, emissaries, those who were sent. The Apostles found the Holy Spirit had empowered them with the gifts of preaching, healing, wisdom and communication – tongues. The followers of Jesus grew spiritually like in the Parable of the Seed in the Gospel of Mark chapter 4: “The kingdom of God is as if a person should scatter seed upon the ground, and she should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, she knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, at once she puts in the sickle because the harvest has come.”
SLIDE 8: WE GROW IN STAGES
We don’t walk into the sanctuary one Sunday and then leave fully equipped to perform the ministry of Jesus in the world. We grow in stages. First, we have to be “discipled,” we have to learn the way of Jesus. We have to hear the stories and parables of Jesus share the bread and the wine – eat at the Sharing Table – join in the fellowship and learn from other followers of Jesus. We need to rub shoulders with gentle prayerful saints who pray with and for us and teach us by example. As we begin to appreciate our spiritual gifts we are empowered to use our talents to minister to others as Jesus in the world. And if we are bold enough to ask for God’s blessing, pretty soon miracles begin to happen around us. People around us become encouraged and find healing. The hungry are fed and the poor find new dignity in the fellowship of the Sharing Table. First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain shall appear as we bear fruit thirty, sixty, a hundred fold.
SLIDE 9: THE CONGREGATION MOVES INTO THE ZONE
When the Holy Spirit shows up it is like a church moves into the zone. People begin to experience a flow in the development of the congregation. Rather than working at cross purposes people begin to develop synergy, where one gift leads into and contributes to the next. Rather than gate keepers trying protect turf, there are permission givers opening up new possibilities. Rather than approaching the future with fear people excitedly anticipate the next development.
SLIDE 10: THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS SHOWED UP AT UCH
I believe that in the past year the Holy Spirit has showed up at the United Church of Huntsville. At this year’s Yard Sale, rather than having unsold Bibles on the discount table, Matt Youngkin was giving Bibles away. Last June not long after Pentecost Sunday our Congregation approved the Labyrinth to reach out to people in our community especially wounded veterans in body and spirit. We also finally came up with the courage to embrace our Open and Affirming Statement in April and our Diaconate sponsored a powerful Church Retreat. Our Re-visioning process has been focusing on how we can reach out into our community to serve. These are all signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence among us.
SLIDE 11: MOVED BEYOND OUR COMFORT ZONES
The Spirit will challenge us to have courage, exercise faith, and become open to possibilities. Like those first disciples the Holy Spirit may turn our lives upside down. We may discover mystical gifts and talents we never knew we possessed. Our spiritual horizons will expand. We may reach beyond our safe comfortable friendship circles to touch the lives of people we cannot yet imagine. Remember Peter, fisherman of Galilee, he never would have guessed when he heard Jesus call him, “come follow me,” that he, a Galilean Jewish peasant from the boondocks, would one day travel to Rome. St. Thomas sometimes called the “the Twin,” was moved by the Holy Spirit to share the gospel half a world away in India. If we are going to be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit, we may find ourselves way beyond our comfort zones.
SLIDE 12: A PROGRESSIVE CHURCH IN THE TENNESSEE VALLEY
I am optimistic. Bill Green has said when he became a charter member of the United Church of Huntsville, he believed that a progressive church like the United Church of Christ could thrive in the Tennessee Valley. United Church has had its ups and its downs over the years, sometimes we have shot ourselves in the foot and sometimes it was just bad fortune like the big Boeing lay off when the Apollo program wound down.
SLIDE 13: TIME FOR UNITED CHURCH TO SHINE
But the time for United Church to shine has come. The Holy Spirit is moving among us, we are reaching out more than we have ever done before. We are no longer the best kept secret in Huntsville. New people are visiting. We have begun giving permission for new ventures of faith. We have a new spirit of mission. Start looking for synergy to show up in our life together. The Labyrinth will begin construction in October or November. Our Re-visioning Committee will have a plan by fall. Be prepared to go places and do new things. The Holy Spirit has showed up.