Theme: Coming of the Holy Spirit
Last week Tom spoke about Mission statements, explaining how they provide a sense of purpose and help others understand what you are trying to achieve.
Do you remember the Mission statement for St. Boniface? It is on the web site and in due course, Parish Link.
"St. Boniface Bunbury is a place where people can meet, listen to and be lead by God as we worship Jesus together; and where everyone who is receptive can experience the Spirit's power individually and corporately"
Did you notice that the Mission refers to all three persons of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit ?
Today in our Church calendar we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples meeting together in a room when all of a sudden, as Jesus promised, the Comforter arrived. In the Acts of the Apostles Luke describes the event and how it transformed their lives.
He explains how all the believers were in one place. This was not a coincidence, in the Jewish calendar 50 days after the Passover, the time when the Jews remembered their hasty and effective deliverance, there was a festival known as the feast of weeks. It was the occasion when people focused on the goodness of God in providing food; in essence it was the Jews Harvest festival when the first fruits of the harvest were offered to God.
Luke describes vividly how there was a noise from the sky as though a strong wind was blowing, and the atmosphere in the room became electric. The disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.
Consider the transformation in the disciples. In just 50 days they had changed from a group of frightened, disillusioned men, without a leader and without hope, into people who were confident because they were connected into the source of power needed to fulfill their Mission. The impact on their lives and on the crowd who had gathered around was immediate.
If you flick through the pages of most management magazines, you can find consultants touting their experience in change management and offering their services to help change your staff into a group of committed, empowered people. However few would guarantee that they could make this sort of transformation.
Over the past few weeks I have been struck by the news of famous sportsmen who suddenly found themselves in situations which threatened to change their lives forever. David Coulthard, the F1 motor racing driver, and Frankie Dettori, the jockey, have been involved in light aircraft crashes in which they could have died.
By the Grace of God they both survived. Yet outwardly their response has been very different. Within days, despite 3 cracked ribs, David Coulthard was back at the wheel of his racing car, and last Sunday he won the Monaco Grand Prix.
In contrast Frankie Dettori's perspective on what is important seems to have changed dramatically. The events of the past week have turned his life upside down. Beforehand he was concentrating on the Derby and Ascot - would he win one of these coveted races. Afterwards he has talked about his need to re-prioritise. The most important aspect for him is to spend time with his wife and young family - rather than strive to win another race. Almost as if he has been born again, starting afresh.
Experiencing the Holy Spirit should have this effect upon us.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to him in the middle of the night.
"No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. A person is born physically of human parents, but he is born spiritually of the Spirit."
There can be no spiritual re-awakening without the intervention of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit which convicts people of their sin, and convinces them that trusting in Jesus is the only solution. Therefore everyone who professes to be a Christian because of his or her faith in Jesus must has experienced the work of the Spirit
Now of course we can't see the Spirit - know it is there by what it produces.
In our reading we heard about Ezekiel's vision. A valley of dry bones, perhaps reminiscent of an old battlefield several days on. As far as the eye could see there was no sign of life, only desolation. Yet when Ezekiel prophesied that they would come back to life, there before his eyes he saw the bones join together, and become covered with flesh. But there was something missing, although perfectly formed, they were still lifeless. It was not until God breathed on them that they came back to life.
They were a little bit like this glove. Not much use. It is a floppy thing. On its own it cannot pick things up, hold them or even wave very well. So how can it be made useful ?
By putting your hand in the glove, it starts to take shape. |The Bible tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When a hand fills a glove it takes control and transforms it from something which is useless into something which is
Now just like the Holy Spirit, the hand is invisible, you can't see it but you know that it is there by the effect that it has. In same manner, those people living by the Spirit evident in the fruit / harvest that they produce.
Convicted by the Spirit, called to live in the Spirit. What does that mean ? Anti-thesis to how we are naturally:
Jealousy / envy
Fits of rage
Dissension / factionalism
Contrast between our natural desires, which stem from our sinful past, and Spirit's leading.
Admit to having a problem with the Spirit when younger, ask how many other people feel or felt the same. Cant put my finger on it, perhaps an adverse reaction to the resurgence of the Charismatic movement, focused on the Spirit, to the exclusion of the 2 other parts of the Trinity. It seemed to me that emphasis disproportionately placed on the more visible manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit. As a result I used to deliberately omit verse 3 in the chorus, Father we adore you, Son we adore, Spirit we adore you- at the time felt quite smug about it in the mistaken belief that I was scriptually correct.
Perhaps it was an aversion to the idea of being controlled, passive - doesn't fit easily with my conception of how I should act as an adult - Toronto blessing (laughing uncontrollably, making noises like animals, being slain by the Spirit) instinct to try and regain control.
To be honest I would still find it difficult to come to terms with this if it was to occur in St. Boniface. Yet as I have got older, and more experienced, so I have realised that in practice what I though was freedom is in fact imprisonment. It is only by giving up control that we become free (paradox)
Christian experience begins with the Spirit, continues in the Spirit. Without the Spirit regress to our natural state (rather than aspire to Spiritual state). As Christians conduct of our lives to be controlled by the inward impetus of Spirit
God promised to Joel that "I will pour my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy (neither sex nor age a barrier), your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions "
The arrival of the Holy Spirit is therefore an essential part of the restoration of God's people. It is part of the process which began with Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, and in due course it will result in God bringing his people back to let them live in their own land.
Simon de Bell