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When the Spirit leads in very ordinary ways

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Pentecost Sunday – June 4, 2017

Acts 2:1-4 and Galatians 5:16-26

Some Christians believe the event described in Acts represents the birth of the Church. When the Holy Spirit was sent to the crowd of believers on that Pentecost Day, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, it was the day the movement of Christ-followers was initiated. There was a sound, like the rush of a violent wind from above, a sign that something very powerful and extraordinary, almost like a tornado, but much more wonderful was happening. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, perhaps indicating the breaking of all language barriers. This is also the only day in the year where we use red.

Isn’t this something personal? Let’s look at it that way…right now I’m switching to speak in terms of myself.

Actually the outpouring of the Holy Spirit all started in a house. I need to keep telling myself this. I’m shocked and surprised. When Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t have been surprised about where and when. We had gathered in a house to worship with one another. We weren’t in a temple or a synagogue. We weren’t in some dedicated or special place of worship. For the longest time in our lives, worship happened in a temple but we had been driven out and were now worshipping in homes across the city.

I’m sorry for repeating myself, but we were in a house when the Holy Spirit came to us, not the temple. It was the last place we would ever expect to see God start this movement that’s now changing the world around us. Out of nowhere, the type of wind that would frighten us while we’re out on a fishing boat in the sea, this wind overcame us inside the house! Something that looked like fire descended on us and all of a sudden we found ourselves proclaiming the Good News to others out in the streets.

Now here is the unbelievable part of it all.

We weren’t speaking in our own language. We found ourselves proclaiming the good news in foreign languages and others were understanding it. The Holy Spirit entered us and was there to stay.

Three thousand people decided to follow Jesus that day and it all started from within a house. God works in mysterious ways. Happening in an ordinary house made it plain that the extraordinary Holy Spirit came into our ordinary lives. 1)

Receiving the Holy Spirit from God made all the difference, and it happened and still happens until this very day. This difference becomes clear in the plainest of ways. Yes, it even has a say about sex. It has an influence on drinking. And arguments. On the surface, this text from the Letter to the Galatians looks like Paul is advocating for a life free of these things. But there is a strong argument that these things are not inherently evil. Paul wasn’t trying to dissuade people from living fully or from having a backbone.

Let’s take sex, for example. Sex is as much a spiritual experience as it is a physical one. It’s one of the reasons parents try so desperately to encourage their teens and young adults to wait, or at least to be sure they’ve chosen a partner wisely. It’s because the spiritual nature of sex bonds people in a way that can never be broken. The breakup of a sexual relationship is far more painful than the breakup of a platonic relationship because sex unites two spirits. When a breakup does happen, it rips apart the spirit of both. Conversely, two people in a healthy sexual relationship become partners in a way no two people in a platonic relationship can ever be.

So, then, what is Paul talking about? He’s talking about the frivolous, thoughtless behaviours that lead to damaged relationships. Sexual exploits that do not bring people together, but instead tear them apart. Drinking behaviours that lead to addiction, broken relationships, lost jobs, and social embarrassments. Arguments that seek, not to learn and grow, but to destroy and damage. Paul knew that people living by the Spirit (including the spirituality of sexuality, the social bonding over light drinking, the growth in knowledge over healthy, respectful debates) were living according to the will of God. People living by the flesh (adultery, sex without meaning, drunkenness, addiction, brawls and slander) were living contrary to God’s will. Take any of the things on Paul’s list, and you can see he’s speaking against those things that lead to division and strife, and in favour of things that lead to respect, honesty, bonding, and love. 2)

It becomes clear that God only has good things in mind for us, and that scriptures are helpful in delineating the work and fruit of the Spirit. Even though none of us are perfect and able to exercise full self-control, the Spirit indeed works in ordinary ways to help us along.

  1. Based on Daily Devotions on clergystuff[dot]com: Spiritual Sexuality, May 31, 2017
  2. Based on storied[dot]org: It Started in a House, June 1, 2017

 

Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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