Monday, June 13, 2011

Gifts From the Holy Spirit

Usually when there’s a birthday there are also gifts…and cake and/or ice cream. Today as we come together to worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit we come to celebrate the birthday of God’s church and the gift of his Holy Spirit.

On the day of Pentecost the disciples, gathered together in the upper room, were celebrating the Festival of Shavuot (Weeks). This festival occurs 7 weeks or 50 days after the celebration of the Passover therefore the name Pentecost.

So, why do you think God chose to bring the Holy Spirit to the disciples on this particular day? The Festival of the Weeks was celebrated to give God thanks for the harvest of first fruits and to remember when God visited the Israelites in the wilderness to give them the Torah, the Ten Commandments.

Jewish legend has it that the Israelites went to sleep early the night before so that they would be rested when the Lord visited and gave them the Torah. The best laid plans don’t always work out like we planned and it wasn’t any different for them. They overslept and God woke them with thunder and lightening.

So, it was customary when celebrating the Festival of Shavuot that the people would stay awake all night studying and learning the Torah. Jesus’ disciples may have been observing that very same practice of staying awake and learning the Torah.

I wonder if they may have fallen asleep and God woke them between 8 and 9 with this great, loud wind and visions of tongues like fire. I wonder.

Whatever they did throughout the night before, receiving this gift of the Holy Spirit was some experience for them. The noise of the great wind and the vision of tongues like fire were surely something but then to have the folks who had gathered outside understand what they were speaking that was another thing.

Luke doesn’t tell us what they said as they spoke in the different languages but whatever they said was understood by those standing outside. Friends, it may not have been so much that they were speaking in different languages but that those who were listening understood what they were saying. In other words their communication was clear and not garbled.

Think about this for a minute. How many times have you tried to share something important with someone else only to be frustrated by them not understanding what you’re trying to say? And yet these disciples were clearly understood by everyone there.

That, my friends, is a miracle. To have everyone get it with no confusion at all was a miracle, at least for us human beings it’s a miracle. Not for God but certainly for us.

So, that’s what happened on that day in Jerusalem as the disciples were celebrating the Festival of Shavuot. They received another gift from God just as important as the Torah, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. They were empowered and through this power were enabled to do the things Jesus did and even greater things just as He had told them they would.

That was then; what is God doing today? Do people still receive the power of the Holy Spirit? And if they do how do they know?

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, talks about the different gifts God’s people receive from the Spirit of God, different gifts for each person but all from the same Spirit.

Staying with that idea, assess your gifts, talents, skills. What has God given you that enables you to tell God’s story to those God places on the path you walk everyday? Don’t think you have any special gifts? I doubt that that’s true.

Paul said, “Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, for the common good.” Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, to me that means we all have received some good gift that we are expected to use to share God’s Message of Good News.

That I believe. We sometimes aren’t even aware of a gift because we take what we have for granted. I’m just a cook. I’m just a mechanic. I’m just a …you fill in the blank.

So, good friends, don’t take anything for granted, especially your lives. They are gifts from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and they are special. If we are instrumental in bringing just one person to Jesus then the angels rejoice and God is pleased.

Last weeks lesson was about being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and then going out to be witnesses. Friends, the power of the Holy Spirit has brought you here; the power of the Holy Spirit has helped you to interpret and understand my clumsy words. The power of the Holy Spirit will be with you this week and beyond guiding, nurturing, and enabling you to be a witness for Jesus.

Thanks be to God for the gift of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

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