Pentecost – Moving Day

Acts 2.1-13

 

Traditionally, Church of Scotland clergy has been ordained to the ‘ministry of word and bible-1960635_1920Sacrament’. There’s a wonderful term for you, ‘word and sacrament’!

 

What could it possibly mean today?

 

This week, I decided I would write my own ministry mission statement. After much head scratching, I came up with the following: To assist people to accept and develop their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

 

Well, in the end, I’m not at all sure that that is much clearer than ‘word and sacrament’. And yet it seems to express my desire to be active in achieving fruitful encounters with God. In fact, it also suggests that others need to be active in forging their own relationship with Christ. In the end, it hopefully expresses a movement of everyone from the passive to the active.

 

However, as Newton states in his laws of physics, to change speed needs energy, it needs effort and it needs a cause.

soyuz_rocket1

 

Where then are all of those to come from?

 

Now it’s often said that today, Pentecost, is the birthday of the church. Others say that it is the foundational story of the church. I rather think it is about the energizing of the early believers to get on with doing church rather than being a church. It was about the passive disciples moving into active mode. It was about those nascent ministers discovering a reason to be founding apostles. And all of that was accomplished by the coming of the holy Spirit.

 

Moreover, it was the Spirit that made sure that the Church survived to its greatest achievement – actually having a second Birthday.

 

But should any of this surprise us?

 

Not really if we go home and study our Bibles. Since the Spirit has always been the motivation behind the scenes.

Indeed, the Spirit is often cited as the major catalyst of change.

 

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Take the very start of the Old Testament. There the Spirit of God hovered over the deep in the beginning narrative of creation.

So too the Spirit was in on the act at the start of the New Testament. Because John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit and the Spirit came upon Mary for the birth of Jesus.

Then the Spirit gave the impetus to much of the happenings in the Book of Acts. For example, the apostles were goaded into making contact with all the visitors to Jerusalem. They were inspired to preach to them in new languages. And, in time, they would be pushed to take their new language of the gospel out to the furthest reaches of the empire.

 

So, today, if we went to fulfil our mission statements or if we want the church to have many more birthdays, may we be made active by the Spirit.

 

And how do we do that?

 

Let each of us be open to the word of the Spirit in our hearts. Let us also be ready for its urging to new and exciting things. Since if we step out of the norm just like cistenethe apostles, the Spirit will not fail us. Instead its rocket power will propel us to do more for God, better for God and even wonderful for God.

 

 

Now, on the face of it that sounds like a well-proven plan.

 

 

But then we could get nervous. Since aren’t we buying a bit of a pick in a poke? Worse still, it actually sounds more than a tad dangerous.

 

A famous preacher once related this story.

drake

Many years ago, the great explorer, Sir Francis Drake, was attempting to recruit a number of young men for an upcoming exploration. He gathered them around and told the group that if they came with him, they would see some of the most marvellous things their eyes could ever behold. Sandy white beaches, juicy fruits, foreign peoples, priceless treasures, and gorgeous landscapes. And he told them that this wild adventure could be theirs if they came with him. Not one of them enlisted for the journey. The next day a different group came out. Drake told them that if they came with him, they would encounter storms that would terrify them into tears. Tiger winds would hammer them and blow them off course for months. Water would frequently be scarce. At times they will be so thirsty that their very souls would cry out for simply one drop of water. In short, danger would always be their constant companion. Drake concluded by declaring that if they could handle these things, the joys of exploration would exceed their wildest dreams. Every single one of them in the group joined Sir Francis Drake that day, some did not even go home to say goodbye to their families, they just boarded the ship eager for the journey.

 

So, what had changed in his pitch? Was just because the audience had changed? No – it was that the offer had changed.

 

The first offered comfort; the second promised effort. The first tempted them with things; the second seduced them with an experience unlike any other.

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Today, the Spirit that came at Pentecost calls to us speak the language of today no matter how uncomfortable we feel. It challenges us to risk encounters with only the offer of rewards beyond things. It indeed compels us to be active in helping others to fill their sails with the divine wind and head for adventures unknown and destinations unimagined.

 

Therefore, this very day of Pentecost let us amend our mission statement. Let us make it simpler. Let it just be – to assist the Holy Spirit. Because then Jesus will find, challenge and​  develop people for himself.

 

 

Now there is language we all can understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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