Welcome to Bethel! Today will be reflecting on Acts 2:1-4; 14-17 and John 15:26-16:15, Spirit at Work. Jesus points his disciples to the coming Holy Spirit who appears at Pentecost. This is a time of hope, of change, of God on the move in a powerful way. The coming Spirit will point them back to Jesus, helps us be obedient to Jesus, and be a witness of Jesus to the world
Spirit at Work
Acts 2:1-4; 14-17; John 15:26-16:15
January 23, 2022
Theme: Jesus sends his Spirit to continue the work he begun in calling people back to God
Can you imagine being in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost after Jesus returned to heaven? Pentecost is already a great festival, called the Feast of Weeks that was connected with the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. It was a harvest festival, a first fruits festival, reminding Israel that God demands from them the first fruits of their crops as a sign that it all belongs to God, but also an act of trust that God will provide for his people. This is a festival that calls Israel to remember the poor and provide opportunities for them to harvest too, Leviticus 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.”
Jesus left ten day earlier, and the disciples are all gathered together; their Lord no longer with them, likely wondering what exactly is next for them? Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift that God has promised, that in a few days they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. But what does that mean or look like? So, they wait. Then the Holy Spirit comes, with the sound of a freight train laying on its horn in the middle of the night, filling the house with the noise of its arrival! In this moment, the world is changed, the Spirit is on the move, and he’s on the move by making his people his home. No more temples, the Holy Spirit enters into each of them, and they begin to speak, in tongues, everyone can understand and hear the Gospel news in their own language; there’s no being silent with the Holy Spirit blowing into the world!
As Peter tells the people, what God had promised through the prophet Joel has come true, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” This all points to a time of hope, a time when God is going to reveal himself in powerful ways. God is entering into a deeper, more intimate way of relating to his people; God is sending his Spirit to make our hearts its home!
Who is this Spirit that is going to be poured out on all people? The Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 53 asks us, “What do you believe concerning "the Holy Spirit?” The pastor and the scholar answer us, “First, he, as well as the Father and the Son, is eternal God. Second, he has been given to me personally, so that, by true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his blessings, comforts me, and remains with me forever.” Jesus talks about who the Holy Spirit is in our passage from John. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, which comes from the Greek word parakletos which can be translated as Helper, Counselor, Encourager, or Mediator; all things that an advocate does for others.
At the beginning of chapter 15, Jesus taught the disciples that they need to remain closely connected to him, that he is the vine and they are the branches that get their life from him. Reverend Patrick Keen writes, “In chapter 15, Jesus reminds them of their and our connectedness with him and to God through him. "I am the true vine. My Father is the gardener." He tells them that the world will hate them because the world hates him. The world hates the truth and Jesus is the truth and it is the Spirit of Truth that is being promised to be poured out upon humanity. Truth that exposes sin and evil. Truth that calls for accountability and responsibility. Truth that beckons God's people to faith and faithfulness.” The Holy Spirit keeps us connected to Jesus. He warns that the disciples are going to get kicked out of the synagogue, may even kill them, and believe that they’re doing a good thing that will please God. The Holy Spirit is given to help them, and us in the church to stay true to Jesus, to remain strong in our faith in Jesus even when the world might hate us for following Jesus.
The church is a fascinating creation of Jesus. It’s a group of people called by God from all kinds of backgrounds and brought into one family. The Catechism talks about the church in Q&A 54 as part of the Holy Spirit, “I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.” Jesus tells his followers that it’s good that he’s leaving because when he returns to heaven, he’s going to send them the Holy Spirit, the Advocate who is the Spirit of truth who will keep pointing them to Jesus, who he is and what he’s done through his sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
I’m always fascinated by Jesus’ description of what the Holy Spirit’s going to do. We often turn straight to verses 12 through 15 where the Spirit guides us into all truth, reminding us that if we’re looking for truth, looking for what reality really looks like, we need to look to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is sending the Holy Spirit to testify about Jesus to us so that the disciples, and now us, can testify to the world about who Jesus is. We have this fascination with the Spirit telling us what is yet to come; we’re so eager to know what’s coming that we sometimes forget to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to who Jesus is calling us to be, to the opportunities to bring shalom and advance the kingdom of heaven right now. There’s a bit of escapism in many Christians today, wanting to focus on heaven and what we get by going there, instead of our responsibilities in the here and now. Jesus reminds that the Spirit will “glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” This is important, the Spirit comes to work in us and through us to glorify Jesus. Do you take time to reflect on the person you are becoming, the things you do and say, and ask yourself, “Is Jesus being glorified, is he being honoured through me?”
The work of the Spirit that fascinates me the most is what Jesus says before these verses, “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” The Spirit has come, and he reveals people’s sins and teaches them the ways of God through the presence and teaching of the church.
Right now, we’re in the process of reflecting on the Healthy Sexuality Report as a church and a denomination. This report shows us how God created the world good and very good, but sin came into the world and brought brokenness into our relationships with God, each other, and ourselves and this brokenness often comes out in our sexuality and how we often look for our identity in these places instead of Jesus. The Spirit works through the church to show the world a healthier way of living together, a healthier place to look for our identity, one that looks first to Jesus. We look to Jesus and the Holy Spirit for our values, to shape our morality and character instead of our society, government, or other groups and organizations that tickle our ears with what we want to hear and believe.
The Spirit comes to show the world, through the church, right ways of living, with God, with each other, with ourselves and with creation. The Spirit reminds us of how Scripture calls us to live, who Jesus is calling us to be, and calling us to obedience to him. Jesus told us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus gives us his way so that we can experience life in the full, we can experience the joy and excitement that comes from living in good healthy relationships.
Throughout the history of the church, Jesus’ problem with his people has been our inability to fully believe in the power and ability of the Spirit to perform in our lives and our world. The Holy Spirit comes to us with power saying, "I am able. I Am is able. Able to do the impossible, to reach the unreachable. I Am is able!"