Pentecost Sunday evening, 11 June 2000
I really, really don't want to talk for too long this evening. But these verse made me think, when I stopped to read them. Both passages are very appropriate for Pentecost, since they are about transformation.
2. Transformation In Ezekiel
Ezekiel is talking about transformation:
"A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God."
I think this prophecy, like the one in Joel that Peter so famously quotes, came true on the Day of Pentecost. "I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances". The coming of the Holy Spirit, you see, was not just about forming the church, although it was that, too. It wasn't just about the disciples in the Upper Room, although that, too. It wasn't just the pivotal point in the history of Christendom, although that, too.
3. Peter's Speech
The thing about the coming of the Holy Spirit is that it isn't just history. Let's remind ourselves of what Peter said to the crowds on that May, or was it June, morning so long ago:
"This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear." And when they asked what they should do, you remember, Peter said: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him."
Everyone. That means you, and that means me. The promise is for us.
Well, you know that as well as I do, I don't really have to say it.
But the thing that struck me when I read these two Bible passages was that it wasn't just history. It wasn't just about the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples that day. It was about us, too. It was about how we may be filled with the Holy Spirit. It was about how God transforms us.
The thing is, if the day of Pentecost is long ago and far away in history, it doesn't have anything much to say to us today. But it isn't. It's also today. We are not only remembering that it is Pentecost, we are making that fact present. We know - all of us here tonight know - that we simply can't be Christians without the Holy Spirit indwelling us, enabling us, causing us to walk in God's way. I mean, most of us will admit to making a pretty fearful mess of it quite a lot of the time, anyway - I know I do! And I expect you would say the same. But imagine what it would be like if we didn't have the Holy Spirit! Utterly impossible, I shouldn't wonder.
And today, I expect, we have been remembering those times we have been totally aware of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. I'm sure you could all tell some stories of times when you were given just the right words to help someone in need, or when God worked through you to bring healing to someone, or whatever.
But again, it doesn't do to keep that sort of thing in history. We need to know that God is working in our lives today, in our church today. We know God has neither forgotten us nor abandoned us - proof of that, if it were needed, lies in how he sent Douglas to us just when we needed him during Sheila's illness. So we know God is working in King's Acre in this year 2000. But what has he been doing in your life? In my life?
Or have we "leaked", as it were? It happens. St Paul reminds us to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit, it's not a once-and-for all thing. We don't each have our personal day of Pentecost and that is that; we must go on asking God to fill us anew each day, each hour, maybe each five minutes on a bad day!
I think I have come to an end of what I have to say just now. Has anybody anything they are burning to share?
[When all have finished, suggest singing "Spirit of the Living God"]
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