A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Pentecost


Pentecost by Mark Wiggin

Pentecost 2023
Rev. Doug Floyd
Acts 2:1-11

Right before He ascends, Jesus tells the disciples, “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49). Power.

We live in a world that trades in power, competes for power, goes to war for power. More than once I’ve seen power struggles break out in a church or between churches. Some people would rather see the church destroyed than lose power.

The disciples struggled with one another for power. They also believed the kingdom power would overthrow Rome. The church at Corinth thinks they have a power that has taken them beyond St. Paul.

The French Philosopher Michel Foucault argued that struggles for power saturate every aspect of our society and language. He certainly identifies a symptom of our broken world and broken families.

When Jesus speaks of the power of the Spirit, He is speaking of a power that is both greater than any power on earth and a power that if manifested in weakness. God reveals His power in Jesus Christ as he suffers and dies upon the cross. He also reveals it in raising Christ from the dead, but this aspect of power is virtually hidden from the world.

The power of God made known by the Holy Spirit is both hidden and revealed. When Jesus tells the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, this is a hidden outpouring that only the disciples experience. This is a public revealing when the Spirit descends on the disciples in tongues of fire and a mighty wind. Acts 2:6 says that “at this sound, the multitude came together.” The very public act of the Holy Spirit continued because each person heard the apostles in their own language.

I think we would like this dramatic power to show up in our lives and in our churches. Sometimes this desire might simply be for vindication. We want other people to see that God favors us and is raising us up. Our good and gracious God is free not to vindicate us in the short term. He promises in the long term that our lives will be fully vindicated in Christ Jesus. But we may walk down some humble and humiliating places in the meantime.

In our Corinthians passage, St. Paul will end up arguing that the gifts of God are not enough without love. This kind of love is a self-emptying, self-outpouring love. Paul tells the Galatians that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. The power poured out at Pentecost is a power that worketh by love. It is personal power. The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force but a person who communicates to us the love of God. According to Galatians 3:14, we have now received the blessing promised to Abraham through Christ Jesus. It is the promise of the Spirit.

We know from Genesis 1 that this same spirit hovers over the waters at creation. In Acts 2, the Spirit hovers over the disciples at the creation of the church. His power cannot be measured. It is beyond human grasp. At the same time, the Spirit of God descends upon God’s people in a hidden way that draws us together as one people. It is the power of the Spirit that has gathered us here today. It is the power of the Spirit who will send us out today.

He is communicating the love of God in Christ to our inner heart even as He is communicating the love of God in Christ publicly in the words of the liturgy and the Eucharist. We are a Spirit people. Called to Christ by the Holy Spirit, growing up in Christ by the Holy Spirit, and sharing the love of Christ with one another by the Holy Spirit.

In addition to gathering and sending, the Spirit of God leads us into all truth. He is teaching us, bringing all things to our remembrance, convicting us, comforting us, emboldening us, and opening our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ revealed in Scripture and in the world around us. We participate in the life of Trinity by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The church at Corinth was right that they were “Spirit people.” But they turned this into a competition of status as to who had the greater gifts. This looked more like the way of power in the culture than the way of Spirit of love. Paul calls them away from this status-driven competition and toward a way of mutual exchange where each person offers their gift to the community as an act of love.

Each church community functions like a little body, even as they are all connected to a great community of saints. This suggests that every church we pass is a little outpost of the Holy Spirit. I try to keep this in mind when I pass by some churches. I try to pray a blessing over them. I confess that sometimes I have passed certain churches and rolled my eyes because of certain things I didn’t like about the church.

The Holy Spirit has convicted me that these are His people as well. So I pray for His work in these various churches. I used to have a couple of friends who would get up early in the morning and drive from church to church throughout Knoxville, praying for the churches. This could be a great ministry in our community.

If we consider each church as an outpost of the Holy Spirit, we can see He is moving all around us. He moves in and through us even when we don’t realize it. If the gifts of the Spirit operate through love, we ask the Lord to show us how to love well.

I have a friend who lives near Nashville. After the fire, he began sending us all sorts of little surprises in the mail. When we still lived with Kelly’s dad, my friend sent us a mattress topper, which turned out to be a real gift from heaven. My friend challenges and inspires me to bless people as an expression of God’s love.

Throughout the books of Acts, we see images of God’s people loving and serving one another. They are feeding the widows and orphans and establishing an order of deacons to care for their needs. People are pooling their resources in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas go out raising money for the church in Jerusalem and stay in the homes of people who show them hospitality.

While we often emphasize the dramatic gifts of the Spirit, these gifts of hospitality are vital expressions of the Holy Spirit moving in God’s people. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit might fill and flow through each of us afresh and that we might make ourselves available as expressions of His love.

I want to end with a little prayer from David Adam. If you will repeat “Come and fill us.”

Come, Holy Spirit, come,
Come and fill us.
Come, Lord of life, come
Come and fill us.
Come, wind of heaven, come,
Come and fill us.
Come, flame of love, come,
Come and fill us.
Come, give of all gifts, come,
Come and fill us.

David Adam. The Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer (Kindle Location 387). Kindle Edition.

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