A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God


Pentecost by Sawai Chinnawong (Thai) 1997

Pentecost 2024
Rev. Doug Floyd
Acts 2:1-21, 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, John 14:8-17

I told you before I’m an old Pentecostal. Today is like the Fourth of July for Pentecostals.

I’ve told Kelly many times I said, I think my gift, especially I would tell her this in the Pentecostal church, but it seems to be true in every church is to be a fool. Because foolish things always seem to happen to me. People will be praying, and you know, if you’ve ever been in a Pentecostal church, everybody might be doing something different ones.

Some people are kneeling, dancing. And if I knelt down, I would fall asleep almost instantly, because I fall asleep pretty easy. And then I would start dreaming. Sometimes it would be have to do with the surface. I had many strange things happened to me.

I’ve took Kelly to every imaginable church. Once I took her to Atlanta to a Celtic Orthodox Church in a guy’s basement. Me and Kelly and him and his wife, and he put on the vestments, the green investments for the Celts, and waved incense in our faces. He went through a whole Celtic liturgy.

I like to experience stuff. When people were laughing, me and my friend went, we wanted to experience it. But this is not really what Pentecost is about. I’m cautious because the Spirit can do things like this, and we’re gonna see we see this in Acts. He can do some pretty strange things.

We read in Acts 2 how the power comes down and the room quakes, there’s a roaring wind, and flaming tongues. These are all images from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the spirit most often appears in non-personal ways. Often the spirit appears as a force of nature: Fire, Wind, earthquake, all these kinds of experiences, which of course, are replicated in the book of Acts.

This morning we’ll meditate on how he often comes among us. After Christ comes, we begin to understand that the Holy Spirit is personal. Through the Holy Spirit we are brought into personal relationship with the Creator. This changes our understanding of the Spirit and changes the nature of the manifestations of the Spirit. While power manifestations are dramatic, they are often terrifying. People don’t want to see them again.

When the Lord speaks from the Holy Mountain, the people tell Moses, “You go talk to him. Tell us what he said.” They don’t want to see that it’s too dramatic. It’s too scary. If we go through the book of Acts, there’s all kinds of strange manifestations. Angels appearing letting people out of prison. All kinds of visions. Luke Timothy Johnson, who wrote extensively on the experience of the Divine, says that “You can’t talk about the New Testament without talking about healing.” Healing happens everywhere. It’s always happening in the Gospels and Acts.

Then there are more dramatic manifestations of the power of God. There are exorcisms, blinding light from heaven, and two people are even struck dead. Then we get the Corinthians, and we have this list of gifts. Reading it now after the enlightenment and we try to categorize these into some kind of comprehensive list with definitions for what each of these gifts mean.

I would suggest that Paul’s saying is there are a bunch of different gifts. These gifts are given to the body, and they show up in the body and it binds us together.

Toda I want to focus on one aspect of that passage from Corinthians. When he speaks of gifts, he uses te word charis. This word has many nuances. It might help us think about Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, the birthday of the Church, which, by the way, we have birthday cake in there. Stephanie brought a beautiful birthday cake to celebrate Pentecost. We’ll have to when we take a break here, we’ll have to have a bite. I

Back to the word charis. One aspect of the word can be defined as love, as charity. In St. Augustine’s little book, On Christian Doctrine, he said that everything in Scripture is understood through the word charity. It’s all leading us to love. We are being made lovers. Charity is at the heart of the gospel and our understanding as believers.

What you see is the beauty of Augustine’s love for God. He loves the Lord, and He loves people. In fact, from what I understand of his life, he’s become such a lover that by the end of his life, he’s brokenhearted, over the divisions in the church, because he’s simply can’t grasp it. We’re made to be lovers.

We see this in the simple verse, John 3:16, the love of God transforms enemies, to friends, and then to lovers. The end result of the transformation of the Spirit is to become a lover. Which makes me think of a story a friend was telling us the other day, because it’s not dramatic. As much as I love the charismatic world, we’re not really seeking after unusual experiences.

Sometimes those happen. I taught a class on Pneumatology years ago, and I asked people if they’d had any unusual experiences what every person in the room had, and this was not a charismatic church. These were not charismatic people in the room. But they had all had some unusual experience.

So that’s common, but that’s not what we’re seeking for when we want to become lovers. This friend of ours was she became Eastern Orthodox. And she went to the priest and was asking him, “Can you recommend some books on spirituality for me?” And he said, “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.” And she learned to quit seeking for the dramatic and just get rooted and grounded in God’s word. Because God’s the one who’s making us lovers.

At the end of the day, that’s the dramatic thing we want to happen to us. We become people who love faithfully. Paul communicates this everywhere in his writings. But one that passage that you all know Ephesians 3. He offers this wonderful prayer that many people have prayed it over the ages.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.[1]

Now, right before Paul writes this, he’s been talking about, that when Christ comes he breaks down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. This is the mystery that’s been hidden for the ages: that Christ has come for all families. It’s from Genesis 12, he’s come to redeem, all peoples, or all families of the earth, all nations. He’s come to make us one people, one family. Right before Paul pays pray, praise that prayer, he says, in Ephesians 3:8-13.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. [2]

In this little passage, Paul’s talking about this great mystery, the mystery of fellowship, or the fellowship of the mystery. And this is this mystery that God’s kept hidden. Well, the deeper mystery is, the communion of the body. This word fellowship is Koinonia, the Koinonia of God’s people, from Jew, Gentile, from all races, all ages, we follow all Paul’s letters, all income brackets. We’re all made one family when people in Christ, that’s a great mystery, there’s no there’s not another great mystery. It’s the work of Christ and His people.

It has been revealed in Christ. And what’s beautiful is Paul says about this mystery. The people of display this mystery to the principalities and powers. As the people of God, we are learning how to love each other, learning to be a people, learning to care for one another, learning to use whatever gifts we have to serve one another.

As we do this, we are communicating the glory of God to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. We have been incorporated into the fellowship of this mystery. And in fact, some Eastern Orthodox writers refer to the Holy Spirit as the fellowship of God. Because he is in the heart of the fellowship between the Father and the Son. He is in the heart of all our fellowship. And before I went to graduate school, I had studied speech, communication, rhetoric, interpersonal relations, and I went to school in a time when all my professors were existentialists. My professors would say things like, we’ve been to the moon, but I would tell you the distance between one human heart to another is greater than the moon. I began to wonder if how can we ever communicate? How can I ever say something to you that you would understand? The Holy Spirit facilitates all relations, all communication, we are weak and feeble communicators; we are weak and feeble lovers. And yet, He still binds us together. He still teaches us the mystery of love. At the heart of this outpouring, the Holy Spirit is raising up a people to be lovers.

Now we think of another nuance of the word charity. Charis also means gift. In Acts, we see that this gift of God revealed in proclamation. Peter stands up before the 3000 and proclaims the gospel. We see it in glossolalia, the gift of tongues which people from all nations hear the mystery of the gospel. We see it in visions, if you remember the story of Peter having a vision, where God tells him to eat of all the foods clean and unclean. And then next thing you know, he has a knock at the door from Cornelius, who’s a Gentile who wants to hear the gospel, and God tells Peter, I want you to go.  It was unheard of would be unheard of for Peter to do that, because he’s mixing clean and unclean, the Jew and the Gentile. God speaks this through a vision. Here is another gift of the Spirit. This doesn’t seem dramatic, but we talked about it a few weeks ago. Barnabas gves the gift of encouragement. It’s a manifestation of the Spirit. Barnabas is making disciples by simply walking alongside people. He’s not becoming famous. He’s not a power preacher. He’s a simple man who walks alongside people and supports them and encourage them and then their ministries gradually begin to flourish. gift to the Spirit. We see exorcism and it’s not always the dramatic. Think of Paul, this is an exorcism, that’s almost an exorcism of irritation. Paul’s walking to the place of prayer and a girl with a spirit of divination follows them and cries out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”[3] After doing this for several days, Paul turns and says, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”[4] The spirit leaves her and her powers are gone.

In the early church, exorcism is often attached to baptism. And so it’s not some dramatic thing. It is through catechism and baptism, because the early church, but like so many people were coming out of these pagan cults, and their minds were confused. If you remember our baptism liturgy, it is an exorcism liturgy, we are casting down the works of darkness. And so we see all these gifts in Acts.

Now, the gifts I’ve just named, with the exception, maybe of glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, are not listed in Corinthians, which should show us why Paul is just giving us a list. He’s not in any way, giving us an exhaustive list. The Spirit moves, how he will. And sometimes it’s dramatic, or sometimes the stories are amazing. Then sometimes it seems commonplace, and we won’t even be aware that the power of the Spirit was at work, maybe until the next life, we’re able to see what the Spirit was doing and how often he was working.

The important thing to remember is it’s always gift. The Spirit is working in and through us. So that we might pour out our gifts to one another. Not to that I might have a platform or somehow might be glorified or I might be lifted up, but rather, that I might disappear that other people might be lifted up and glorified.

It’s interesting that in First Corinthians Paul focuses on the gifts, and of course, it’s mostly a rebuke in that letter. But in Second Corinthians, he focuses on weakness in his brokenness. That’s the one place where he says he despaired even unto death. Paul exposes himself to complete vulnerability, and Second Corinthians and, and so this notion of weakness and the strength of the Spirit go together. It reminds as the Spirit is poured upon us, we might go weaker, and we also might grow more glorious, simultaneously.

The last nuance of that word Charis is the word grace. And Thomas Merton wrote an essay many years ago, where he said, grace is not a stuff. It’s not some stuff given to you to help you be holy. It is God Himself. God doesn’t give you something, He comes into dwells among you, and within you, which is what Jesus was saying in our Gospel. He comes and welcomes us into the Holy Communion, which is all through John 14 through 17. This is Grace that we have been welcomed into of sacred communion, where everything is gift between the Father, Son, and Spirit. They’re all pouring out to the other. And in that sense, as we’re brought up into the we realize it God has lifted us up into Himself. Then we realize these words, grace, gift and love are all of one and the same thing.

By the power of the Spirit, we see, everything is gift. As Chesterton says, “When the atheist looks out and sees a beautiful sky, he has no one to thank.” We have someone to thank because it’s all gift, all His gift, all His gift. We become a people who are constantly giving thanks. And hopefully by God’s grace, the habit of Thanksgiving will overpower the habit of complaint. Because it certainly seems like the wealthier people are, it’s easier to complain more. You know our culture, we have everything we could imagine. And yet, I don’t know if we complain more than other cultures, but we seem to complain quite a bit.

By the power of the Spirit we become people of thanksgiving. We become people who are lovers, we realize that we have been given the presence of God but simultaneously because of that. We realize our very presence, is His gift, because the Spirit dwells within us and upon us. And sometimes the ministry you have is to give your presence to other people. It’s not a profound word. It’s not a dramatic healing. It’s simply being present.

People are grateful and I found for me, it’s it’s easier for me to confess my own weakness and awkwardness, then somehow it opens things up for spirit to do whatever you will. But just the gift of presence, even as He gives us His presence, we give our lives to one another presence. And here we begin to see the mystery of that Paul’s talking about the fellowship and the mystery of finding us together, not only with one another here but also becoming a sweet saver to the people God is drawing to himself so that they might also be redeemed, and know His great love. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 3:14–19.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 3:8–13.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 16:17.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 16:18.


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