Epistle Lesson: Romans 8:22-27
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Epistle Lesson: Acts 2:1-21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
¡Qué gran pasaje de la Escritura que acabamos de leer esta mañana. No estoy seguro acerca de usted, pero sin duda se ha vuelto mi emocionado y listo para salir y decirle al mundo entero el amor de nuestro Señor Jesucristo.
No? No one understanding what I just said? Well, let me say it again this time in a language that may be a bit more familiar to you.
What a great passage from scripture we just read this morning. I am not sure about you, but it certainly has gotten me excited and ready to go out and tell the entire world of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Is that better? Well today we are talking about the work of the Spirit…The Spirit who interprets. Today we have two scriptures, and both are about the work of the Spirit of Christ, the power that was sent to the disciples who waited in the city of Jerusalem…patiently. Jesus, told them before he ascended to wait in Jerusalem where upon them the power of the same spirit that was within him will reside within them. And in our scripture lessons today we are going to focus on two parts of what the Spirit does. Let us first, as I always find it helpful, look inward and understand how the Spirit interprets within us or internally. And then we will spend some time on the work of the interpretation outwardly from within us out to the community that is given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So let us begin first with the inward work of the Spirit. Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the richest theological texts that we have in all of Christianity. Paul delves into so many subjects about the existence of God, who is God, what does God do, and who are we in light of who God is. And in Romans, chapter 8, Paul refers to the broken creation. The very same creation that the maker of all had created. And Paul writes about how all of this broken creation is groaning in labor pains. Now, let me say I am no expert for sure, but since Jackie and I have realized that we finally did it, we finally are going to have a baby, Jackie has been watching shows like “Making Room for Multiples” and “Birth Day”, and “Baby Story”. And as I have watched many women give birth with c-section or with the epidural, it is nothing quite like having a woman give natural birth. I’m not sure I would have used the word as Paul used, Groaning in Labor Pains. Apparently Paul did not have television shows like Birth Day. But these woman are screaming so loud, I begin to hit the volume down and I tell you, it still doesn’t really cover up the sound. But Paul does grasp something for us. Creation, the world is in pain. A heck of a lot of pain. And the world has been groaning for…for what? For the feeling of relief. For birth, for the sigh of relief that comes after birth. And Paul says that the creation has been in this painful state “UNTIL NOW”. Whoa! Wait a second. What happened that the creation is no longer in pain. Paul names it: Hope. You see, in the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus begins to bring in his new Kingdom where the heavens and earth collide and come together. The pain of creation is fading away because the beginning of the birth of the new heavens and new earth are crowning. The birth of this new world order is beginning to come into fruition and our hope rests in Christ through whom we are saved. Does this mean the work is done? Women in the congregation, when the baby begins to crown, is the pain over?
Absolutely Not!. And listen to what Paul says as to the work of the Spirit: The spirit who is like a midwife of God’s new creation. Paul says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Have you ever felt that way? You have something you must express, maybe a grief too deep, and you just do not know how to say it. I know as I often get deep in thought, I am simply just mournful with what I have made with my life at times. I am sorry that I have not fulfilled the mission that God has given me. That I allow sin to continually come into my life in between me and God. I am so far away from what God desires for my life and I have not used all the resources that God has given to me to do his work. There are times I groan for the church, that we as a people, as a community have fallen so short of all that God desires for the Church to be. Paul says that the work of the Spirit interprets that sigh that is too deep for words. AND God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Brothers and sisters…this is Grace. This is God’s unmerited love for us. The Spirit of God interprets our groans that are just simply too deep and then intercedes to the Father according not to OUR will, but to GOD’s will. The spirit prays for you, not according to what you want, but what God desires. What awesome and powerful work of the Spirit.
So now let’s get to this outward “overflow” for lack of better words, of the Spirit’s interpreting to others through us. On this Pentecost day…which by the way on a side note is a Jewish holiday. Pente – means 50 or 50 days after Passover which happens to be also our Easter. Pentecost was a celebration of the first harvest. However, on this particular Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were gathered and something extraordinary happened. A violent wind, divided tongues of fire, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in different Tongues, each as the spirit had given ability.
Now let me for a moment break this down, and then speak to how this is relative for today. Let me begin by saying that this day in which the new Kindgom, the kingdom of God, the inbreaking of God into his creation, began on a day that the Jews were celebrating the first fruits. Paul writes of Jesus’ resurrection in 1st Corinthians as the “first fruits of those who have died”. You see, Christ was not the first to have risen from the dead, but he is the first to have done so and never die again. Jesus gained dominion over death, and it was on this day of Pentecost, this day the Jews were celebrating the feast of their first fruits that the apostles are given power from above, and have as the lesson from Romans says the “first fruits of the Spirit” of God’s new inaugurated kingdom on earth. And on this day of Pentecost, the Jews took their first fruits and offered them to God. The apostles, given the first fruits of the power of the Spirit begin to offer themselves as a living offering, as they risk their own lives in using the gift of speaking in the tongues of the Gospel to all who have ears to hear. They spoke about as Acts says, “God’s deeds of power”. They were proclaiming all that God had done and is doing, and will be doing!
So how now does this relate to the power of the Spirit in our own lives. How does this same spirit help us to interpret or speak in new languages to others. Well let me begin by saying, yes the Spirit sometimes works in awesome and powerful ways, and yes some speak in tongues that they themselves do not know or understand. Now that I have gotten that out on the table, let me tell you of something that I believe is more awesome than speaking in some unknown foreign language. Through the powerful work of the Spirit we are able to proclaim the Gospel and interpret all that God does in many languages while all the same time speaking in English….Huh? Let me explain. God has given us the ability, through what I understand to be completely the work of the Spirit to explain the Gospel to others using language that makes sense to that person’s background and interests. Let me give you an example. If I wanted to talk to Dwain about the Gospel, about let’s say how spiritual disciplines help us grow spiritually, I may use the example of how air ducts help keep the flow of air moving. If that air is the Spirit in the body, then those ducts help direct the Spirit through the system or through our spiritual lives. If you have holy ducts, then the air flow will not be as strong. These holes in the duct work happen when you sparingly use those disciplines that God has given us and thus the strength of the Spirit has been reduced. Thus this is an example of God allowing me, through the Spirit to interpret the message of the Gospel into a tongue that is understandable and functional for Dwain. Now…you may be saying, Pastor Josh, that is just knowledge. But Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” And beyond knowledge is wisdom. And if you begin to read the Proverbs, especially Proverbs 8, we begin to understand that there is a tie between Wisdom and the Spirit. The Spirit is Wisdom, and it is through the work of Wisdom, through the Spirit that we have this amazing ability to take the Gospel, the love of God, this unexplainable, unimaginable love and begin to comprehend it through illustrations that are interpreted to people’s own knowledge and experiences. Through the Spirit we take what is divine and understand in terms of the earthly. That is the mind blowing work of the Spirit that allows us to interpret the Gospel in that way, and in so many ways. As many as there are of you, are there ways to understand God’s love through the Spirit. This is the base upon which the work of missions are made possible. It does not begin with speaking another language, it begins with allowing the Spirit to work through you to bring about the Gospel in the way that makes sense to those who do not know the love of God. This is why for instance someone like Steve Spencer has an ability to take the Gospel to the rail yards where I may not. Steve can explain the Gospel to those he works with using imagery of those things he and his co-workers who may be non believers work with day in and day out. But in order to do so….we must have knowledge and wisdom of what is the Gospel. What is God’s Love. The disciples proclaimed that day the mighty deeds of God. We must know God’s mighty deeds, we must hear of them, live them, see them, and study them. They are past, they are present here now, and they are promised in the future. This is the beauty of our Great Thanksgiving as each week, we recall and hear of God’s mighty deeds in past, in present, in future. We must now take these mighty deeds, and through the work of the Spirit interpret them to the creation that are left groaning in labor pains. Amen.