Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed, or it can be harnessed. The energy in ten gallons of gasoline, for instance, can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can. Or it can be channelled through the engine of a Datsun in a controlled burn and used to transport a person 350 miles. Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have lasting effect, staying power. The Holy Spirit works both ways. At Pentecost, he exploded on the scene; His presence was like "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3). Thousands were affected by one burst of God's power. But He also works through the church--the institution God began to tap the Holy Spirit's power for the long haul. Through worship, fellowship, and service, Christians are provided with staying power.
If people would have been asked in 1968 which nation would dominate the world in watch making during the 1990s and into the twenty-first century the answer would have been uniform: Switzerland. Why? Because Switzerland had dominated the world of watch making for the previous sixty years.
The Swiss made the best watches in the world and were committed to constant refinement of their expertise. It was the Swiss who came forward with the minute hand and the second hand. They led the world in discovering better ways to manufacture the gears, bearings, and mainsprings of watches. They even led the way in waterproofing techniques and self-winding models. By 1968, the Swiss made 65 percent of all watches sold in the world and laid claim to as much as 90 percent of the profits.
By 1980, however, they had laid off thousands of watch-makers and controlled less than 10 percent of the world market. Their profit domination dropped to less than 20 percent. Between 1979 and 1981, fifty thousand of the sixty-two thousand Swiss watchmakers lost their jobs. Why? The Swiss had refused to consider a new development—the Quartz movement—ironically, invented by a Swiss. Because it had no main-spring or knob, it was rejected. It was too much of a paradigm shift for them to embrace. Seiko, on the other hand, accepted it and, along with a few other companies, became the leader in the watch industry.
The lesson of the Swiss watchmakers is profound. A past that was so secure, so profitable, so dominant was destroyed by an unwillingness to consider the future. It was more than not being able to make predictions—it was an inability to re-think how they did business. Past success had blinded them to the importance of seeing the implications of the changing world and to admit that past accomplishment was no guarantee of future success.
James Enery White, Rethinking The Church, Baker Books, 1998, p. 20.
The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit’s overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles’ hearers but their hearts as well to understanding and embracing the Word of God.
The glassblower’s art
The process has changed little in the last 3,000 years. A long, narrow metal tube is dipped into a pot of sand, soda, lime and any number of metal and chemicals. Then the artisan blows carefully into the tube and creates a bubble – and glass is formed. As he blows, the glassmaker will shape and form the bubble into the final piece: a vase, a bowl, a pane of glass. During the shaping process, the piece is frequently returned to the furnace in order to keep it soft enough to work.
By the breath of the glassblower and the fire of the kiln, sand is transformed into glass – glass of beautiful color and transparency, glass that protects and preserves, glass that warms and illuminates.
In the story of Pentecost, the Spirit of God is experienced in images of breath and fire. The word Hebrew word for “Spirit” in is ruah, meaning breath or air (in Greek the word is pneuma). Pentecost is the “breath” of God blowing through our community, re-creating us and forming us into the Church of the Risen Christ. In the Pentecost story from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes “tongues” of fire appeared to “rest” on each of the Apostles. Such “fire” moves them to articulate what they had seen and heard and experienced in their encounter with Jesus. On this feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the Spirit of God within our own hearts and dwelling within our Church community: the breath of God giving life to us and animating us in his grace to live lives of compassion and mercy; the fire of God forming us become a people of loving service and humble love, reflecting that of his Christ.
The Holy Spirit's distinctive role is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit "was not yet" (John 7:29, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit's work of making men aware of Jesus' glory begin.
I remember walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, "He will glorify me" (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit's new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.
Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit's message to us is never, "Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me", but always, "Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace." The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.
James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.
Gordon Brownville's Symbols of the Holy Spirit tells about the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird's cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen's wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, "He's alive! My husband is still alive!"
So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit's message.
******The well-known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the west coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, "Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal." The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was nowhere to be found.
The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, "Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?" He said, "No, I mean are you Pentecostal?" Craddock said, "Are you asking me if I am charismatic?" the student said, "I am asking you if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?" He said, "I want to know if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "I don't know what your question is." The student said, "Obviously, you are not Pentecostal." He left.
What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?
In spite of the fact that the church doesn't know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is "Pentecostal."
If the church is alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Methodist! [Insert your own tradition here.]
How do we keep this aliveness, this fire burning, this spirit moving? What must exist in us, around us, and through us, if we are to be Pentecostal? Simply these three things:
1. We Are To Be Of One Accord2. We Are To Join Together Constantly in Prayer
3. We Are To Repent
___________________________Happy Natal Day, church!
As a kid did you ever terrorize a sibling by scuffing your feet on the carpet and walking towards your "prey" with an index finger pointing at them? The threat, of course, was "static electricity." If you touched you brother or sister, it meant a small but smarting little zap. A small shock - big fun!
A local grocery store (actually, the local Orcas Island Supermarket where we live) recently bit the bullet and spent big money on some major renovations. Among the improvements was all new flooring, a snazzy laminate that looked like real hardwood. The store also bought new shopping carts. These were sleeker and more "user friendly" than the previous model. An upgraded misting system in the produce section required new de-humidifying equipment for the rest of the store.
But all these various upgrades resulted in a "perfect storm" for this grocery store. The contact between the new floor and the new shopping cart's wheels coupled with the dry, de-humidified air resulted in perfect conditions to create tremendous static electricity. Suddenly every shopper with a grocery cart was getting electrified by the lemons, zapped by the chocolate chips, zinged by a loaf of bread. The pain for those local shoppers was no longer confined to the check-out counter. Now every item the shopper selected brought a painful static electric wake-up shock.
Our ancestors took one giant technological step after a thunderstorm. Lightning ignited a fire - a fire that offered both light and warmth to the cold darkness of night. It gave our ancestors an idea. Figuring out how to keep a fire going, without the thunder and lightning, was the beginning of human civilization. Taming "fire" was the first great human achievement.
In 1957 a young musician named Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the first to be called a member of a new genre called "rock and roll," recorded a huge hit. Primarily a piano player, Jerry Lee pounded out at hit called "Great Balls of Fire." The title came straight out of Lewis' traditional Christian upbringing - recalling a familiar Southern expression describing the miraculous events of Pentecost...
___________________________You Are in the Spirit
It's like the story of the shark and the whale. Both were swimming in the sea when the shark swam up to the whale to engage in conversation. As they swam along, the shark said to the whale, "You are so much older than I, and wiser too. Could you tell me where the ocean is?" The whale responded, "The ocean is what you are in now." The shark would not believe it. "Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I may find it!" The whale repeated, "The ocean is here, now; you are in it." Unbelieving, the shark swam away searching for the ocean.
The moral of the story, I believe, is this: don't spend too much time looking for God because the Spirit of God is here in the now of your life, dwelling within you, within me, within this community. And that truth is nurtured in prayer.
Susan M. Fleenor, The Indwelling Spirit of Pentecost
The peace Jesus gives to us through the Holy Spirit is more than we can ever imagine:
Peace means the cessation of all warfare, but it also means much more.
Peace means a feeling of inner well-being, but it also means much more.
Peace means an end to psychological tensions, but it also means much more.
Peace means halting interpersonal conflicts, but it also means much more.
Peace means the settling of silence on the soul, but it also means much more.
In Valyermo, California , the Benedictines converted a 400-acre ranch into a religious community called St. Andrew's Priory. As you enter the grounds, you find that the land is posted: "No Hunting Except for Peace." The world is hunting for peace. What will we give it?
Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
______________________________________Shaped by the Winds of God
Most times, when I'm called to conduct a funeral of a loved one from the church, I'm asked by the funeral director if I'd like to ride with them rather than to drive my own car. And most times, I take them up on the offer, for it is more relaxing not to have to worry about driving. I must say that I've had some interesting and informative drives out to the cemetery. One director told me about the effect God's Wind has on things that grow. It seems that over time, trees that have to stand out in the open become shaped in the direction the wind is blowing. Unless there are other trees around to block it from happening, a tree will eventually be shaped by the force and direction of the wind. Then, as living proof, the funeral director began to point out to me tree after tree that had all been shaped in this way, trees that I confess I had passed by many times, but had never really seen until then. Once this was pointed out to me, I began to see them everywhere. The cemetery was literally filled with them! All shaped by the Winds of God!
I leave you with this question. Like those trees in the cemetery, do we, as individuals, and as a congregation, show any evidence of being shaped by the Winds of God's Spirit? Is the new beginning Pentecostal experience a fresh, yet continuing presence in our lives?
David R. Cartwright, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (First Third): Guided by the Spirit, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
________________________________________Waves of Worry
Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, "How did the terrible storm last night affect you?" The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as "the cushion of the sea." Although the ocean may be whipped into huge waves by high winds, the waters below are never stirred.
This, I believe, is a perfect picture of the peace that comes from Christ's Spirit. The waves of worry, of fear, of heartbreak, cannot touch those resting in Christ. Sheltered by His grace and encouraged by His Spirit, the believer is given the perfect tranquility that only Christ can provide.
Adrian Dieleman, Receive the Holy Spirit
_______________________Humor: How Were You Attired?
Recently, a judicial friend was presiding over a case in a small, rural county. The defendant was charged with drunk driving and trying to assault the police officer who arrested him. To convict the defendant on the assault on an officer charge, the District Attorney had to prove that the defendant knew the person he was assaulting was a police officer. And the easiest way to do that is to show that the officer was wearing a police uniform, and therefore the defendant knew that this was a police officer.
So the District Attorney asked the officer on the witness stand "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"
The witness looked at him blankly. It was clear he didn't know what the District Attorney meant by "attired". Everyone saw this but the District Attorney.
"Would you repeat the question, please?"
In a slightly irritated voice the District Attorney said, "And how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?"
The witness still was puzzled. "Say that again", he pleaded."How were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?" barked the District Attorney.
My friend said you could suddenly see the light bulb come on in the officer's head, and he proudly proclaimed "I was traveling on standard issue radial tires!"
This officer needed an interpreter even within the English language!
That's what I'm getting at: We all need our own personal interpreter, full time, 24/7. So much of what we hear, even within the English language, we don't understand. And nowhere is that truth more evident than with people who are new to the church.
Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
_____________________________Lost and Found
Picture a little girl lost in a big city. There she sits, crying on the curb. A policeman finds her, puts her in his cruiser and drives her up and down the streets, hoping she'll recognize something familiar. Which, at last, she does. She sees a steeple with a cross on it. Tears vanish. Speech returns. "That's my church," she says. "I can find my way from here."
You're not the only one, little girl.
William A. Ritter, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com