“The Gift of Excalibur”
May 15, 2016
By John Partridge*
Scripture: John 14:8-17, 25-27 Acts 2:1-21 Romans 8:14-17
How many of you have heard of King Arthur, the one of whom so many stories, movies and plays have been written?
Now, how many of you actually know the story of King Arthur beyond the one that we heard from Walt Disney’s “The Sword and the Stone” or the Hollywood musical “Camelot” with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave?
Of course, some of you are young enough that you have no idea who Richard Harris was. You should go home and look this up on Netflix. There have been countless other adaptations of this story and each of them is a little different. But honestly, if once you start looking, the variations started hundreds of years ago and even the oldest sources for the legend of Arthur can be very different from one another.
In any case, the basic story goes something like this: King Uther Pendragon fancied another man’s wife, Lady Igraine, so much that he intended to steal her by force. To that end, he took an army to attack the castle in Cornwall belonging to her husband, the Duke of Tintagel. During the battle, the Duke was killed, and Merlin used magic to change Uther Pendragon into the shape of the Duke so that he could sleep with Lady Igraine without her knowing. By that deception, Arthur was conceived but Merlin didn’t work his magic for free, and in the deal that Uther had made to sleep with Lady Igraine, when Arthur was born, he was given to Merlin and Merlin, in turn, gave him to someone else as a foster parent.
Much later, Arthur, not knowing that he is the rightful heir of King Uther Pendragon, pulls a sword out of a stone and anvil. According to the legend, that sword was well known in England and it was said that only the true and right king of all England would be able to draw it out.
Later still, Arthur complained to Merlin that he didn’t have a really good sword that he could call his own, and so Merlin took him to a lake where he met Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. Nimue had a fantastic sword that belonged to her and her only, but she would loan it to Arthur and told him that it would serve him well. The sword was encased by a beautiful scabbard made of gold and inlaid with precious gems but it was more than that. The scabbard also had the power to protect Arthur from all harm on the battlefield. Another part of the story says that the sword, through the light that reflected from it, and the magic that it held within it, had the power to bedazzle his enemies so that he could overcome them even if he were vastly outnumbered.
There are tons of books that can tell you more about the legend of the great King Arthur, but this much of the story is important to our message today. There are three important reasons that I shared these parts of the legend of King Arthur… but I’m not going to tell you what they are until later.
We begin our scripture lesson this morning in John 14:8-17, 25-27 where we hear this:
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Jesus promised the disciples that after he leaves them, God will send his Spirit to live with us forever and that spirit will come to lead us, guide us, and to help us do the will of God.
That promise is fulfilled after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension in to heaven and we hear that story in Acts 2:1-21.
2:1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
People who witnessed the coming of the Spirit of God were amazed and wondered what it meant and Peter is more than happy to explain it to them. The coming of the Spirit of God was prophesied by the prophet Joel as well as Jesus. Those prophecies tell us that the coming of the Spirit would give the followers of God the power to prophecy, dream dreams, see visions, and otherwise hear the voice of God as well as to do the will of God so that all of humanity might call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
The Spirit of God gave the disciples the ability to preach in languages that they didn’t know so that the crowds of people, who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world, could hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Finally today, we read from Romans 8:14-17, where we hear Paul explain what it means for us to receive the gift of the Spirit of God.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
And that brings us back to the story of King Arthur because there are three important parallels between King Arthur and each of us who are gathered here.
First, Arthur was the true heir of the King and so are you. Because Arthur was the true son of the King, despite the fact that he had no knowledge of his real parentage, he was able to draw the sword out of the anvil and stone. Because you are a child of the King of kings, adopted into sonship, co-heirs with Jesus, regardless of your human parentage, you too are able to receive a great gift. In your case, what you can receive is not a sword, but the power of the living Spirit of God.
Second, Arthur was given a great gift, Excalibur, which enabled him to do far more than he could have done through his own effort, strength and power. And so have you. Because, when you came to faith in Jesus Christ and put your trust in him, the Spirit of God came to live within you. And because the Spirit of God lives within you, you are able to do far more through the power of that Spirit, than you ever could through your own effort, strength and power.
And finally, The Lady of the Lake gave Arthur the sword Excalibur because he was worthy, but in the end, Arthur was mortally wounded in battle because of a moral failure. Similarly, Jesus said that if we love him, we must keep his commands. Our ability to be channels of the power of the Spirit of God is limited, or even lost, when we fail to be obedient to the commands of God.
And so, as we remember and celebrate Pentecost, I want each of you to remember that you are like King Arthur. It is as if you have been given the gift of Excalibur. You have been declared to be a true heir of the King of kings. You have been given a great gift. It is a gift of indescribable power and it can help you to do the work of God’s Kingdom in ways that go far beyond your own effort, strength, courage, wisdom, and understanding. But to wield that power effectively, you must stay close to God and do your very best to be obedient to his commands.
You are heirs of the King of kings and are servants, warriors, and knights in his service.
You have been given a gift that is more powerful than the mythical sword Excalibur, and you have been called by God to use that gift in the service of his kingdom.
How will you answer brave knight?
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