Cause and Effect
May 20, 2018
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 Acts 2:1-21 Romans 8:22-27
If you are old enough, you might remember Rube Goldberg, whose drawing of amazingly complicated machines would appear in the comic pages of newspapers across the country. These machines amused us because, although complex, they performed a simple task that would have been easier done than the effort it took to build, or even to draw, the machine. Goldberg became so famous for this, that now, many years after his death, machines like this have been named after him. There is an entire genre of videos of these type machines on YouTube, including a popular series of videos by a band named OK Go.
Have you ever watched Sesame Street? Kermit the frog would periodically build Rube Goldberg machines on a spot that he called “What Happens Next.” Except in the case of Kermit, these machines never worked quite right. (We might just watch one of Kermit’s adventures during the Coffee House service.)
But watching these machines can remind us that actions have consequences. The things that we do in the world do not happen in a vacuum. What we do impacts the world, and the people, around us. Each action has an effect, and sometimes, as we learned from Kermit the Frog, sometimes, the effects are not what we intended.
We begin this morning in the gospel of John where Jesus makes a promise. And since we all know that Jesus always keeps his promises, this cause, will certainly have an effect later on.
(John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15)
15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
16:4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Well before the crucifixion, Jesus tells his disciples that he must go away, but when he does, he will send the Spirit of God to be with them in his absence.
There is a cause, and an effect.
Jesus says that he will send the Spirit to testify to us about Jesus, but that in return we also must testify to the world about Jesus. Jesus promises that when he departs, he will send the Spirit of God to us and the Spirit will guide us into all the truth.
And just a few short weeks later, after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, we read the story of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-21 where we see Jesus keeping his promise.
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.’
Jesus promised that he would send the Spirit and he did. And the spirit of God arrived in spectacular fashion and through the Spirit, God gave great gifts to all of the believers so that they, and the world around them had to sit up and take notice. People were amazed that back country hicks from Galilee could possibly be speaking Parthian, Phrygian, Egyptian, Latin, Libyan, Arabic, and other languages of the far-flung Roman Empire. Those who didn’t speak foreign languages simply thought they were drunk and babbling nonsense, but those who came from those places were amazed to hear people speaking the language of their home. They had all heard the sound of a violent wind and had come to this place to investigate, and here they discover this amazing thing. Surely, this must mean something. But what?
And Peter steps up to explain.
Once again, remember that this is the same Peter that only a few weeks before had lied about even knowing Jesus. And here, in the middle of Jerusalem, he stands up and tells everyone that, through Jesus Christ, God is at work changing the world. Peter tells them that the Spirit of God would pour out his spirit on their sons, their daughters, the young, the old, and even on their servants so that they would receive gifts that would demonstrate to the world the power of a holy creator God so that the world might come to faith in him and be saved from sin and death.
But what does that mean today?
What does Pentecost mean a hundred generations after the people of the first century church? And for that we find that Paul has some solid insight in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 8:22-27) where he says:
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 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.
Paul says that the world is not perfect, far from it, in fact. The world is in such sad shape that all of creation groans over its condition. But the gift of God’s spirit to his people is still having an effect on our daily lives. Paul says that the gift of the spirit of God, and our faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t make our lives perfect. We often find ourselves in pain or suffering from the circumstances in our lives and in the world around us, but the spirit of God helps us along the way. Paul says that our spirits have already been redeemed, but our human bodies have not. That wonderful pain-free existence that we dream of is something that will only come about when God redeems our bodies in heaven. But Paul explains God’s spirit also gives us the gift of intercession. Intercession means that when we find ourselves in such misery or confusion that we are unable to pray, or to even find words, when all that we can do is groan, the Spirit knows our hearts and carries the messages and the desires of our hearts directly to God on our behalf.
And so yes, two thousand years and over a hundred generations of humanity later, the Spirit of God is still alive and well in the people of Jesus Christ and in the world around us. Like the cartoons that Rube Goldberg drew, and the silly machines that Kermit the Frog built, there really is a “what happens next.” We really do feel an effect caused by the work and the mission of Jesus.
Jesus has sent the Spirit into the world and into each person that puts their faith in him. As we wait for our final adoption and the redemption of our bodies, the spirit helps us in our weakness, prays for us, and intercedes for us in our pain, confusion, and hopelessness, guides us into all the truth, speaks the words of God to us, and yes, Jesus still sends us into the world to testify to the world about him so that others can be rescued from sin and death.
It’s all about cause and effect.
For over a hundred generations, the people of Jesus Christ have answered his call and told others the Good News so that they might have the hope of redemption and the power of God’s spirit. Each of us is here because someone answered that call of God.
They were the cause.
We are the effect.
The spirit of Pentecost continues today just as it has for two thousand years.
Will you answer God’s call?
What effect will you have on the world, and on the people around you?
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.