The Ministry of Wow

The Ministry of Wow

June 09, 2019*

(Pentecost)

By Pastor John Partridge

John 14:8-17, 25-27               Acts 2:1-21                 Romans 8:14-17

 

Have you ever watched the fireworks on the fourth of July?

Have you ever opened the newspaper and seen the mayor and a bunch of city officials at an important ribbon cutting or groundbreaking?

Have you ever seen the evening news report on a new freeway, tax cuts, or some other big news story about our local, state, or federal government?

Sure, you have.  Occasionally, our government does something that is very public and splashy.  But most of the time, day in, and day out, most of our government’s employees, whether they are employed by the federal, state, or local governments, toil away at computer monitors, check in on endangered children, teach school, clean streets, repair streets, fix leaks, and make sure that many things that we take for granted are so regular and reliable that we can take them for granted.  You rarely see stories in the newspaper or on television about the people who showed up and did their jobs, every day, for thirty or forty years doing ordinary things.

And although God often works the same way, daily caring for our wounds, watching over us, and being so ordinary and predictable that we allow ourselves to take his presence for granted or forget about him entirely, he isn’t always so invisible.  Occasionally, God does something splashy and noticeable.  Sometimes God heals the incurable, moves mountains, or raises the dead.  Sometimes God does things that make us say, “Wow.” 

Pentecost was one of those moments.

Some time before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke with his disciples and explained that after he returned to his father, he would send the Spirit of God to be with them.  That gift… would change everything. (John 14:8-17, 25-27)

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

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 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jesus told his disciples that the words that he said, and the miracles that he performed, were being done because of the father that lived in him and was doing his work through him.  And then he goes on to say that because he is returning to his father, anyone who believes in him will do the same kinds of works that Jesus was doing, and even greater things.  Because Jesus was returning to his father, and because he was sending God’s Spirit to be with us, and live with us, we would do these things, and God would be glorified.  And, not only would the followers of Jesus Christ do these amazing works, but because of the presence of the Spirit of God living in us, we would also receive the gift of peace.

Fast forward to a few weeks after the crucifixion to the day of Pentecost and we find this story from the book of Acts 2:1-21.

2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 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.’

Remember that I said sometimes God does splashy things?

This isn’t only a splashy thing, but a whole pile of splashy things.

A sound like a violent wind comes down from heaven, tongues of fire pour into the room where the followers of Jesus have gathered to pray, the fire separates and come to rest on each and every one of them, and then, speaking all the languages of the known world, these men and women go out into the streets and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The people in the streets either heard the sound of the wind or the sound of so many people speaking different languages, but whatever they heard, people came from all over the see what was going on.

Those that came were shocked because the people who were speaking foreign languages were Galileans and, you may recall that Galileans were thought of as uneducated, country hicks.  Remember that even one of the disciples, when he first heard about Jesus, said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  Not only that, but remember that just a few days earlier, these same people were meeting in locked rooms with the windows bolted shut, because they were afraid that the Pharisees would have them arrested because of their association with Jesus.  Not long ago, Peter had been so emotionally destroyed that he went back to his fishing boats and was beating himself up over his public denials of Jesus. 

But no longer.

Suddenly, their fear and doubt are gone.  Suddenly they are speaking languages that they had never learned.  Suddenly, instead of hiding behind locked doors, they were speaking in public and Peter raises his voice and lectures everyone on the meaning of the scriptures.

This moment is entirely unexpected, exceptionally public and splashy, and totally transformational for both the disciples and for us.  In that moment, the disciples were changed.  Their fear was gone, they were filled with an urgency to tell the world about what they had seen and heard, and they went out into the streets to do it.  And, as they went, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit that now lived within them, began to do exactly what Jesus had described.  Suddenly they were doing something miraculous.  Suddenly they were doing the work that Jesus had been doings, and even things that were more surprising and unexpected than some of the things that Jesus had done.

But if all of this was not enough, Paul’s letter to the church in Rome describes yet another amazing gift that the church received at Pentecost. (Romans 8:14-17)

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.

Paul says that the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost was also the symbol of our adoption by God and because we have been adopted, then we are heirs, co-heirs with Jesus so that we will share in both his suffering and in his ministry to all of the world.

Not only was Pentecost a splashy, headline news moment, the effects were not something that wore off and were forgotten.  Instead, the gifts that God gave to the church at Pentecost, were gifts that were passed on from generation to generation.  God’s spirit entered into the followers of Jesus as tongues of fire at Pentecost, but today still enter into each one of us as we are baptized into the service of Jesus Christ.  Two thousand years later we still receive the gift of adoption, and fearlessness, and still we are empowered by God, through the Spirit that lives within us, to do the work of Jesus Christ in the world around us.  Sometimes that work is ordinary and almost invisible, but all of us, working together, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, are doing amazing things as we answer his call on our lives.

Let us continue, with God’s help, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, speak for the voiceless, stand up for the oppressed, comfort the afflicted, heal the sick, and all of the other things that Jesus did, and calls us to do.

This was the call of the church two thousand years ago and it remains the call of the church today.

And we press on…

…with God’s help…

…through the power of the Spirit that lives within us.

Sometimes we are called to the ordinary, but sometimes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are witness to the ministry… of Wow.

 

 

 


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, 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 or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

A Fire in the Belly

A Fire in the Belly

June 06, 2019*

By Pastor John Partridge

Romans 8:14-17         Acts 2:1-21                

As you may already know, this coming Sunday is the celebration of Pentecost and so today’s responsive readings, prayers, and even our communion liturgy reflect back (or perhaps it reflects forward) to that celebration.  So, what is it that happened on Pentecost and why does it matter two thousand years later?  Luke’s story in the book of Acts tells us that fire came down from heaven and touched each of the disciples and followers of Jesus that had gathered for prayer.  But fire doesn’t begin to describe what really happened. 

If it had only been fire, that would have been an impressive sight and it would have made for a good story to tell around the campfire on a cool fall evening, or after a drink or two at the local watering hole.  But it wasn’t just fire.  On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had promised would come after he returned to his father, came down from heaven and in that moment, the Spirit of God, which looked like fire, entered into each of those men and women who had gathered together for prayer.  If it had only been fire, it would have been a tale that was told among friends for a generation or two and then died, but what actually happened was not only a great story, but a story that had long-lasting, even eternal, implications and repercussions.

In the Old Testament we often heard stories about how the Holy Spirit came upon Sampson, or Gideon, Saul, or David and, empowered by the Spirit of God, they did great and amazing things that we still read about, and marvel at, two thousand years later.  But these encounters with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament were a rarity that only happened once in a great while and seemed to be limited to people of great faith.  But no longer.

The story of Pentecost has power for us in the twenty first century because it was a transformational moment in history.  Pentecost was the moment when God no longer empowered the occasional hero. It was the moment when the work of the Holy Spirit stopped being a once-in-a-while agent of change.  Instead, as those tongues of fire entered into the followers of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit began working 24/7 empowering every single man, woman, and child that was baptized into the fellowship of believers and followers of Jesus.

It is because of the story of Pentecost that we have a divine confidence about the work that we are doing.  It wasn’t the human strength of Sampson that allowed him to kill a lion with his bare hands or pull down the temple on the heads of the Philistine idol worshipers.  It wasn’t just an active imagination that allowed King Saul to sit with God’s prophets and speak prophecy.  These were not the acts of moral humans but the acts of a powerful God working through fragile and finite followers.  As mortals, and as humans, we are well acquainted with our limitations and frailties, but as the followers of Jesus Christ, we must also remember that we are not alone.  We do not work alone.  We do not do our work through our own strength… alone.  We, each one of us, do the work of Jesus Christ, and the work of the Kingdom of God, empowered and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us.  It is this same spirit that gives us a fire in the belly to do the work of Jesus even when people say that we are too young, or too old, or too sick, or too tired, or in mourning, or anything else.

Every year we repeat, and reread, and retell, the story of Pentecost, yes, even two thousand years later, not just because it’s a great story to tell around the campfire, but because it is utterly critical to our spiritual formation, and transformational to our behavior as the followers of Jesus Christ.

We must never forget that we are not alone.

We do not do the work of Jesus Christ alone.

The fire that we have in our bellies is the fire of the Spirit of God who lives within us and it is that same spirit that gives us the strength to be modern day heroes of the faith as we do the work of Jesus Christ.

Our mission is nothing less than to change the world. 

One life at a time.

Not through our own strength, but through the strength of the God that lives within us.

 

Scripture Readings

First Reading: Romans 8:14-17

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.

 

Second Reading: Acts 2:1-21

2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 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.’

 


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*You have been reading a message presented at Copeland Oaks in Sebring, Ohio on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, 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 or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Fire, Visions, Wonders, and You

“Fire, Visions, Wonders, and You”

June 04, 2017

By John Partridge*

 

Acts 2:1-21                            John 20:19-23                               1 Corinthians 12:1-13

 

 

 

Have you ever thought that your church ought to be doing something that it isn’t currently doing?  Have you ever found yourself thinking that we ought to have a new Bible study, or a new outreach program, or a dinner to honor someone who deserved recognition, or that we needed a new piece of equipment, or a room redecorated, or any of those sorts of things?

 

Many of us have.

 

And that’s fine.

 

But the danger in doing so is that, if we aren’t careful, our wishes can become a laundry list of complaint.  Instead of wishing that it might be nice if we had this program or that new equipment, the temptation is that we begin to complain that we don’t have them.

 

But there is another way of thinking that can help to prevent that.

 

Sometime around 1993 I went to my pastor and I suggested that our congregation might benefit from having a cassette ministry, where the entire worship service, including the pastor’s message, would be recorded on audio cassette tapes, reproduced at high speed, and made available at the conclusion of Sunday’s service as the congregation left the sanctuary.

 

Her response was one that I have never forgotten.

 

She said something like, “That’s a great idea, John.  How do you plan to do that?”

 

Now bear in mind that at that time, I had only recently graduated from college, had been working at my first post-college job for less than five years, had been married for less than two years, and held no official position in the church unless that was the year that Patti and I were essentially drafted to chair a missions committee that had been defunct for several years.  I was a kid with no authority, no budget, no plan, and one half-crazy new idea that had never been tried at our church before.

 

And Pastor Linda Somerville’s response was to put me in charge of my idea because, as she later explained it, no one else will have the same passion for your idea as you do so no one else will be able to do a better job at getting things done that you will.

 

So what could any of that possibly have to do with this being Pentecost Sunday?

 

Well, hopefully we will get to that, but first let’s begin by remembering one of the last conversations that Jesus had with his disciples before his ascension into heaven. (John 20:19-23)


19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 

There are two important things that I want to single out of this short paragraph.  First, Jesus passed the mission that he had been assigned by God, to the disciples that followed him, saying “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And second, Jesus introduced them to the Holy Spirit and therefore began to equip them with the power and authority that they would need to accomplish the mission to which they had been assigned.  In a later conversation, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to help them and instructs the disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon them.

 

After his ascension the disciples waited, worshipped, and prayed for ten days in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost.  The events of that day are recorded for us in Acts 2:1-21, where we hear these words:

 

2:1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 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.’

 

I don’t blame you if your mind began to wander.

 

There is a lot going on in that passage so I want to unpack it just a little.  First, there is a roaring sound of wind and tongues of fire come down from heaven and come to rest on each and every person who was gathered there.  This was not just the 12 disciples, but a much larger collection of believers.  As these tongues of fire land on them, they are each filled with the Holy Spirit and they are immediately given gifts that they did not have previously.  Some people have attempted to say that the disciples already knew how to speak in all of these languages, but if you think about it, the story makes no sense if they did.  If the followers of Jesus already spoke these languages, then why make that a central part of the story?  If they already knew a host of foreign languages, why were the people of the crowd so amazed, and why did the local people who knew them think that they were drunk?  The only way that this makes any sense at all is if they were each speaking, preaching, and proclaiming the story of Jesus Christ in languages that they had not previously known.

 

Over and over Luke and Peter explain that this was a fulfillment of ancient prophecy and that it was not the work of men, but was instead the work of the Holy Spirit of God working through them.  And in the end, Peter includes the verse from the prophet Joel that explains why it is happening. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

 

The purpose of it all, according to Joel, and according to Peter, is so that everyone can know God and so that everyone can hear the story of Jesus.

 

Once we accept that, what is also interesting is in the listing of the native languages spoken and the countries from which the listeners had come, “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.”  It doesn’t take a biblical scholar to quickly realize that there were no disciples, no missionaries, sent to all of these countries, but that the people who were present, those people who heard the disciples, who heard the Good News, and who came to faith in Jesus Christ, therefore became totally, utterly, and completely responsible for spreading the story of Jesus in each of those places when they returned home.  It’s like something out of a movie script.  They left home with nothing more than a plan to go to Jerusalem and worship on a Jewish holy day, and suddenly they find themselves responsible for telling an entire country about the most important and transformational news in all of history.

 

No pressure.

 

But they weren’t just sent back alone and empty-handed without any help whatsoever.  Luke explained that they had each received the Holy Spirit, and, in 1 Corinthians 12:1-13, Paul explains a little of what that means.

 

 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

 

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

 

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

 

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

 

Paul explains that each of us has been called by God to a different sort of mission but that the Spirit of God, working through us, has equipped us to do the work that God has called us to do.  There are different kinds of service and different kinds of work, but in each of them, God is at work through you.  All of these gifts are the work of the Holy Spirit working through you. 

 

The message of Pentecost is that the Spirit of God has come down from heaven and taken up residence inside of each and every believer in order to do the work of God through you so that the world might know the name of the Lord, and the story of Jesus Christ, and be saved from sin and death.

 

And so we return to my experience back in 1993 and many of you are still wondering what that possibly had to do with the story of Pentecost.  But here it is: On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God came upon the followers of Jesus Christ and through them, gave them the power to change the world and to minister to the world by doing whatever work that he set in front of them.  Some of those people were just walking by, stopped to listen to some street preachers, and found themselves responsible for reaching all of their family, friend, neighbors and their entire nation for Jesus Christ.

 

Each of us had been given a mission.  We, each of us, have inherited the mission that God gave to Jesus.  We have been called to tell the world the Good News so that they can be saved.  Pastor Linda didn’t let me pass the buck and give my idea to someone else and God doesn’t call us to pass the buck and give our mission to someone else.  Someone else may not see what we see as clearly as we see it, and someone else will not see that mission with the same passion that we do.  The only person who has been equipped to do the things that God has shown to us, are the people who see them, and no one else will do a better job at getting things done.

 

The Spirit of God has come upon every person who believes in Jesus Christ and has given them the power to do the work of God through them.  Each of us has a unique and special calling.  My calling is not your calling and your calling is not mine.  Each of us must do the work that God calls us to do so that we can change the world and so the world, through Jesus, can be saved from sin and death.

 

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending 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 subscribe@trinityperryheights.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.

 

The Gift of Excalibur

“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:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

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.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 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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* 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 subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online athttps://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.