Sermon for Pentecost

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:13
All of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.  

One in the Spirit

Can you imagine what it must have been like that first Pentecost Day when all the believers were gathered together in one room?  Suddenly there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty tornado. It filled the whole house where they were meeting but the curtains didn’t move and the candles didn’t flicker and the hair of the believers was unmoved.  And flames of fire came down from heaven and rested just above the head of each person in the room but these flames were different – they didn’t scorch or burn.  And when this happened, all the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages—even languages they had never spoken before! 

This caused such a commotion that people came running to see what was going on and there was great excitement because these followers of Jesus were speaking their language.  They were telling them, “Jesus is your Lord”.  After they had heard what this meant, 3000 people were baptised at the end of the day.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be there that day – to have been part of the new thing that God was creating that day – this new community of faith: the church?  Well, we might not have been there 2000 years ago but we are part of the church whose birthday we are celebrating today.

Just as the Holy Spirit filled those first Christians, so too the Holy Spirit fills and inspires us today. Let me give a quick snapshot of what the Holy Spirit does in these 5 quick statements.

God says to his Old Testament people and to us, You are a holy people to the Lord your God.  The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the people on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deut 7:6). When we were baptised we were called into the Church to be the ‘people of God’.  We are called to be God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Col 3.12).  The Church is God's called people. 

I'm sure you’ve heard people say, “I'm a Christian.  I believe in God and try to do the right thing.  But I don't need to belong to a church.”  Or something like, “I believe in Jesus but I don’t believe in the church”.  And then there are those who say, “I’m a Lutheran but I had a disagreement with so and so and I don’t go to church anymore” or “I’m a Christian but I guess I’m too lazy or too busy to be involved in the local church”.  In these last examples, it’s not that they don’t believe in the church, it’s just that they have some barriers to overcome.

But whatever the case, people aren’t listening to the Holy Spirit if they say, “I’m saved but I don’t have anything to do with the saved”.  You might have noticed, and if you didn’t notice I’ll tell you now, when I was talking about the Holy Spirit and what he does I didn't mention the words “I” or “my” once.  The Holy Spirit calls us to be his holy people together.  We are saved by Christ and in our baptism we are joined to him and his death and resurrection.  We are all joined together in Christ.  I’m not joined to Christ by myself.  I’m joined to Christ with all of you and all other Christians, including all those who have gone before me.  As Peter says, “You (plural) are God's chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9).   

That says something about our attitude toward our fellow members in the church.  We could come here every Sunday and then walk out and not have anything to do with our fellow Christians until we come here again the next time to worship.  I’m not saying that everyone needs to be up the front and obvious in the way they work together in the body of Christ.  We heard it clearly in the reading today from 1 Corinthians 12 that the Spirit gives all different kinds of gifts.  In the same chapter the apostle talks about the human body stating that just as some parts of the body have more modest roles that doesn’t make them any less valuable.  The Spirit gives each of us different gifts and we are called to use those gifts wisely and diligently.

What I’m getting at is this – it's easy for us to be private and lone Christians in a congregation.  But Paul says, "Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body (1 Cor 12:27). Together we are the church.  “Each one of you” is part of the church.  Does that say something about the part that we all have in the mission and ministry of the church?  It sure does! 
All of us are responsible for the work of God's Church.
All of us are “God's chosen people … people who belong to God” (1 Peter 2:9).
All of us are joined together in Christ and are called to carry on his work in the church as his disciples.
All of us have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit
and it follows that all of us together have a part to play in the church according to the gifts that God has given us.  In our baptism we are called into the fellowship of the church and called to constant renewal to take responsibility and to use the gifts we have given by the Spirit for the ministry of the church. 

The Holy Spirit is constantly calling us to revolution and renewal and we don't like this renewal and revolution much.  It upsets our comfortable Christianity.  It challenges our use of time.  It makes us evaluate our priorities, even to the point of asking, “Have I put my children, their activities, my leisure time, my work, my sport, even my personal likes and dislikes about other people, their personalities, what they wear, their music preferences and whatever, ahead of worshipping and working together with those whom the Holy Spirit has made me one. 

We don’t like this revolution the Holy Spirit brings in our lives because it involves change – resolution, if you like, to do something different. 
It means letting the Holy Spirit change us and our attitudes, even though we have been quite happy with the way we are. 
It means allowing the Holy Spirit to set us on fire for the often very difficult tasks he has given to us as his church. 
It means being led by the Holy Spirit when every part of us is telling us that we want to be in control. 
It means not resisting when the Holy Spirit takes charge even though we know we are not going to like where he is going to lead us and we are going to want do a ‘Jonah’ and be tempted to walk away.
It means that the Holy Spirit may guide us down paths that we have never been down before and confront us with challenges that will require us to trust his wisdom.
It involves constant renewal, revival, change and taking responsibility and what happens in the church is not any one individual's responsibility.  The Church is us.  Together we serve Christ.  Together we serve the community using the gifts the Spirit has given us.  We may not always agree and sometimes we need to agree to disagree but that should not in any way affect the fact that "together we are the body of Christ. Each one of us is part of his body" (1 Cor 12:27). 

Renewal in the Church begins with us.  God in his mercy and grace has called us to be his people in his church.  He loves us and died for us and forgives us for our many failures to put off the old and put on the new in the life of the church. With God's help let us carefully listen to God and be instrumental in the growth and renewal of God's church. "Together we are the body of Christ. Each one of us is part of his body".

Let this always be our prayer, Revive your church, O Lord, beginning with me!”


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
8th June 2014

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