Pouring Out God's Spirit

Jun 04 2017

POURING OUT GOD’S SPIRIT

The day of Pentecost calls us to celebrate the Holy Spirit – the giving of that Spirit to all of us. But what is it? What should we do with it? What does it call us to do? If the pouring out of God’s Spirit into each of us calls us to action, what is that action?

What is the Holy Spirit? Let’s start with what we know about the Spirit of God that was within Jesus. The gospels imply that at some time in his life, Jesus had to, for lack of a better way of putting it, “get the spirit,” or, in other words, understand the call of God in his life. He got it at his baptism, say Mark and Matthew. He got it at conception, says Luke. No, he always had it from he beginning of time, says John.

Why is this concept of spirit so important? Because spirit was associated with wind, and wind was associated with the “breath of God.” The breath of God was what gave life. Why “Holy Spirit?” Because there was something so special in the experience that people had with Jesus that the assumption was made that he was from God. If from God, then this Jesus must have had a “holy spirit” within him. Hence, “HOLY Spirit.”

But it doesn’t stop there. If we examine the Scriptures, here is a smattering of what we will find about the Holy Spirit and us: Luke 11:13 – Jesus says, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” I guess that implies that we only have to ask and we, too, will receive it. Luke 12:10 – “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” I remember this well from my confirmation class. We were told that if we blaspheme against God’s Holy Spirit, we will burn forever in hell, but there was no way to determine if we had done that! Figure that one out! Only God would know. Talk about a vengeful God! I’m going to hold you responsible, but you won’t even know what you did! Somehow that just didn’t jibe with the God of love I knew then, and certainly isn’t congruent with the God of love I know now 

In John 7:39, the writer puts these words in the mouth of Jesus: “Now he said this about the spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” However, this is a direct contradiction with the opening words of John that say Jesus always had the Spirit.

Then, in John 14, the high priestly prayer of Jesus, he tells the disciples that he will ask God to send them an advocate, the Spirit of truth, later identified as the Holy Spirit who will teach them everything. In Acts, we have the story read this morning. But in Acts 8, Peter and John are sent to Samaria to give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands because the individuals had only been baptized in Jesus’ name, implying that babies don’t get the Spirit when they are baptized, so when do they get it, if they have to get it at all, and who today can convey that Spirit by the laying on of hands?

If we are going to search the Scriptures for an explanation, we will not find it, because explanations go all over the map regarding when, what happens, who gives it and what it does. What is it? We don’t know.

But we do know this – that the Spirit of God that was in Jesus, the Spirit of God that was in those disciples on Pentecost, is in us. And it is that Spirit that somehow dwells within each of us that calls us into relationship with God and calls us into action because of that relationship with God.

Can we ignore it? Sure. We ignore the callings of all sorts of things throughout our lives – because we are too tired, because we are not sure, because we don’t really believe that anything will change, because we do not like what we are being told, because we are not sure that God is really calling us to do a certain thing in a certain time.

People for ages have said that God does not speak to them – that God’s Spirit isn’t really in them – that they have never heard God speaking to them. Really?

Let’s suppose that since God is in our hearts, then God’s Spirit must dwell somewhere within us. And let’s also suppose that the Spirit that dwells within us calls us to do certain things in our lives, to believe certain things about our relationship with God and people. If it does that, then perhaps we don't feel it or hear it because we are not looking for it or not listening to it?

Have you ever had a nagging feeling that you need to do something? Have you ever prayed for direction in your life and then felt a need to go in a specific direction? That intuition is God’s Spirit calling you to move.

The pouring out of God’s Spirit to all of us is a call to action. It is a call to use whatever gifts God has given us to help others, to help ourselves, to make this world a better place. It is a call to feed the poor, to help the helpless, to clothe those who have no money to put appropriate clothing on their backs, to help the homeless find shelter. It is a call from the Spirit of God within us to move into a better relationship with God and with others. What better way to experience the call of God’s Spirit than by helping and caring for others!

Can we deny God’s call? May people have. Many people will continue to do that. We all have free will. But if we want to be true to the calling to be Christian; if we want to be true to the calling of God’s Spirit; if we want to be true in our desire to walk a path of love and concern as Jesus did, then how can we deny the calling and our responsibility to pour out God’s Spirit on those around us by not letting that Spirit work through us?

There are many enigmas and doubts when it comes to faith. But part of those enigmas can be answered if we do what Elijah did on that mountain so many years ago. He listened for God to pass by, but God was not in the wind that broke the rocks, God was not in the earthquake or the fire. God was in the silence, and it was in the silence that Elijah heard God’s voice.

 

That small, still voice is always there – calling us to love, calling us to action, calling us to God – but are we listening? Amen.