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Pentecost Sermon: The Spirit of Jesus’ Lordship

June 10, 2011

Texts: Acts 2: 1-18               Corinthians 12: 3-13

 

Last Sunday was Ascension Sunday… at Caversham I preached about the invisibility of Jesus… Ascension marks the transition from the life of Jesus and the life of the church (“he went out of their sight”). The key thing is that Jesus is invisible. It’s about living with the invisibility of Jesus.

 

Post ascension we live with the invisibility of Jesus… just as the disciples must have freaked out when Jesus said ‘It is better for you that I depart’ so we live in a world that often looks as if God is absent. God, and more specifically the life of God’s love, Jesus Christ, is invisible. We can’t grab onto it. We can’t prove it. We can’t manipulate it and fit it into our systems. We just have to live it.

 

It is better for us that Jesus is invisible… and beyond our grasp. Now we are his witnesses. The key things is, it’s not that Jesus is not present. To ascend to heaven doesn’t mean to go somewhere else like on a cloud or outer space… it means to be with God as God is everywhere, it means to go deeper into reality. The point is not that Jesus is absent… it’s that he appears absent. He is invisible.

 

Which brings us to today, Pentecost. Holy Spirit Day – another aspect of God’s invisible presence.

 

What experiences and things do you associate with Holy Spirit? (stories)

 

In the 60s and 70s there was a great renewal of enthusiasm for the Holy Spirit that first caught on in more independent churches and then invaded even traditional old Presbyterian churches… the charismatic movement. Many of us associate the Holy Spirit with those times and those things. I remember as a teenager trying hard to be part of it, fighting against my own family tradition (which was very anti-charismatic), praying to speak in tongues, never quite succeeding, some will say I didn’t pray hard enough, or use the right techniques. And when they say that kind of thing I begin to worry. If there’s certain tricks, certain ways of organizing God, then something pretty silly is going on, and my suspicions of being manipulated come into play fairly quickly. Some of you will have benefited enormously, and perhaps still do from the charismatic movement.

 

I want to say, that in spite of my unease, my suspicions about manipulation and so on, I have come to believe, when I read the bible and when I reflect on my own Christian life that there is no way to be a Christian without taking seriously the Holy Spirit.

 

And today’s reading from 1 Corinthians speaks to that.

 

‘No one’, says Paul, ‘can say “Jesus is Lord” apart from the Holy Spirit…’ That verse is worth reflecting on. Of course, anyone can utter those words. Paul is not simply talking about the ability to utter certain words. He’s saying something like. No one can TRUTHFULLY say Jesus is Lord, apart from the Holy Spirit. You can’t really and seriously live under the authority of Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit. This pushes us to think about what it means to say Jesus is Lord. What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it mean to live one’s life under the divine authority of Jesus?

 

“Love your enemies”… “You have heard it said an eye for an eye… but I say to you do not resist the evildoer” The one who refused to respond in kind when abused and crucified says calls us to ‘deny yourself, take up your cross’. “If you try and save your life you’ll lose it”. “Foxes have holes but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor”. “Forgive 70 times seven”.

 

If this is who has divine authority…. If this is what it means to say Jesus is Lord…then it makes a lot of sense to doubt whether anyone has the capacity for this. Who can do it?

What Paul doesn’t do is say… “Jesus was just setting a high standard, that perhaps only he could live up to… We can admire it but we can’t live it. So we need to put it aside in the meantime and be realistic.” Some people say that… but not Paul.

 

That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in for Paul. If anyone starts down this path in which Jesus is Lord, according to Paul, it is a miracle of God’s Holy Spirit. There we can see God’s new creation emerging. Christ becomes inhabited by others. Christ has members. People are inserted into Christ’s life.

12For just as the [human] body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

 

Christ alive now, made visible now, in our life together… is like a body with many body parts. Christ comes in many shapes… but it’s the same Jesus that the world sees, it’s the same Spirit who was in Jesus who makes the same life happen in the new community. The passage talks of diversity… there are all types of gifts and styles in the new community, but the point is not to celebrate diversity for its own sake… the point is to celebrate that all together and in each… it is the one Christ that is seen by the world.

 

Why? Because the Holy Spirit (God alone can do it!) rearranges the internal makeup of the human being… taking away fears, reordering desires… implanting in human beings ‘the mind of Christ’. No one is ever an island. And those who follow Jesus are no exception… they are possessed by Christ.

13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

 

The one Spirit gives birth to the new community. The one Spirit makes one body out of dangerously different people. The one Spirit makes one Christ visible in history. That’s what we celebrate at Pentecost.

To go back to Ascension to conclude… It’s because of the Spirit that the invisibility of Jesus takes on a new and emerging visibility… glimpses of the future can be seen.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2011 6:32 am

    Thanks Bruce, this is great stuff, and inspiring – I have been contemplating for this sunday on how to preach about the reality of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian and what that reality highlights and how often we miss it. The invisibility of Jesus as opposed to the ‘absence’ is a great way to describe it, and if it is ok with you I will borrow it quoting you.
    grace and peace to you

  2. June 10, 2011 8:46 am

    you’re welcome

  3. June 21, 2011 10:45 am

    Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful post with us….

    God bless You,
    Emma

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