May 20, 2018
Rev. Dr. Alan Baughcum
Day’s Ferry Congregational Church, Woolwich, ME
Ezekiel 37:1-14, Acts 2:1-21
We don’t like talking about Holy Spirit, do we? Makes us uncomfortable …. joke about man who doesn’t want to be hypnotized … but we need the eggs!
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
That is it …. that is all.
Ordained ministers have to go before Ecclesiastical Councils and talk about what they believe. Typically, just like the Nicene Creed, lots of stuff about God and Jesus … the Holy Spirit? No so much … “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
Today we learn more about the Holy Spirit …. occasion is taken as birthday of the church …. in 30 AD …. that makes the Church 1988 years old.
How old is that, really?
I am thinking about those tests you can take on the Internet about your behavior to get a “true” age versus your chronological age … you know, you may be 50 years old on your birthday but your heart is 70 and your liver is 400 years old ….
Actually, I took one of those this morning before church …. turns out that while my chronological age is 70, my biological age is 52. See http://www.biological-age.com/#.
What about the church? 1988 years!!!
I think that this morning’s scriptures tell us that the church can be much younger than its chronological age. Ezekial took a bunch of dead dry bones and, with God’s help, brought them back to life. And not just life but life in the place God wanted them to be and with the purpose God had given them. A defeated, demoralized dead people brought back to new life!!!
Same thing in Acts. Jesus had left. That made it necessary for the disciples and believers to take on leadership roles. The Holy Spirit at Pentecost made it possible for them to lead.
What did they have to do? Linking up with the prophecies of Joel, call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.
Why? Before every other road is a dead end. It is God who is the Alpha and Omega, the source of life, love, true joy and peace. All other roads are inventions, either human or demonic …. and they do not satisfy. They cannot satisfy …. because they do not point us towards God.
Later in his sermon Peter tells those gathered that they must repent and be baptized.
We make a mistake when we interpret “repent” to mean telling God “I’m sorry …. I promise to do better.” That is not repentance. In Judaism repentance is marked by a complete 180 degree turn. We turn away from those pathways that lead us to dead ends. We turn around and start walking on the path that leads to God. And we mark that turning with baptism, an action in which the Spirit of God is delivered to us in the water that sprinkles, drips or immerses us.
Then what? The Holy Spirit gives us what we need to truly walk our repentance, to truly walk on the path to God.
1 Corinthians 12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
12 Now concerning spiritual gifts,[a] brothers and sisters,[b] I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
One Body with Many Members
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For 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.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Relying on the leadership of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is the only way that the church can stay young.
How old is the church chronologically? 1988 years. How old is it in truth? Depends.
If we are being led by Christ through the Holy Spirit, then we are participants in eternity and we are ever young.
This church is 185 years old …. in chronological age. But you would not know it by the work and witness of the church. Ask the Turner family. Ask those who are fed at the Food Bank. Ask those among us who are going to be planting the church garden to grow fresh food for the Food Bank. Ask those who live in houses built by Habitat for Humanity. Ask those warmed by the prayer shawls knit by the talented hands of our members. Ask those who receive services from Tedford and Oasis.
This church is 39 years old, again, today!! And we will be as long as we allow ourselves to be renewed by God’s breath.
Howard Thurman, 20th century
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Let us pray: Blessed God, we strive to be your saints. We come from all walks of life but we all want to be on the one true path that leads to you. We seek to be truly alive in service to you. Thank you for the leadership of your Spirit in this place. Thank you for the energy and wisdom and the faithfulness of this congregation. Keep us ever young in your spirit regardless of how many birthdays we celebrate! Amen.