From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
The Whitsuntide Service will focus upon the meaning of Pentecost for you and me.
"...I will make breath enter you and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life...then you'll know that I am the Lord..." (Ezekiel 37:5b,6)
"...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth..." [Jesus](Acts 1:7)
"...they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship of the breaking of bread and to prayer... everyone was filled with awe...and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles..." (Acts 2:1-21)
"...when the Paraclete [Counselor] comes, whom I'll send to you from the Father --- the Spirit of Truth --- who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me...and you must testify...because you have been with me from the beginning..." (John 15:26-27)
"...but when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth...He won't speak on His own...He will speak only what He hears...and He will tell you what is yet to come...He will bring glory to Me by taking from what's mine and making it known to you..." (John 16:13)
Gracious, all-knowing God! We pause this morning to give you much deserved praise for your kindness and your daily provision for our lives. We are ready to shout, "Happy Birthday, Church!!!" on the occasion of the Pentecost.
We ask your forgiveness, and we joyfully receive your undeserved kindness as you grant us unconditional pardon, as we pick up the brokenness of our lives, and are restored as whole human beings through our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Thank you for cleansing us so thoroughly in body, soul, and mind.
Lord, we're ready and willing to start a new chapter in our lives. We've heard there is more than one dimension of faith in your beloved Son, Jesus. We're ready to step up in faith to take hold of your superlative Spiritual gifts and be renewed in a way we've not experienced before. We're not afraid. Send your Holy Spirit to teach us, as you touch us, and show us a more powerful and compassionate way to live and serve.
Enliven us and refresh us in the ways of the Holy Spirit.
We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
The word for Counselor, meaning Holy Spirit, in koin'ae Greek, is "paraklete"...often, in the Church, we speak of the Holy Spirit as the Paraklete...even though it is Greek, it is often used as part of the English language, because of its exotic sound...
It's the Day of Pentecost in the Christian Church. It's the birthday of the Church. The 2nd Chapter of Acts stands out among the multitude of Bible verses to remember by heart. For years I have encouraged Confirmation Classes to memorize this portion of the Bible.
The setting of the original occasion is of great interest. Was the Passion of Jesus not enough for us?
To some it may seem like an addition, an addendum, tacked on to the Holy Week (Passion Week) narrative. We remember.
Friends! The story doesn't end there. Okay. We turn to the 2nd Chapter of Acts.
The disciples were together in the upper room. The text says the doors were locked (John 20:19) for fear of the Jews...that is... "other Jews" of the party that put Jesus on the cross. The word that stands out for me is the word, "...fear..." The situation that catches my attention is that "the door was locked"...because of fear...of the Jews of that other party. The story of the cross and the Resurrection would remain unknown potentially because of fear.
Everything that happened on Passion Week was momentous and earth-shaking, but there was a real possibility that the facts of Holy Week would never be known to the world.
Because of fear!
The Good New of Jesus would travel no further than the walls of the upper room...because of fear...
In a sense, the disciples were much the same as we are today in 2021. Our doors are locked --- and well they may be. It's because of fear...of the unknown...of all the possible ways we and our family and our possessions could be endangered. It makes sense...
Often, we do our Christian duty by showing up for worship every once in a while, every now and then. The "scoop" around our churches is...don't volunteer for anything that may commit us to a more meaningful life for us and the cause of Christ.
We are afraid to try on "Christ"... seriously, all fear aside, just doing it all for Jesus no conditions. Like the disciples, but for different reasons these days, we're afraid.
The disciples found themselves in the upper room behind locked doors. After everything that happened, after everything Jesus did for them, and us, it would have been of no effect...because the doors were locked...
because of fear.
We're afraid of a substantial commitment to Christ lest we take up time, effort, and even money, to advance the good news given to us through Christ Jesus. We've been called and saved to share Jesus as disciples.
We're afraid of missing that special television program, or movie, or civic event. When it comes right down to it, normally, these are all in all, of non-effect. Experiencing them doesn't make a difference. Especially if attentiveness in this regard is merely habitual.
We haven't developed an increasingly strong sense of being a disciple of Jesus. We do our "Christian duty". Where's the great joy and sense of satisfaction in that? We're too often content in being a church member...and all too often a "church member of sorts". Too often these days I imagine the Lord saying to Himself... "What do my followers think they're doing in their spiritual lives?"
The Spirit within us all too often flickers. We need a blazing flame.
Like Jesus' disciples we're full of fear...but for different reasons. For this reason, we need the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray for the Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to us. The contemporary Church is in desperate need for the Holy Spirit to enter the hearts of the people of God. The lack of concentration on the Holy Spirit's work in our faith lives is a fundamental and foundational problem. The underlying problem is fear.
I sometimes picture our notion of the Godhead as the three persons of the Trinity being in an automobile. God the Father and God the Son are in the front seat...and the Holy Spirit is in the back seat. We need a Spiritual automobile that will seat "three" in the front seat.
For our lives to work in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit needs to be on an equal footing with the other two persons of the Trinity...we haven't preached it enough. We haven't believed it enough. We've avoided the underlying problem of motivation and performance in the Church.
We need to bring the Holy Spirit up there with the Father and the Son. We need to take the Holy Spirit seriously. We need to learn the lesson of what happened to a fearful group of disciples who were more focused upon fear, than sharing the fact that they were witnesses of all that had happened in Jerusalem during Holy Week. After the experience of the Pentecost, for the rest of their lives, the disciples of Jesus were fearless and bold and committed to the power of the Gospel to change the world.
I get it.