Tag Archives: Pentecost

Pentecost’s purposes to ignite God’s people, church

given on Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017

 

Scripture connection:

 Opening scripture: Acts 2:1-4, NLT

On the day of Pentecost[a] all the believers were meeting together in one place.Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages,[b] as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

 

Scripture connection:

John 7:37-39, NLT

37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”[a]39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given,[b] because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

 

John 20:19-23, NLT

19 That Sunday evening[a] the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 

Closing scripture: Psalm 104:31-34, NLT

31 May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
32 The earth trembles at his glance;
the mountains smoke at his touch.

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
I will praise my God to my last breath!
34 May all my thoughts be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.

 

Reflection: Pentecost’s purposes to ignite God’s people, church

Summertime is grilling time. Good food takes some work and it takes a good fire to get just the right flavor for summer meals. Personally, I prefer a charcoal grill even though it is somewhat unpredictable and difficult to control. But does that flavor ever make the meat that much better!

The fire that cooks the meat is critical; and without it, the meat never reaches the dinner table. The fire can flame and then be tempered to perfection; or the fire can flame and left unattended, it simply dies out. The cook must be alert and learn how to temper the flame, how hot to keep the coals, and how to manage the meat throughout the grilling process to reach the perfect rare, medium rare, medium well done or well done but certainly not burnt to a crisp.

Flames symbolize the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Baptism through the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-21):

 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

God sent the Holy Spirit to ignite the disciples and the church.

The events of that day were life altering for the disciples, but Pentecost also altered the world’s culture. Pentecost had two purposes. First, each of those disciples gathered in that room were frozen with uncertainty even fear. They had no vision as to what they should do or even whether they should venture out the door. The culture was against them, or at least it seemed that way. The Jewish leaders were after them. The secular world did not want their message. And even the political arena did not provide any protection for this new lifestyle.

Jesus was gone. Certainly there were the Apostles who were suppose to take over the leadership, but they did not seem to know what to do. God stepped in. God baptized each of the Apostles and the other disciples gathered together with the Holy Spirit. God was not only with them, but now within them. The Holy Spirit is God in us, not just above, beside or with us, but in us.

Pentecost surprised the disciples. Suddenly there was an entirely new ability to communicate, a new level of consciousness of God’s presence, all the cultural barriers between the diverse group disappeared. In the midst of the event, the baptism of the Holy Spirit empowered, ignited the disciples to move into action to establish the second purpose of Pentecost—build the church.

The Jewish people practiced worship in the temple. The sacrifices, the prayers, and the hymns were part of the faith practices that in effect led to Jesus’ crucifixion. The followers of Jesus did not have an identifiable worship center, nor did it have the hymns. Jesus had changed all the rules and even the non-Jewish, the Gentiles, were now part of the faith group following Jesus and he was gone.

God needed a church. He needed the disciples to establish faith communities so The Word could continue to be taught, to share God’s teachings and expectations, and to grow the ministry beyond the immediate region along the Mediterranean Sea. Now it was time to send the disciples out to carry out Jesus’ work.

Pentecost ignited God’s people into action. The earliest disciples spread out from that room and began sharing the message with others in as many different ways as they could. The baptism of the Holy Spirit empowered the followers to use their own skills and talents to do all that they could in any way that they could to teach about God: to care for the sick, to feed the hungry, to protect the children and others who unable to care for themselves, and also to live their own productive lives as citizens of the world.

The new faithful demonstrated how Christianity worked in a world challenged by the political and business world around them. They faced the challenges of hate crimes, of greed, of political turmoil, and held on to the promises Jesus made that those who confessed their sins, were baptized by water and the Spirit, and lived by the Golden Rule would receive eternal life.

Without the Holy Spirit’s presence within the lives of these disciples, the second purpose of Pentecost would not have developed. The Church is the result of Pentecost. Remember the definition of Pentecost:

Pentecost is the day on which the Christian church commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and others assembled in Jerusalem. It marks the beginning of the Christian church and the proclamation of its message throughout the world and is often referred to as the birthday of the church. (Glossary: Pentecost n.d.)

 

The Holy Spirit ignited the Church. Since that fiftieth day after Jesus arose from the grave, the Church began growing.

Today the Christian faith circles the globe. The history is not easy to follow, but the work of the disciples has continued to carry God’s message forward—along the paths and the routes around the globe. The message continues with little regard to the thousands of years the calendar records. The work of the faithful continues to teach, to heal, to feed, to clothe, and to befriend men and women who are neighbors, friends, co-workers, strangers, and yes, family.

The fire of the Holy Spirit has ignited each one of God’s disciples. The newest disciples work right alongside the oldest ones to continue God’s work. The Holy Spirit knows no exhaustion. The Holy Spirit equips each and every follower with skills that can be used to serve one another in love. The Holy Spirit connects faithful Christians around this world and even with those who have been and are yet to come. This group of followers makes up the body of the church yet today.

Is our church alive with the Holy Spirit?

Is the flame being well tended in our small community?

When guests arrive at the table, does the meal feed them?

Today we join at God’s table to share in the bread and the cup and it is always open to anybody and everybody who confesses their sins and accepts Jesus as their savior. That openness is what God asks from each of us in all that we do. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we do so that God can reach all children in one way or another.

Today, at the table, look at the world with God’s eyes and know that you are to tend the fire so that everybody is ready to be with God throughout eternity. You are filled with skills and talents by the power of the Holy Spirit, so use them in any way that you can to share God’s love with all you can. Do not let the fire snuff out.

Closing prayer:

Dear God, our Creator, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit,

 

Today we join together in worship

Remembering those earliest disciples

Frightened and uncertain without Jesus.

 

Today we thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit

That ignited those disciples to carry the Word

Outside the closed doors so others heard the story.

 

Today we stop to reflect on how the Holy Spirit

Continues to work in our own lives

And through the church to which we belong.

 

Today we confess that we fail to keep the fire

Of the Holy Spirit burning brightly

In our lives and in the life of our church.

 

Today we ask you to reignite us

As we share in the bread and the cup

So that we can continue to grow in faith.

 

Today we ask you to speak to us

With how to tend your fire personally

And as a community of your faithful.

 

Today, God, fill us up.

Today, Jesus, teach us.

Today, Holy Spirit, ignite us. –Amen

 

Works Cited

Glossary: Pentecost. United Methodist Communicaiton. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/glossary-pentecost (accessed June 2, 2017).

The Life Application Bible. Vol. NIV. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.

The United Methodist Hymnal. Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

 

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God sent us a lifesaver

given on Sunday, May 15, 2016–Pentecost Sunday

Scripture connection: Romans 8:14-17, NLT

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.[c] So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. . . .

. . . That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life[d] because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Reflection:

Surely you have heard the adage, If someone offers you a breath meant, take it.” From our perspective, we may not think we have bad breath, but from those around us, the truth may be different—we may have bad breath.

If you are on a boat, you are expected to wear a life preserver. If someone offers you one, you put it on. You may not need it, but the life preserver protects you from any unfortunate trial while on the boat. The friends who offered you the life preserver are doing whatever possible to protect you.

God sent his son Jesus Christ as our personal lifesaver. How can we possibly ignore this gift? Much less, God went one step farther in assuring that we are never alone—he sent a personal advocate, the Holy Spirit. Once we accept Christ as our redeemer, we also accept the responsibility to live Christ-like lives. We are to offer life preservers to others.

Observing Pentecost in today’s worship service reminds us of the responsibility we have to live Christ-like lives at all times. This is tough work. We do not always anticipate what God wants us to do, but living our faith out loud provides others models of God’s life-saving love for us.

Others also witness how we accept the responsibility to love one another, as we want to be loved. This means we will do whatever we can for whomever we can whenever we can, just like John Wesley asks us to do. This operating system is not simple so thank goodness God sent us the life preserver also known as the Holy Spirit.

The chorus in, Let Them See Me clearly explains that others are watching us and we need to make sure that what others see how God works through us:

Let them see You in me let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You, let them see You in me

Each verse in the hymn serves as a reminder of how God want us to live. Even when all the trappings in our lives are removed and we are stripped back to the very core of who we are, others should see God in us.

Studying the book of Revelation through the insight of N. H. Wright, the connection to the Holy Spirit and God’s expectations for our life mission—singularly and as a community—is inseparable. God hates evil and he commissioned us to do all we can possibly do to eradicate evil. Evil hovers at the edge of our lives just waiting for an opportunity to step in and destroy our God-centered life filled with grace and love and beauty.

As complicated as Revelation’s figurative and symbolic language is to us today, the message never changes. God placed upon his human creation the responsibility to care for the entire world he placed us in. He is not giving up on us; he just equips us for the job. The Holy Spirit, the breathe of God, is the fuel, the skills, the language, and the drive we need to be God’s representative right here, right now:

Let them see You in me let them hear You when I speak
Let them feel You when I sing
Let them see You, let them see You in me

These words echo in our minds as we turn our lives over to God and he breathes on us. God offers us a lifesaver, an Advocate, known as the Holy Spirit. We even recognize him in others regardless of their heritage, their language, or their station in life because the Holy Spirit is love.

Have you accepted Jesus in your life? Maybe you are asking yourself if saying it means it is true. Accepting Jesus means living the Christ-like life God asks you to live. Do you live knowing that you have been given a life preserver? Do you live a life that reflects God’s grace and love so others “can see God in you”? Do your words sound like Jesus’ words of compassion, grace, healing, and love?

The story of Pentecost as described in Acts 2, may defy our human understanding, but the Holy Spirit can make us able to find ways to share God’s message and to do God’s work in ways that others can “see him” in us. The Holy Spirit does not segregate, either. The Holy Spirit erases the differences of gender, age, culture, economics, and education. The Holy Spirit is for everybody who accepts Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.

Accept God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and then depend on it. The gift is not a quick fix for all the struggles we face in our lives, but the Holy Spirit equips us for those struggles. Our responsibility is to be disciplined in our Christian faith. We are to worship, to study the Word, to stay in conversation with God through our prayers, and we are to reach out to others in all the ways that we can. Living our lives so others see God in us will battle evil that threatens to destroy God’s world.

Closing prayer

Dear God,
Thank you for loving us so much you sent Jesus to save us.
May we live so others see you.

Thank you for trusting us to do your work.
May our actions show others your love.

Thank you for equipping us with the Holy Spirit.
May we live so others may experience your saving grace. –Amen

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What is the legacy of this church?

given on Sunday, May 24, 2015

All too often we have a holiday weekend and discover that Sunday’s worship service is smack dab in the middle of it. For those who meet each week, worship is part of the basic routine. For many, though, this is the weekend to get away and attending church quickly is checked off the plans.

Over the decades since Memorial Day was established as a national holiday, another basic expectation was to decorate the graves of the family members. The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, even the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the Confederacy all participated in special events honoring all those who have served.

The legacies of all these individuals are celebrated. Today, the practice of decorating the graves is dwindling, as families look more toward the holiday events of the living. The legacy of the young families today is changing—some for the good and some for the bad. The practices that we have used to honor the legacy of those before us are disappearing.

The historians of our congregation have outlined the legacy of this church today. The people and the events that were central to the healthy status of the church did indeed leave a legacy. The concern is whether or not today’s congregations are able to continue the legacy.

Today is not a day for answers or for arguments; rather it is a day for reflection. Hearing the history of the church is important so the younger ones know the legacy they are going to leave.

Today is also Pentecost. According to the scripture, this is the day all the Apostles were meeting and the Holy Spirit descended upon them and the other early disciples who were present. The Holy Spirit is the working force within each Christian that lights that candle of hope on the dimmest of days and the brightest of days.

The scripture from Acts is the most familiar concerning the reports of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, and it was the words of the followers that created the biggest surprise—speaking in tongues. Many still question how this happened, but that concern serves no purpose, as it is one gift among many that God gives the faithful followers.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit is important in understanding the legacy that people leave. It is part of the legacy of the church, too. As difficult as it is to explain the concept of the Holy Spirit, it can be easy to explain how to recognize it within one’s self. The Holy Spirit is the way that God uses us to spread his love, to meet the needs of others, and to heal the sick whether mentally or physically. The Holy Spirit is God alive within each and every one of us.

Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect time to honor the legacy of all the men and women who have served to protect our country, but it is also the perfect time to honor the legacy of our churches.

And honoring means reflecting. What have we done? What are we still to do? What legacy are we leaving today? These are questions all churches must ask.

Over the coming week, consider these questions:

  1. Do we do our ministry with little organization to guide it?
  2. How long has it been since there has been a full time pastor?
  3. Does our church mission appear to simply maintain what the church has?
  4. How well do the worship services match the congregation?
  5. When was the last new member added?
  6. Is our church open for more than Sunday morning worship?
  7. What is the main age group?
  8. Does the church have a good way of making decisions?
  9. How often do we talk about what the church did in the past rather than what is being done now?
  10. Are we actively inviting others to join us at church?

We have to be honest about our ministry, and we need a clear vision of what the church in this community is called to do. The Holy Spirit will provide the guidance. The lectionary this week explains how the Holy Spirit works:

  • From Acts 2:1-21, the story of Pentecost is shared historically, but the Holy Spirit is God’s presence within us.
  • In Psalm 104, we learn how God’s spirit created the word, but also sustains
  • The message from Romans 8 explains that God’s Spirit mediates and maintains God’s presence even when things are broken.
  • And the reading from the gospel of John “knits” together the words of Jesus and the testimony of his disciples from creation through eternity.

As we move into summer and look towards the next year in ministry together, we must evaluate what the legacy of the church is and what ministry we have to do. Use this week to review those questions and to read the lectionary. Next week we begin the conversation of what will be this church’s legacy or ministry.

Closing prayer

Dear Father, Son and the Holy Spirit,

Over and over we learn how much you love us.

Today we learned as Jesus’ left, you sent the Holy Spirit.

Help us to recognize the Holy Spirit within us.

Help us rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

As we join in ministry, we know the Holy Spirit

will work through us to continue your work.

This holiday weekend, we acknowledge the legacy

of our churches and the generations before us.

Let us also begin to reflect on the future before us.

Guide us in decisions that will define the legacy

of this church in this community.

We thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit;

may we continue ministry in your name.

–Amen.

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Just who is the Holy Spirit? How do you recognize him, her, it?

given on Sunday, May 19, 2013, Pentecost Sunday.

Opening Scripture:  Judge 3:10

10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he became Israel’s judge. He went to war against King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram, and the Lord gave Othniel victory over him.—the NLT

 

Have you ever heard those stories on the news about how someone could lift a car off a victim?  Or maybe how the neighbor runs into a burning house and saves a family?  Every once and a while a news story reports about a heroic feat on the battlefield.  Reactions to these stories range from complete disbelief to a prayer of thanks sent straight to God.              Typically these feats of heroism are credited to adrenalin, a hormone that acts as a full-body alert system.  Pursuing a deeper understanding, I learned that this is the hormone that causes an individual to react in either a fight or flight mode.  How does this fit in with understanding the Holy Spirit?

Reading through the opening scripture from Judges, I found the following statement in the study notes:

The phrase “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” was also spoken of the judges Gideon, Jephthat, and Samson, among others.  It expresses a temporary and spontaneous increase of physical, spiritual, or mental strength.  This was an extraordinary and supernatural occurrence to prepare a person for a special task.  (Life Application Study Bible, p. 381)

 

Does that not sound like the definition of adrenaline!  Even the ancient people, the faithful tribes of Israel, acknowledged that something unique worked in extraordinary situations.

Yet, there is a twist to our understanding—the Holy Spirit.  In Judges, this unique force is identified as the Spirit of God.  Reading through the listing of verses relating to the Holy Spirit, the Old Testament inclusions are overwhelming outnumbered by the references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.  The Judges study note adds in one more line for better understanding:

The Holy Spirit is available to all believers today, but he will come upon believers in an extraordinary way for special tasks.  We should ask the Holy Spirit’s help as we face our daily problems as well as life’s major challenges.  (Ibid.)

 

How often does something come up in our lives and we have to decide—fight it or flee it?  Recognizing the Holy Spirit and understanding how it works can help us manage the “fight or flight” response that hits us in difficult times.

As Christians, we are equipped with all that we could possibly need to manage the life issues that are constantly popping up in our lives.  Once we can acknowledge that there is a God, that he did send his Son Jesus Christ to teach us and to die for our sins, then we are linked directly to God’s adrenaline—the Holy Spirit.

Remember the verse I frequently reference, Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him (Christ) who gives me strength.”   A new level of understanding leaped out once again—the Holy Spirit is God’s adrenaline that makes it possible for us to manage all the unexpected, often un-Christian, experiences we stumble into during our lives.

God’s adrenaline.  The more science explains, the more I see God.  When God decided to create man and woman, he thought of absolutely everything.  The problem is that humans began using free will to out do, out think, or out maneuver God.  The business of living got into the way and blinded us to God’s power.

Now Christians are faced with a new quandary:  How do I know when the Holy Spirit is available and working?  Obviously one should know because as practicing Christians we go to worship, we believe in Christ, and we live out the Golden Rule.  Or, do we?  Maybe we go through the motions without really connecting to God, you know, by talking and listening to him.

Many days I know that students or family members do not hear what I am saying; therefore, it stands to reason that we do the same type of ‘hearing’ with God.  We are what we do.  This may be why Peter and Paul applied so much emphasis in their ministries to the Holy Spirit.

In Luke’s second book, Acts, he shares how Peter and Paul introduce the earliest Christians to the Holy Spirit.  The first half is Peter’s work of the Holy Spirit, and the second is Paul’s.  But, in Acts 1:4-5, Luke writes what Christ said:

. . . “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with[a] water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  –the NLT

 

Through baptism, each individual is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  We symbolize that with the use of water, but consider the immense strength we are granted once empowered by the Holy Spirit!  There is a problem, though.  How do we know, really know, that we now exist with such a gift?

That is a tough question to answer.  Maybe we need to realize again God supplied these bodies he designed with that special hormone ‘adrenaline.’  Even when we do not consciously think, many times our bodies react with amazing skill, agility, and/or strength.  The fight-or-flight response is beyond our conscious control in many critical circumstances.

Still, there is the concept of the Holy Spirit as an additional presence with us, just not a visible presence.  Mull this idea over:

During that short time [30 years of Jesus’ life] the church was established, and the gospel of salvation was taken throughout the world, even to the capital of the Roman Empire.  Those preaching the gospel, though ordinary people with human frailties and margins, were empowered  [emphasis added] by the Holy Spirit to take the Good News “all over the world” (Acts 17:6).  Throughout the book of Acts we learn about the nature of the church and how we today are also to go about turning our world upside down.  (Ibid. p.1942)

 

The Apostles and the earliest disciples were just the average person like us, working to keep their families fed, sheltered, and clothed.  They were picked by Jesus or called by God to transform the world around them.

Today, we are the disciples.  We accepted God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit when we were baptized.  We joined a particular church because it provided us with a community of believers who wanted to see God in action.  Peter uses the story of Stephen as an example of how the Holy Spirit empowers the faithful:

Acts 6:8-10:  Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.  –the NLT

 

Again the study notes make a point of explaining that Stephen could not have managed all the lies, the imprisonments, the abuse, and the stoning if he had not accepted the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life.  God’s adrenaline provides us the physical, mental, and spiritual strength to manage all the un-Christian influences in our lives.

Just who is the Holy Spirit?  How do we recognize him, her, or it?  There is no simple answer to that question, but remember that science has been able to identify the hormone adrenaline and to explain how it works.  Compare that same understanding to the Holy Spirit.

We may not physically see it, but we know it is there.  We know that when life hands us the challenges, God has given us the Holy Spirit to manage.  The Holy Spirit is God’s adrenaline that makes it possible to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  You will recognize it when life puts you to the test:

  • Maybe you are diagnosed with an extreme medical condition.  Knowing that God is right there, simply call out to him for the strength to manage.
  • Maybe some fraudulent person or company victimizes you by an accident or a scam.  Rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you through the problem successfully.
  • Maybe you are handed a task at work or even one you choose to take on that others say you can’t do.  Think positively and thank God that he has provided you the Holy Spirit to work through it with you.

Just who is the Holy Spirit and how do you recognize it can be answered much more simply than one could ever expect:  Once you accept Christ into your life, you accept the reality of God’s adrenaline, too.  You know the Holy Spirit whenever you tackle some issue in your life that others might consider too much to handle.  The Holy Spirit will give you the skills and the strength to handle the extraordinary situation in such a manner that others will think you are extraordinary.

Closing  prayer:

Dear God in Three,

We believe in you as one of three.

We believe in your presence

in this universe we live.

We believe that you joined us

on this earth in the form of Jesus.

We believe that Jesus ascended into heaven

but you empowered us with the Holy Spirit.

Guide us daily in modeling your grace and love

to others in our homes, communities, and countries.

Guide us in acting fearlessly to the daily challenges

that pop up around us.

Guide us in serving one another in love,

never tiring because we are empowered.

Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

May we recognize how it gives us the strength

to do all that we can for all that we can

whenever and where ever we can.  –Amen

 

Closing Scripture:  Philippians 1:1-4

3 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God[b] are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!  –the NLT

 

 

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Dreaming through God’s Eyes

given on Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hot summer days are traditionally times when we fall into daydreams.  The thoughts of cool vacation spots in the mountains, sitting on a boat in the early morning cool, or lounging on a beach with a book may be the ideal getaway.  Daydreaming lets our minds escape and even gives us some mental relief from the harsh realities existing around us.

Why right now I am daydreaming about one of those summer rainy days when the great big, white, boiling clouds show up and the grey on the bottom intensifies until the bolts of lightening strike out.  The lightening and thunder usher in the rain that tapers into gentle, cooling showers that soaks into the dry-sponge-like ground.

A rainy day filled with relief from the reality of our drought conditions is a not a daydream but a necessity for us watching the crops and gardens struggling to remain productive.  Our daydream must turn into prayers of supplication.  We have no means of managing the weather, we have no control and that makes the reality even feel more demoralizing.  But, we have faith, we have hope, and we have God.  What we forget is to use the tools we have.

Looking at today’s circumstances around the nation, I am reminded of the dreams of the earliest settlers.  The land on which we live and farm were here before we were.  We must remember that others inhabited this land before the European explorers began their journeys into the unknown.  Still, if explorers had not dreamed, would we be living in our homes right now?

Dreaming is a tool.  Dreaming led the Puritans to sail to new shores.  Dreaming led revolutionaries to begin a new country.  Dreaming lead John Wesley to identify methods for developing and growing one’s faith.  Dreaming caused Methodism to grow into an active Christian denomination serving one another in love.

Dreaming is not a dangerous activity especially if we dream through God’s eyes.   As we read Genesis’s creation story, we can perceive God’s dream to have a universe, to have the flora and the fauna, and to have humanity.  As we read through the Old Testament stories, we see how God continually works to preserve the dream.

Imagine the frustration and disappointment even God experiences over and over.  His dream is endangered and he sends Jesus to demonstrate the tools needed to preserve the dream—the universe.  Jesus, God in human form, is love.  Over and over his actions demonstrate how loving one another is the one simple law all people really ever need.  God’s dreams, even our dreams, can be achieved by always maintaining that one commandment:  Love one another.

Dreaming through God’s eyes ideally leads us to repeatedly implement that law.  Loving one another may begin with loving God, loving self, loving family, and loving our neighbors, but it grows.  The very law of loving one another becomes a lifestyle; it becomes the driving force behind our daily activities, our jobs, and even our leisure.

In our daily crisis, we fail to maintain that one law.  We become so filled with anxiety that looking at the problem through God’s eyes is far from our first thought.  We find ourselves panicking as we sense the loss of a dream.  We fail to use the tools of our faith to stabilize the crisis.  We fail to keep in touch with God.  We fail to pray.  We fail to read the Bible.  We fail to work in community.  And, we lose the dream.

As we begin this week, we will take time on Wednesday to celebrate the dreams of our American forefathers.  They dreamed.  They prayed.  And they acted.  We value dreams as Americans, we honor dreams of the past.  Are we ready to continue dreaming through God’s eyes to continue working to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?

Maybe I perceive the world through a “Pollyanna” mindset, but I dream.  I do not think I could manage the various crisis’s life hands me without my faith.  I do not think I could wake up to another 100 degree day without the hope that rain will cool us down—sooner or later.  I hope I do see the world through God’s eyes.  My dreams, I believe, are ones God’s eyes see.

Yet, I know, too, that I fail.  I fail to use the tools.  I fail to keep my eyes open.  I even fail to dream.  Today begins a new year of service to the church; and the dreams of four years ago seem faded.  Yet, I refuse to quit dreaming.

Dreaming led me to Acts.  Struggling to find a way to renew my dreams, I needed to find the tools to sharpen them.  Acts is a book about transition.  Luke may have been shaken by the crucifixion, but his faith did not quit.  He continued telling Jesus’ story and helped bridge the gap between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

Luke knew the old dreams and even used Joel’s prophecy to reach across the generations:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.  (the NIV)

Even though Pentecost 2012 was celebrated over a month ago, the Pentecost initiated or baptized the Apostles with the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit.  The Holy Ghost is God’s personal tool that exists within us to carry out the dream of a transformed world, a world of believers working in unity.

Dreaming through God’s eyes leads us to use the tools he gave us, especially prayer and the Holy Ghost, to act in making the dream a reality.  The wonderful thing about God’s tools is that they never wear out, never need purchasing, never need redesigning, or anything.           Prayer is always available.  We can talk to God anytime, anywhere, for any reason.  We can cry, laugh, ask, thank, share whatever we have with God.  We also can hear God—if we listen in our prayers.  We can hear God, when we read the Bible or sing a hymn.  We can see God if we watch others who demonstrate loving one another.  Prayer is a tool we have 24/7; it is available in an instant, it never leaves us.  If we dream, we pray.

Dreaming creates the goal.  Prayer is the tool to keep it in touch with God.  But what is next?  Next comes the action.  What tool is there to put the dream into action?  The answer is the Holy Ghost.

Even the earliest Christians did not understand how they were going to continue.  They asked Peter what they should do.  In Acts 2:38, Peter makes one statement concerning how we know the Holy Ghost is with us:  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (the NIV)

Understanding the importance of the Holy Spirit—or Ghost—may still be a reason Christians do not know what to do.  Every individual has unique gifts, talents to use.  We may be carpenters, seamstresses, artists, farmers, bankers, or businessmen.  Our success is connected to the gifts we have been given.  When we combine all our talents, any dream developed through God’s eyes, can be achieved.  The Holy Ghost will provide the inspiration, the skills, the strength, and the pieces needed to accomplish a God-driven dream.

Look at what happens in the face of a natural disaster.  When the tornado tore through Joplin, or any community, can we doubt the power of the Holy Ghost?  People immediately join in and do what might be considered impossible were it not for God’s role in the work.  God—in three people, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—can work miracles.  We, his children, are able to perform the miracles needed to put the broken world back together again.

Today, dream.  But remember to dream through God’s eyes.  When you see something that needs work, dream a little and then pray.  Talk to God about the dream you have and ask him for his help.  Listen for him, and then act.  The Holy Ghost is with you, and you are equipped. Now you just need to act with all the confidence in the world because you are working to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  This is what God has commissioned you to do, so do it.

Dear God,

May your dream for a transformed world be my dream, too.

Give me the vision that you see through your eyes.

Talk to me so I know what you ask me to do.

Help me to use the gifts you have given me to do my share.

Thank you for the gift of your son so we know how to love one another.

Thank you for the gift of the Holy Ghost so we can act in your behalf.

Today we dream, we pray, and now must act.

Guide us as we work to follow your dream.

Amen.

 

 

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