ACTS 2: 1-24, 32-33, 36-43
After Jesus left this earth, the disciples were at a loss for what to do next. Jesus told them ahead of time to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. Wait for it, he told them. Don’t try to do this on your own. Don’t force solutions.
So they waited… they went back to Jerusalem and huddled in. They had no idea what was coming, and they tried hard to be patient. But it wasn’t easy. They had never been through anything like this before. There were no road maps, no timetables, no guides. They were on their own.
Then the Holy Spirit came. It was on Pentecost – a Jewish holiday – when thousands of people would have been in the city. The perfect time for God to demonstrate something new. The crowds were there anyway; it was the perfect audience. Jewish people gathered from all over the Mid-East – people who had spent their whole lives in other parts of the world, but because they were Jews, they still counted Jerusalem as ‘home’, and went back faithfully for holy days. That’s why the crowds were there, and so many different languages represented.
When the Spirit came, the force was electric. It was a game-changer. They could never have dreamed that up on their own. In that moment, the world became a different place. It was like they just gained a super-power – what they were able to do was phenomenal. Everybody there ‘got it’. Everybody there heard what they were saying. Everybody who saw it knew something incredible was going on – and it all revolved around this Jesus of Nazareth.
But let’s not forget, the Spirit required something of the disciples, too. Actually, it required a lot. Courage. Open-heartedness. Trust. The willingness to form a whole new community - and take responsibility for it. The willingness to be part of a movement that would have a life of its own – and to sacrifice everything they had for it.
The Spirit’s presence made them who they were. That part hasn’t changed. The Spirit’s presence makes us who we are. We are nothing without it. Just another group gathered together because we happen to like each other. It’s the Spirit that makes us who we are.
If nothing else happens today, I hope we hold onto that truth. We are utterly dependent on God’s power. It’s the Spirit who gives us life!
TESTIMONY by LARRY MILLER
“We believe in God the Father;
We believe in Christ the Son;
We believe in the Holy Ghost –
The one in three and three in one.”
We’ll sing those words in the High Lonesome Credo –
I believe it, and have experienced it in this church.
Years ago, when Bruce Henderson was pastor, he preached a sermon about the Israelites sending 12 spies into the land of milk and honey – and how all but Caleb returned – they were afraid to enter the promised land, their new home.
Right after that service, we had a congregational meeting to discuss a capital campaign, to build the addition between this sanctuary building and the Christian Education building – where the alley used to run, right outside these doors. The meeting was going badly, with lots of negative remarks, and doubt that we could do it. Eloise and I were sitting near the front by the piano. At the very end of the meeting I stood up and said, “Call me Caleb! I’ll lead the campaign!” I hadn’t checked with anybody, but miraculously the congregation voted unanimously to proceed. I believe that was the Holy Spirit working in our church.
A few months later, Dick and Kathleen Wallace came to my office and said they liked what I was doing to help our church. My life’s work has been to help people invest and manage their money, and that day Dick and Kathleen became clients and friends of mine. And I grew to appreciate everything they were doing to help our church, too. It was Dick who built the shelves in our church library – a beautiful work of art. It was Kathleen who developed a liturgical dance group, and choreographed pieces for worship. She was an integral part of “Light Readers,” who presented scripture in dramatic presentations – much like what we heard today.
After Dick retired, they moved to North Carolina. Not long after, Dick had a tragic fall and died shortly thereafter. I went to North Carolina to help Kathleen. When Kathleen broke her ankle the following year, I suggested she think about coming back to Granville to be with her friends at our church – people like Jack Burris and Judy Farris. She did come home, and I think that was the work of the Holy Spirit, too.
Before Kathleen fell seriously ill, she went to Rob Drake’s office to draw up a detailed trust and will. She wanted to provide for her son – and to provide for our church. I know that Kathleen felt good about that. Her gift is now part of our Solomon Endowment, designated for worship and the arts. It seemed especially fitting to remember Kathleen and Dick today, as we worship with the power of music and the arts.
Kathleen’s life was a gift – and her gift continues to bless us. Her spirit lives on after her earthly death. And I believe that is the Holy Spirit at work in our church today – the Spirit of Pentecost, still moving in us.
Holy and powerful God, your Spirit moves in this world and through our lives. Ignite our hearts with your love; inspire our minds with your vision; enliven our bodies with your strength. Send us out refreshed and ready to work for your kingdom. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.