Romans 5:5 Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Last week we read the story of Pentecost. (Acts 2) Over and over again it talked about pouring and filling and pouring and filling. Romans 5:5 is another scripture which talks about the Holy Spirit being poured into our lives.
These scriptures draw us to a very important question: Why do you want a relationship with God? Has your why changed over the years?
Some would say, “It’s the right thing to do.” Others would say, “I was raised this way. I was carried into the church in the arms of my family. I’ve always had a relationship with God.”
When I first started pursuing a relationship with God, I was 15 years old and I didn’t want to burn in hell. I was scared to death and scared of death. I’d seen a TV show about the end of the world. There wasn’t an adult around to tell me this was opinion, not necessarily fact. The idea of “turn or burn” was reinforced at the neighborhood church I began attending.
Over time my why has changed. Instead of being a fearful slave of God, it changed into a relationship of grace, love, and hope. I’m eternally grateful for that.
The “why” of us wanting to have a relationship with God is really important because it colors everything.
How we see God and understand God
How we read scripture
How we look at serving, grace, hope, and eternal life
It’s important to check our motivations from time to time. Our motivation can be like a faucet. It can direct the flow of the Holy Spirit in our life. If our motivation is twisted in the wrong way, it can turn off the flow of the Holy Spirit.
Today, we’re reading a cautionary tale. The scriptures are full of examples to follow and examples to avoid. This is one to avoid.
Side Note: There is nothing wrong with magic. The problem is Simon’s heart, not that he’s a magician.
Simon the Magician desired a relationship with God so God could be a means to an end. Jesus was a Divine Santa Claus to give him everything on his wish list. The Holy Spirit, a Cosmic Insider to hook him up with power, fame, and social status.
Am I like Simon? Simon’s story is a cautionary tale – full of wrong motivations. When we come across a story like this it’s important for us to pause, hold up a mirror, and ask, “Am I like Simon?” What’s my motivation for desiring a relationship with God? Why do I want the Holy Spirit?
It matters. It matters a great deal. It can be the difference between the Holy Spirit flowing in our lives and the turning off of the Spirit of God.
Wrong Motivation: Draw Attention to Yourself
Right Motivation: Draw Attention to God
Acts 8:9b-10, Simon likes showing-off. He is hungry for attention and fame. [Simon boasted] saying that he was someone great. 10 All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”
Acts 8:12-13, Philip draws attention to God 12 But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.
Phillip is filled with the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news and perform real signs and wonders, not magical illusions. Lives are being transformed and he keeps pointing them to Jesus. He does nothing for personal gain or status. He’s like Vanna on Wheel of Fortune, he points to the Word, constantly pointing people to Jesus.
Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
We let our light shine so others say, “Look what God is doing! Yay God!”
Example: Trinity Director of Traditional Music, LaTerry Butler, always replying to a compliment with, “Thanks be to God… Glory to God… Blessed be the Name…”
Wrong Motivation: Be THE Leader (Not be a leader. Phillip, Peter, and John are all leaders.) Who is sitting on the throne of your heart?
Right Motivation: Follow Jesus
Acts 8:10, 11 both report the crowds listened eagerly to Simon. The people followed him and treated him like a god. Simon did not correct them. He liked it.
God is my co-pilot. No, God is the pilot.
Wrong Motivation: Build up Myself
Right Motivation: Build Up Others
Acts 8:18-20, Simon wants to buy God’s power for his own benefit 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!”
Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuwirth, Michael Mcclure
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends. Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends. So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV? Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me. I wait for delivery each day until three. So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town? I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down. Prove that you love me and buy the next round. Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
What are we to do? Phillip, Peter, and John model it for us. They are always following Jesus and always pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the leader and forgiver of their lives, their Lord and Savior.
Peters speaks the truth in love to Simon. Your heart is wrong! You need to repent. You need to turn away from this and turn towards God.
Simon says, “Pray for me.” (Acts 8:24) Simon is open to change and that’s the good news for all of us.
God keeps reaching out to us again and again and again. To create in us a clean heart, to renew in us a right spirit, to restore to us the joy of our salvation, and place in us a willing spirit.
It is a journey. We can turn and learn and become the people we were meant to be.
There’s good news in the awakening. There’s good news in realizing I haven’t given that over to God yet. There’s time to do it.
Why do you want a relationship with God? Who’s sitting on the throne of your heart? How can you more and more point to Jesus?
Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
The half-empty response may reveal a pessimist or realist
The half-full response may reveal an optimist
A response of “it’s both” reveals how can see and accept two opposing truths at the same time
When we only consider the glass and water, we limit our responses. Something more is present than the glass and the water. There’s air. The glass is always full because the air is always there.
When the Bible describes the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, it often uses the image of air. Ruah (Hebrew) and pneuma (Greek) are two of the Bible’s favorite words for Spirit, and they both mean wind and breath.
Holy Spirit’s work is often invisible but very real – like air, like wind, like breath.
Your glass is always full. In fact, your cup runneth over. (Psalm 23:5)
Romans 5:5 Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
The story of Pentecost is the story of the Spirit being given to us. All over the world, our Christian brothers and sisters are wearing red, singing of the Spirit, and reading this story.
Pentecost, a watercolor by Estella Louisa M Canziani (1887-1964)
Acts 2:1-33 1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
The time is 50 days after Easter. The place is Jerusalem.
2 And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
We are filled with the Holy Spirit to speak, to testify.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound, the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
The disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit with skills beyond their human training and experience.
This gift allows those gathered to hear the Gospel in their native language, their heart language.
Some witness the disciples’ speaking at Pentecost and they are filled with wonder and openness. Others are trying to explain it in human terms, proclaiming the disciples drunk.
The disciples are filled to overflowing. They’ve been praying for 9 days for the gift of the Holy Spirit. They are now filled to speak, filled with passion, filled with enthusiasm, filled with joy, filled with skills beyond their human training and experience.
The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word entheos which means the God within.
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The disciples, prophesy and testify and preach and speak so others may call on the name of the Lord and be saved. Later in this story, 3,000 persons do just that.
Now Peter speaks the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ
22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.
It was impossible for death and sin and evil to hold Jesus because that power is not the power of Almighty God. The power of God is the greater power of salvation, forgiveness and new life.
Peter points out another Old Testament prophesy fulfilled.
25 For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26, therefore, my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 Being, therefore, exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.
Over and over again, pour out, fill up, pour out, fill up… speak. What do we speak? We speak the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
We might observe the rest of the Bible from a comfortable distance, but not so in Acts.
We don’t live in Old Testament times when God’s voice was clearly audible in burning bushes.
We don’t live in gospel times, seeing Jesus face to face as the Word made flesh.
When Pentecost happened, God was revealed in spirit and power, in subtlety and strength, just the way we experience God today. And at that precise moment, God the Divine Screenwriter turned toward the camera, peered through the Fourth Wall that separated us from the ancient story and said to us, “This is your story now.”
We are the living embodiment of the ongoing story of Pentecost. It is now a story about us, living into the unfolding work of God’s power.
Examples of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst:
Ruth’s testimony at her baptism
Pru leading a memorial service
52 persons commissioned or ordained at Annual conference as pastors and ministry leaders who will serve across the state of Florida
Over 300 Fresh Expressions of the church across our state. People experimenting to reach new people, in new places, in new ways with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The story of Pentecost breaks the 4th wall and the air comes through, the breath comes through, the wind comes through. That story is our story.
How is the Holy Spirit making the movement of God real and alive in your life? Breath to speak and testify, to serve and love, filled with the Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit, Pour Out Your Power
Holy Spirit your unseen work is very real
like air, like wind, like breath
Fill us. Fill us now.
Fill us so our cups runneth over
Fill us with strength and skills far beyond what is human
Fill us with courage
Fill us with boldness to witness and testify
to your victory over sin and death
Fill us with passion
Fill us with enthusiasm
Fill us with joy
Rick Townsend, whose daughter, Lauren, was 18 when she was gunned down, said “It seems like every month there’s a new tragedy of some kind somewhere around. It just makes you feel sometimes hopeless.”
Now we add the Burning of Notre Dame to this list.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 850 years old
Survived: crusades, reformation, revolution, 2 world wars
13 million visitors a year. That means millions and millions of memories- that once in a lifetime vacation, an encounter with Gothic architecture or art, a profound moment of prayer. Maybe they were baptized there. Now millions share the pain over the burning of Notre Dame- collective trauma.
Why does this affect us so deeply?
We care about beautiful and sacred places and the people tied to those places
What would it be like if my church burned?
Something we presume will always be there is gone or forever changed
Increased sense of impermanence, mortality, vulnerability, helplessness
Yet in the midst of the darkness, pain, tears something new rises
In one of the most secular cities in the world, bystanders did not watch indifferently
They held each other, raised candles and sang hymns in the streets. Ann Voskamp said, “Songs rose like incensed prayers, mingling with plumes of smoke.”
People worked together, risked together, to make a human chain to pass sacred objects from flames to safety- what some believe to be a nail that held Christ to the cross, the crown of thorns which pierced his brow, and a piece of the cross itself
At that moment, the world was drawn together in a common goal in the midst of their common pain and it broke down all the dividing walls that so often separate us from each other.
Now there is a commitment Notre Dame will be rebuilt on those ancient foundations. Something new will rise.
This is the Good News of Easter
What starts in darkness, pain, and tears will rise, it ends with new life.
Earth to Earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust ends in Resurrection!
As much as there can be a sharing in communal trauma, this rising can be shared. All of us begin our lives in the darkness of our mother’s wombs. And there is pain and there are tears and there is new life and there is rising.
That first Easter morning, the women started for the tomb in darkness.
Mind-full of the trauma and pain
Expecting to encounter death
Instead, they found a rising. They found new life.
Matthew 28:5b-6 Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.
He is not here! He is risen!
Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He told you… remember, he told you
He is not here! He is risen!
Blinding light begins to rise within them
Mind-full of words and wonder, this story and this truth
He is risen! Hallelujah! He is risen, indeed!
Where are you experiencing darkness pain tears?
They do not have the last word
There is new life coming, available
There is a rising
What needs to die, that you might know resurrection?
They need to die because they bring on the pain, darkness, and trauma.
Let them die so Christ may be alive in you.
Pastor Lisa’s Testimony
It is Easter! Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed!
It is not about collective trauma, it is about collective hope!
Collective new life available to each of us
36 folks from several difference congregations leave tomorrow for the Holy Land
Won’t be with you as we continue to process the decisions of General Conference
Won’t be with you for the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday.
Ashes seem to be exactly what we need right now.
Traditional Prayer consecrating the ashes before imposition: Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Ashes of mourning
Ashes were used in mourning sin and mourning loss.
So many feelings following General Conference. Some are relieved by the decisions at General Conference. Some are rejoicing. Some are mad. Some are wondering or in a place of confusion. Some are full of sorrow- grieving, disillusioned, that harm has been done, hurt, wondering if there is a place for them or their loved ones in the United Methodist Church.
Yes, there is a place for you here at Trinity and the UMC! Please read the information we’re providing. Please stay. Please come and speak to me when I return.
Ashes of humility
What you hear when you receive ashes on your forehead: Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.
Right now my Facebook feed is a mess. There’s a whole bunch of folks telling a whole bunch of other folks I’m right and you’re wrong. It is ugly. It is not of God. We need these ashes to remind us of our need for humility. It’s the only way we’ll move forward.
We’re all hummus (dirt). We’re all human. Hummus, human, humility. All those words are tied together. All of us are in need of Jesus’s grace and forgiveness and love and belonging and hope.
The ashes remind us of sorrow, humility, and mortality. Remember you are dust. This life is short and precious. The ashes also remind us there is life.
Ashes of life
Remember you are dust also reminds us of God breathing life into dust at creation. It is a good gift of God.
So many of us think of Lent as a season of sorrow, wilderness, repentance, giving up stuff (make fun of all of it). Lent is ultimately a season of transformation, new life.
The Grinch isn’t just sour or mean. The Grinch does harm
Why does the Grinch change?
The Grinch literally repents. The Grinch turns and heads down to the Who’s and down to a new life.
How do people change? Change does not come by fear, facts, or force. Change doesn’t come by legislation or law. Change comes by love.
The Grinch sees the Who’s love of one another
He sees and hears their gratitude and worship
Then he experiences their love, Even though he has done great harm, they welcome him into their community and to their table.
At the end of the story, the Grinch has
a new family
a new way of thinking and being
a new identity
This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. We see Jesus loving, healing, welcoming. The love of our Father overflowing in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The love of the Father overflowing into the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection, that we too gain a new family, a new way of thinking and being, a new and transformed identity.
The evil one loves to keep us distracted and divided. (noise, noise, noise, noise!)
Today again I am choosing the way of Jesus, the way of love. I invite you to do the same.
Recommit to loving those who agree with me and those disagree with me. Will you do the same?
Recommit to praying for those who choose persecution and harm over love. Will you do the same?
Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your truth and grace. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may love as radically as you do, especially when all I want to do is grieve, or run, or demonize, or lash out.
Psalm 37:1, 5 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers. Commit your way to the Holy One; trust in God, and God will act.
Quote: Steve Garnaas Holmes Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one, to beat the wicked at their own game. The saint does not resist the devil by becoming a more devout devil. Your compass is set to a different star. Don’t let them turn you. Set your heart on compassion, even when facing a wrongdoer: it will make whatever game they are playing a different game. Let the Crucified One play your [role]; it will change the meaning of the [game]. You needn’t pump up the power of God. Trust love to do what you cannot.
The beautiful thing about How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is about how the Who’s welcome him to their table. In the United Methodist Church, we have an open table- You do not need to Methodist, a member of this church, you do not need to be a certain age. Nothing can keep you from this table.
It is Christ our Lord who welcomes us to this table and welcomes all.