Salem Lutheran Church


Get on With It!

Fifty days ago today was Easter Sunday, the day the church celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus. On that day, Christians all over the world gathered in churches to attend worship, sing songs, give thanks and praise to God for not just the life and death of Jesus, but more importantly for his Resurrection. For the past seven weeks every time we have gathered for worship we have begun our time of worship with that great proclamation, “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!” and today we bring that celebration to a close. But, we are not quite done celebrating. Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.

In the Gospel of John, as we heard a couple of weeks ago, and again this morning, Jesus promised his disciples that after he had left them that he would have the Father send someone else to be with them, so they would not be alone. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:25-26). Jesus promised that his disciples would be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and he described the Spirit as an advocate. That is, according to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is that One who will walk with us and support us in our efforts to follow Jesus. Notice Jesus didn’t say the Holy Spirit would be our friend, or companion. No, he specifically said, the Holy Spirit would be our Advocate. By definition, an Advocate is more than a friend or a companion. An advocate stands with us when we need help, or can’t stand on our own. An advocate pleads our cause for us, defends us when we need defending, and actively supports us, which is a good thing because based on God’s call for our lives, we need someone promoting us, supporting us, and defending us as we do this work that God is calling us to do.

So, although Jesus was leaving his followers, he promised them that they would not be alone, and in our reading from Acts today, Luke tells us how God sent the Holy Spirit. The disciples, as well as thousands of other Jews, were in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish festival of Pentecost, a festival that always took place fifty days after the Passover and was a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest and the giving of the Torah by God to the people. And Luke said while all the disciples were gathered in one place on that day, “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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:2-4). In that instant, the gathering of followers of Jesus was gifted with the Holy Spirit and the church, that is the gathering of the followers, or in Greek the “ekklesia” was born. What makes the church the church is the Holy Spirit, and on that day, God sent God’s “holy wind” (hagios pneumatos) and filled all of the disciples with the Advocate, or Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised.

Now, as the disciples all began to speak in various languages, others who heard them thought they were acting crazy, or even drunk, and as the onlookers questioned what they were doing and as some even chastised them, Peter, yes I said Peter, spoke out. Peter, who was always bumbling his way through things, who never seemed to be able to get things right when Jesus was still alive, and who even denied Jesus three times, now stood up and preached his first sermon. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter had the courage and the strength to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world. “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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:17-21).

Today we are celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of Jesus’ church. The church is those followers of Jesus who have been gifted with the Holy Spirit to go and do the work that Jesus commanded them to do. Those who have been “ecclessiad”; “called out of.” The church is those who are called out to go bring Good News to the poor, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, stand with the immigrant, and, most importantly, as we have heard so often lately, love this world as Jesus has loved us.

You know, a couple of weeks ago, after we read the Gospel text for today in our staff meeting, Heather looked up and said, haven’t we read this already, can’t we get on with it already? Well, she was correct. As I noted earlier, we read the last part of this text just two weeks ago, but what is really important today, aside from hearing about the Holy Spirit, is what Jesus had said before he promised the Advocate. Jesus had been telling his disciples he was about to depart, and Thomas had asked him to show the way, but Jesus said you already know the way, you already know God’s ways because of me, and immediately following that our story today tells us that Philip said, well then show us, God, so we will know Him when we see Him. And once again Jesus says, you already know God, because you know me. In other words, you now have everything you need, stop asking for more. You now have all you need to continue my work. But here’s the really incredible part about this, Jesus doesn’t just say that his followers will do good things, like he has done, no, he says, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

According to Jesus, which I think is a pretty good source, Jesus’ followers, the church, that’s you and me, have all we need to do greater works than Jesus did. Did you hear that? Jesus, when he walked this earth, did incredible and miraculous things. He cast our demons, he cured the sick, he gave sight to the blind, he cured the lame, he turned water into wine, and the list goes on, and yet, he said, we will do even greater things because I am going back to the Father and the Father will send you the Holy Spirit. That is incredible. Brothers and sisters, as I have said many times, we have all we need to do the work of Jesus, and I believe it, because Jesus said so.

Pentecost is the day we remember that we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to go into this world to do even greater things than Jesus did when he walked among us. So, Heather was right, it is time to get on with it, and that is what today is all about, too. It is time for us once again to determine what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do and to know that we have all we need to do it. It’s time to stop the excuses. It’s time to stop saying we don’t have enough. It’s time for the church to stop worrying about things that aren’t critical to the work of the Spirit, and it’s time to get to work.

According to John, the last words Jesus said on the cross before he “gave up his spirit and died were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Today is the day I hear God saying to us, “It is starting!”. It is once again time to get started and do my work. Our work has just begun, and the incredible good news is that with the guidance and the support of the Holy Spirit our work can and will bring about great things. Let’s get on with it! Amen.

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