Day of Pentecost May 20, 2018
Scripture readings: John 15: 26-27 and Acts 2: 1-21
Sermon: “Filled With New Wine”
If you are a member of our Presbyterian denomination – or any other Christian denomination – the term “Holy Spirit” will come up sooner or later in your church experience. If you are pretty normal, it will only happen on Pentecost. Even then, you can relax because lots of people are wearing red, the sermon will focus on the Holy Spirit arriving on the Day of Pentecost so long ago, and then we can get back to Jesus, the Father, and all the stories and examples the preachers can deliver.
That’s a relief…because the Holy Spirit is a scary thing for many Christians.
We all know those…other types of churches…that seem to fully embrace the Holy Spirit…or their version of it. They talk about the Spirit all the time, they pray to the Spirit – sometimes even more than to Jesus Christ, they shout, yell, raise their voices and their hands in triumphant ecstasy during many moments of the worship service. They seem to be the type that would fit right in with those spirit-filled Apostles on the Day of Pentecost.
To further illustrate how we Presbyterians seem to keep the Holy Spirit at a nice, safe distance, look no further than the average statement of faith that anyone wanting to become a minister of word and sacrament must write. Virtually all of these wonderful compositions have several things in common, several “catch-words” that need to be included:
- The mystery of God
- Humility and yet boldness (that’s always an interesting balance…)
- And finally: the Holy Spirit.
Even then, those prospective ministers, those future preachers, those soon-to-be pastors better not dwell too much on the Holy Spirit, or the various committees that examine and interview them will have some tough questions.
No…it’s best to keep that ol’ Holy Spirit to a minimum. Except on the Day of Pentecost, of course…then we can trot out the Holy Spirit, talk about it for a time, and then move on to safer passages in Scripture…like Acts and Kings…maybe Revelation!
Instead, many Christians deal with the Holy Spirit by talking a lot about something called the “Triune God.” The prefix “tri-“ means “three” so we talk about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a group that we worship. And we do, of course. But listen when we actually pray aloud…picture it…think about it for a minute…how do we start? We usually say “Lord” or sometimes “Father” or other times “Jesus.” We will sometimes use phrases like, “Master of the Universe” or “O Holy One” or even “Blessed Creator”…but we seldom say “Spirit” when we begin a prayer. What are we actually afraid of?
We look to Scripture and we don’t see much about the Holy Spirit until the Day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts. Once the Spirit shows up, the Book of Acts is then filled with other instances in which people were filled with the Spirit. We don’t get much in the Old Testament, other than:
- Genesis 1:1 – the spirit of God blew across the waters…
- In the Second Book of Kings, Elijah is going to be taken up to Heaven in a whirlwind; his protégé, Elisha, asks for a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit, so that he could carry on with Elijah’s good work.
- There are other indirect references to the word “spirit” but no major passages in which the Holy Spirit is clearly given and recognized and identified and celebrated – certainly not the way it was in the second chapter of the Book of Acts.
Indeed, outside the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit just doesn’t get much press. That’s too bad – because it could mistakenly lead to some believing the Holy Spirit is not that important to faith.
When those Apostles ran into the streets and were speaking in tongues, they were absolutely filled with the Holy Spirit. It is hard not to wonder what that might look like in today’s world. I’m not sure it would be much different from that wonderful day, but I can imagine the reaction of any outside crowd of people who witnesses it:
- “What kind of drugs are they taking?”
- “Wow…they must be enjoying some really powerful margaritas.”
- “Get outta the street, you drunken fool.”
I don’t really picture Christians in the crowd of witnesses that might observe a group similar to those Apostles on the Day of Pentecost suddenly falling to their knees and praising God in a loud voice with their hands raised in the air.
Instead, I picture some uneasiness and awkwardness and reluctance in today’s normal Christians if or when they saw this.
And that’s a shame. Because I’m afraid I might be right.
The expression that was said by the witnesses was that the Apostles were “filled with new wine.” New wine was the most powerful type of wine…it was the freshest and the sweetest and the strongest. Some in the crowd were astonished and wondered what it all meant. But others dismissed them with a sneer.
It’s always easier to sneer than to examine more closely.
Some in the crowd heard the Lord being praised in their own home languages that couldn’t possibly been known by those raggedy Apostles. But others dismissed them with a sneer.
It’s always easier to dismiss than to even try to embrace the Holy Spirit.
Some in the crowd tried to figure out what was going on and tried to make sense of what they were seeing and hearing. But others refused to even try and instead sneered at them.
It’s always easier to remain silent than to be “filled with new wine.”
I wonder what we are, Heritage Christians. I wonder about this a lot. I wonder if we are a little too comfortable here in this beautiful ballroom. I wonder if we would remain here in these comfortable chairs if the streets were filled with Christians who were alive with the Holy Spirit.
What would we do if we were confronted by some who resembled people who were filled with new wine?
I wonder…because in our heart of hearts, we all know that the Holy Spirit exists, was promised by Jesus Christ himself, and has come to empower and embolden us to do God’s work here on Earth.
To refuse it is to refuse God himself.
To shy away from it because it makes your skin crawl is to do the same with a gift promised by our savior, Jesus of Nazareth.
To turn away in discomfort when opportunities arise that could lead to us raising our voices in praise, raising our hands in joyful prayer, raising ourselves out of our own self-imposed stupor and instead fully embracing all that the Lord has in mind for his believers…to be uncomfortable with that concept is to be uncomfortable with the Lord himself.
Are we indeed filled with new wine?
Or has our wine become old and stale and worn out?
Let’s ponder that together, especially as we move forward together in the life of our church and in our own lives. Imagine the possibilities if the Holy Spirit is powerful among us, working in our work, making us bold in our faith, showing us a million ways to make disciples – and not just members.
Come, Holy Spirit, and be with us. We need you.