John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15; Acts 2:1-21
“Going Green” is a phrase we are hearing a lot of these days. Everyone – it seems – is going green. And that’s not a bad idea. I’m constantly pulling things out of the trash around here – old worship bulletins, plastic water bottles – that kind of stuff – and throwing them instead into our church’s recycle bins. Oh yes – I know. I drive the staff nuts!
If something is compostable, I throw it into my compost bin at home. I even rip open my used tea bags – and throw the used tea leaves into my compost. And my coffee grounds. I have no need for the compost! But I compost anyway.
Nancy and I have replaced our light bulbs with energy efficient fluorescent bulbs. As we replace our kitchen and washing machine appliances – we buy energy efficient units. Energy star efficient all the way. I guess I do these things because I feel for me it’s the right thing to do. When our 20 year old water tank went on us 2 years ago, we replaced it with an energy efficient tankless water system. And since the furnace was the same age – and although it was working fine – we replaced it at the same time with a high-energy efficient unit.
A number of years ago, the church added solar panels to the roof to generate electricity. Nancy and I have talked about doing the same at our home. A recent power outage that lasted more than a day at my house – I have a wood burning fireplace that I heated the family room with – showed just how much we rely on a variety of sources of power. I want to install a partial-house generator this summer so that I’ll never be without power again.
So the world needs power. But let me tell you something else. The church needs power. And I’m not talking now about solar panels or natural gas. The power I’m talking about when I say the church needs power comes from a different source. I’m talking about the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now – before the church goes green – and now I’m talking about the altar hangings that will be changed to green in just two weeks – we first go red. Today is one of two red days in the life of the church. That’s because today we celebrate the day of Pentecost. One of the three great festivals of the church year.
Christmas is the first. We celebrate the birth of Jesus – God becoming flesh and living among us. The second major festival is Easter. That’s when we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead.
And then there is today. Pentecost. The birthday of the church. The coming of the Holy Spirit in power. You can read all about it in Acts chapter 2.
You see, before the Holy Spirit came, the church was powerless. There were some 120 disciples of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem – in hiding – living in fear of the authorities. Yes, they had seen the risen Savior – Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Some of them had watched as Jesus had ascended into heaven some 10 days earlier. But still they are without power.
And so they wait. They just wait. Jesus had told them in Acts 1:8 that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon them. The question is power to do what?
Well, as we heard just a few moments ago, the disciples were all gathered into one place. And there came the sound of a violent wind. Wind power? Not exactly. And then tongues of fire appeared over each one’s head. Burning methane? Not a chance!
What they experienced is the power of the Holy Spirit. And they began to speak in other languages. And Peter – good old Peter – the same dude who denied knowing Jesus – and then went and wept bitterly – now has the power of the Holy Spirit within him. And now in the power of the Spirit he stands up with boldness and preaches a sermon to the crowd that has gathered. And at the end – when he is finished – we read that 3,000 people were baptized that day. 3,000 people were added to the church in one day.
Those first Christians – the first disciples of Jesus Christ – were not powered by wind or methane or solar or fossil or nuclear fuels. No. Their power came from on high. From the Holy Spirit. This power source enabled them to speak in other languages so that those who spoke other languages might hear and understand. This power source enabled them to speak boldly and with confidence about Jesus Christ – the things that they had heard and experienced and seen. They talked about the Good News of Jesus Christ – and in doing so offered a word of hope. They talked about salvation and what it means to have eternal life with God forever.
Now – lest I give you the wrong impression. The Holy Spirit is not just a force. As I tell you so often –He is not like the force in Star Wars. You remember those movies. “May the force be with you.” And if you’re a good Lutheran – every time you watch those movies you’re likely to have the urge to say – “And also with you.”
But no, don’t you dare confuse the force of Star Wars with the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is a person. The Bible tells us that He has knowledge (1 Cor. 2:11). He has a will (1 Cor. 12:11). He has a mind (Rom. 8:27). He has affections (Rom. 15:30). You can lie to him (Acts 5:3-4). Not a good idea, by the way. You can insult him (Heb. 10:29). You can grieve him (Eph. 4:30).
The Holy Spirit is a person. The third person of the Trinity. And as such, He is the source of the church’s power.
Folks – the church needs power. My question is, how welcome is Holy Spirit power in our lives?
Because, I’m going to tell you, we still need that power. We need that power if God is going to use us to touch hearts and change lives. We need that power if we’re going to be God’s church that brings the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him. We need that power if we are to bring hope to the hopeless. Joy to those in despair. Fulfillment and purpose to those who find no meaning in life.
The church needs power. For the here and now. Church is not just a place where we learn about a guaranteed place with God in heaven after death. No. And don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to heaven as much as anyone. But until then, we need God’s power – God’s Holy Spirit power – God’s Pentecost power – God’s resurrection power – to live life in a Christ-like way in the here and now.
Max Lucado in his book, A Gentle Thunder, gives the following analogy. Let me share it with you.
“Let's imagine that you want to learn to dance. So you go to a bookstore and buy a book on dancing. You take the book home and get to work. You do everything it says. The book says sway; you sway. The book says shuffle; you shuffle. The book says spin; you spin.
“Finally, you think you’ve got it, and you invite your wife to come in and watch. You hold the book open and follow the instructions step by step.
“You continue to read, then dance, read, then dance, until the dance is completed. You plop exhausted on the couch, look at your wife, and proclaim, ‘I executed it perfectly.’
“‘You executed it, all right,’ she sighs. ‘You killed it.’
“‘You forgot the most important part. Where is the music?’
Then Lucado says, “We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music. We know what we believe. We debate the rules. And sometimes, we step around the dance floor with no music in our hearts.
“Dancing with no music is tough stuff.” Living life as a disciple of Jesus Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit is tough stuff.
“Jesus knew that.” And for that reason, before he ascended into heaven, he told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. To fill them. To be the power they would need to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and indeed the entire world as witnesses to the life-changing message – the Good News – of Jesus Christ. And in the power of the Holy Spirit, they did indeed turn the world upside down.
“So think about it; have you ever been comforted? Has God ever brought you peace when the world brought you pain? That’s the power of the Spirit to be the Comforter.
“Have you ever sensed a stab of sorrow for something you’ve said or done that you shouldn’t have said or done? Then you’ve been touched by the Holy Spirit.
“Or have you ever understood a new truth? Or seen an old principle in a new way? The light comes on. Your eyes pop open. “Aha, now I understand.” Ever happen to you? If so, that was the Holy Spirit at work in you.
Have you ever shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with anyone? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you to give you the power to speak with boldness.
“Well, friends, what do you know? Looks like the Holy Spirit has been and is at work in your life already!”
Those are the words of Max Lucado. He has some good stuff to say, wouldn’t you agree? This is the power of God, the Holy Spirit. And these are the things that the Holy Spirit does. In fact, without the power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot come to faith. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot even say the words, “Jesus is Lord.”
The Holy Spirit gives us the power we need. Power to speak and to share boldly what we hear and know and have experienced. To share and to speak of the difference that being a disciple of Jesus Christ has made in our lives.
We dance together to the music of the Holy Spirit – the music of our lives. The Holy Spirit is the power the church needs. Amen