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The Holy Spirit, Here and Now

May 31, 2020

Theme: Jesus dominated the four Gospel accounts, but the Holy Spirit dominates the book of Acts. Luke’s second book (Acts) begins with Jesus’ reminder of his pre-Resurrection promise to send his followers the Holy Spirit.This is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:4b-5).

In the second chapter of Acts we find the arrival of the Holy Spirit promised by the Resurrected Jesus in Acts 1:4-5. God pours the Holy Spirit on a community of believers. The Holy Spirit is not given to be co-opted for one’s personal, privatized use. Instead, God gives the Spirit as a distinguishing mark of a people who belong to God, people who will be sent to bear witness to Christ throughout the world.

We are reminded by this passage the ways that the Spirit cannot be contained and cannot be shut up in homes for our personal private devotional life. The life of the Spirit always leads us outward. We are also reminded that the Spirit is working even we can’t imagine or understand. It is easy to focus our faith life on God the Father and God the Son, but the Spirit messes with our conceptions. We can’t pin the Spirit down, instead, she runs out ahead of us, always leading as we play catch up. We may be socially distancing, but that doesn’t stop the working of the Spirit in our lives.

Some scholars note the church’s tendency toward bitarianism, worshiping God the Father and God the Son, while regarding the Holy Spirit as a marginal member of the Holy Trinity. Think of the ease with which we utter the Lord’s Prayer that begins its focus on the first person in the godhead: “Our Father.” We frequently punctuate our prayers with the second person in the godhead: “In the name of Jesus.” But how much prayer time, meditation, and Bible study do we devote to the third person in the godhead: the Holy Spirit? If our tendency is to keep the Holy Spirit cloistered in the smallest spaces of our devotional lives, only allowed to make public appearances once a year during Pentecost, then we are ignoring the tremendous promise of comfort, guidance, and empowerment Jesus offers us.

Scripture: Acts 2:1-13 – When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 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.”

Switched On (Empowered by the Spirit)

June 7, 2020

Theme: The Holy Spirit enables people to speak and hear in other languages. This week, we witness another miracle: evidence of the transformation of Peter from cowering denier of Christ to courageous proclaimer of the risen Lord. Peter’s proclamation comes in response to mockers in Acts 2:13. They said, “They are filled with new wine,” a comment about those enabled to speak in other languages by the Holy Spirit. Peter’s counter to their comment (prophecy from Joel 2:28-32) underscores the Pentecost experience as the inaugural event of Israel’s “last days.” During these last days, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

  • Peter delivered his sermon in the context of excitement over the signs and wonders seen on the Day of Pentecost. Notice that Peter did not just point to the signs as evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. He took the time necessary to tell the story of Jesus’ miraculous life, heinous death, and triumphant resurrection.
  • Peter was a Jew talking to the Jewish audience that had gathered. He reminded this Jewish audience that they had either heard of or seen Jesus and knew about the miracles he performed –reminding that Jesus was God-sent.
  • Joel’s prophecy mentions “the Lord’s great and glorious day,” (“Day of the Lord”) a time of judgment of nations that badly mistreated Israel. Interestingly, the outpouring of the Spirit with accompanying signs and wonders serves as preparation of the church for mission rather than God’s retribution. (v. 19-20)
  • The phrase “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” here narrowly understood in reference to Jews who turn to Christ, will through the Jerusalem Council, expand its meaning to include Gentiles in Acts 15. (Acts 2:21)
  • Although Peter indicted those present for Jesus’ death, it is vital that we as Christians avoid a blanket indictment of the Jewish people. The religious leaders of Israel are representative of human nature. It is human to err –even under the guise of religious devotion and fidelity.
  • But God raised him up.Jesus indeed died, but death could not hold him (v. 24, 32).
  • Peter applied the words that David spoke in Psalm 16 to Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 22:31, Psalm 16:10).
  • All of us are witnesses(Acts 22:32). Peter and the strange group that spilled into the courtyard from the Upper Room were all witnesses of the resurrection of Christ.

Scripture: Acts 2:14-36 – 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.’

22 “You that are Israelites,a]”>[a] listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth,b]”>[b] 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,c]”>[c] because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 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,d]”>[d] 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, Davide]”>[e] spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah,f]”>[f] 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 atg]”>[g] 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. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah,h]”>[h] this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Stand Alone Sermon by Julie Love of UMCH

June 14, 2020

What Now? (Responding to the Spirit)

June 21, 2020

Theme: Today’s passage features two essentials of Christianity: repentance and social responsibility. Repentance is the prerequisite for personal salvation: remorse over sin and sincere faith toward Jesus Christ. Social responsibility demonstrates our compassionate love for God (and creation) and neighbors. A prickly tension sometimes arises over the latter.

The culture surrounding the early church was communal, ours is not. The American rugged individual persona, endemic in our culture, may hinder our ability to remember the communal benevolence practiced by the early Christian church.

Could it be that the purpose of repentance is to redirect our view from self-centered navel-gazing to compassionate consideration of others? Take time to explore the implications of repentance and social responsibility for both the first-century and twenty-first-century church.

Scripture: Acts 2:37-47 – 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,a]”>[a] what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceedsb]”>[b] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at homec]”>[c] and ate their food with glad and generousd]”>[d] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

No Longer Afraid (Holy Boldness)

June 28, 2020

Theme: Bold. How many Christians embrace this word? What does it mean to be a bold witness for Christ?

Often, the term bold, used in relation to Christian witness, generates images of brash, obnoxious people, trying to strong-arm others into believing the Christian faith. In this week’s passage, Peter demonstrates a Holy Spirit-produced boldness to preach, teach, and heal in the name and authority of Jesus Christ. How does his boldness compare with our notions of being a bold witness?

The United Methodist Church pioneered a Holy Boldness ministry to engage in urban evangelism, eradicate racism and other forms of oppression, and forge interfaith and community relations for the generate economic development.

The Akan people of Ghana West Africa created an adinkra symbol called, gye nyame,”except God.” The full meaning is “fear no one except God.” How might the church act ifit “feared no one except God”?

This week’s passage provides an opportunity to explore a well-rounded, mature view of bold, Christian ministry.

The passage begins with an interruption of Peter’s sermon by the Sadducees and other leaders –who will become the Christian movement’s greatest opposition. The Sadducees were probably devout laity from wealthy (mostly priestly) families in Jerusalem. They had close connections to political and financial institutions of Judean culture. Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection. (See Matthew 22:23 and Mark 12:18.) Although they had no direct influence over temple protocol, the Sadducees represented the Jewish group most responsible for creating a divided Israel.

Beside the Sadducees came priests and the captain of the temple –people there to protect the temple’s interests. This group had Peter and John arrested.

The next day Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas, John and Alexander, all of the high-priestly family, joined the opposition’s ranks. The gathered group was the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of justice for the Jews. The group asked, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” referring to the healing of the lame man. Peter, emboldened by and filled with the Holy Spirit, addresses the same rulers he had earlier accused of acting in ignorance regarding Scripture’s prophecies about Jesus (Acts 3:17-18). Peter clearly names Jesus, “whom you crucified, and whom God raised from the dead,” as the name and authority responsible for the man’s healing (Acts 4:5-10).

Peter further states that Jesus was the cornerstone that they, the builders, rejected. Stone is used as a messianic metaphor in reference to Jesus. To reject Jesus was to reject the cornerstone of Israel’s promised salvation (Acts 4:11-12).

Instead of heeding the call to repentance, the interrogators became fixed on the boldness of Peter and John, uneducated, ordinary men. The term uneducated referred to rabbinical training, that is, mastery of biblical argument. The Holy Spirit enabled this newly displayed ability in Peter and John (Acts 4:13-14).

With the former lame man conspicuously present, the accusers could not refute the miracle. So they conferred privately to determine a political response. They decided to order Peter and John to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:15-18).

Peter and John responded with unwavering boldness: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).

The last verse in the passage mentions that the former lame man was forty years old; a key detail for the following reasons: His miraculous healing was highly remarkable because he had reached the age at which people believed it highly unlikely that a cure for a congenital defect would occur. He was a mature man whose testimony would be considered credible and many people would have known him. Because of the strength of this man’s testimony and the vast number of people (about 5,000, Acts 4:4) who had witnessed the miracle and believed in Jesus Christ following Peter’s sermon, the council let Peter and John go (Acts 4:21-22).

Scripture: Acts 4:1-21 – While Peter and Johna]”>[a] were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John,b]”>[b] and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisonersc]”>[c] stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,d]”>[d] whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesuse]”>[e] is

‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
    it has become the cornerstone.’f]”>[f]

12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. 14 When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. 16 They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.

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