Pastor Michael Frye:
Pastor Leonard Sweet tells the story about the District Attorney of a small rural county who was trying a case in which the defendant was charged with drunk driving and trying to assault the police officer who was attempting to arrest him.
The easiest way to prove his case was to show that the officer was wearing a police uniform, which would have been recognized by the defendant.
So the DA asked the officer on the witness stand: “and how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?”
The witness looked at the DA with a blank stare.
It was clear to some in the courtroom (except, apparently to the DA) that the officer wasn’t sure what was meant by the word “attired.”
“Would you repeat the question?” the officer responded.
With some irritation, the DA said, “how were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?”
Still puzzled, the witness said apologetically, “Please say that again.”
“How were you attired when you pulled the defendant over?” he barked emphatically!
Suddenly the officer’s face lit up as he seemed to get the question;
“I was traveling on standard issue radial tires!”
There clearly needed to be an interpreter in that case.
Nowhere would an interpreter have been more needed than on that Pentecost Day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in that closed room.
Without understanding how or why, they each began to preach to the large crowd in the streets in words that were unintelligible to the disciples, but were clearly being understood by those who were hearing them speak in their own languages.
Can’t you just imagine what it must be like for a person who is attending worship for the first time in their lives to be able to fully comprehend the words that are being spoken?
That is why Christians, who are called to share what we know to be the truth about Jesus, must also be confident that we are speaking God’s truth in a way that others will comprehend and accept as God’s transforming word for their lives.
As ones who have been baptized in the name of the triune God, we must come to accept our role as ones who have been called by God through this same Holy Spirit to take up the torch of Christ’s ministry with enthusiasm and conviction.
The Renaissance scholar, Erasmus, told a classic story to emphasize this point.
In his story, Jesus returns to heaven after his time on earth.
The angels gather around him to learn what happened during his days on earth.
Jesus tells them of his miracles, his teachings, his death on the cross, and his resurrection.
When Jesus finishes his story, the Archangel Michael asks: “But what happens now?”
Jesus answers: “I have left behind faithful disciples and a handful of men and women who have faithfully followed me.
They will declare my message and express my love.
These faithful people will build my church.”
St. Michael asks, “but, what if these people fail?
“What is your other plan?”
Jesus responds with great conviction in his voice, “There is no other plan.”
There is no other plan for spreading the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ than through his church – the very church that began on that Pentecost Day, which you and I have inherited through the living breath of God imparted upon us through the Holy Spirit.
We are it, along with other church fellowships around the world.
Do you find that to be scary, or are you excited about the possibilities for ministry that this fact poses?
I hope it is the latter, because the Holy Spirit is full of surprises that promise to provoke us, challenge us, intrigue us, and entice us to be active in love, and to offer hope for the sake of the Gospel.
There are many who say that the age of the Christian Church is over, that it has lost its zeal.
Our theology is being questioned on many levels.
But God still continues to breath his life-giving Spirit into every corner of our lives with the hope and the promise that comes from our being Christ’s voice and hands calling and beckoning others to come into the fellowship of faith.
But, pastor, how do we know that the Holy Spirit is really at work in this place? (you may ask).
I will answer that question by telling you a story shared by Susan Fleenor.
A shark and a whale were swimming in the sea when the shark said to the whale, “you are so much older than I, and wiser too.
“Could you please tell me how to find the ocean?”
The whale responded, “you are swimming in the ocean right now.”
But, the shark didn’t believe the whale.
“Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I may find it!”
“Look,” said the whale, “I’m not kidding; the ocean is right here; you are in the middle of it.”
Still in disbelief, the shark swam away searching for the ocean.
A lot of people in this world spend way too much time searching for God and are never satisfied to hear that the Spirit of God is here, within us, dwelling among us and inviting others to join us in opening our hearts and minds to the will of God.
God calls his church to be like living springs of water in the deserts o people’s lives.
Just as the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision are given new life, flesh, and breath, so God will give his Spirit to those who thirst for righteousness.
God sends the spirit into this gathered community so we can know the truth of Christ’s resurrection and what that means as we continue to live our lives as ones who have been called to repentance and salvation.
If we remain true to that task, others will know that the Holy Spirit is at work in this fellowship of faith.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul wrote:
“For in hope we were saved.
“Now hope that is seen is not hope.
“For who hopes for what is seen?
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with signs too deep for words.
“And God, who searches the heart, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Paul’s concern in this passage is for the ultimate good of God’s salvation.
Whatever evil happens, God is able to save.
As Paul goes on to say: “If God is for us, who is against us?…nothing can separate us from God’s love.” (Absolutely nothing!)
Sisters and brothers in Christ, just as the Spirit of God moved like a mighty whirlwind among the disciples and imparted the fire of enthusiasm and courage among them to fearlessly preach the Gospel of Christ, let us also be so bold as to let the Spirit work through us with the same conviction, enthusiasm, and assurance for the sake of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As I close I will address Davis and Jonathan, who are about to personally affirm your baptisms through the Rite of Confirmation.
Your church family at St. Mark’s welcomes you, not only with open arms, but also with our prayers and our fervent commitment to support and encourage you in your faith journey.
Please know that there is a place for you here where you can continue to grow both spiritually, and in your service to God as we journey together for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.