A seed has been planted in us and around us. God has promised us that it will grow, it will come to fruition. We have hoped and dreamed about what it will look like. We have done what we could to nourish it with our gifts. And it is finally here. The kingdom of God is in bloom, as promised!
It seems the Holy Spirit has finally arrived on the scene as Jesus suggested in Ch 1. I suspect it’s not quite what people imagined, though. God shows up in a really big way – in a very loud noise and shows up in fire. (Different than the how God shows up for Moses – in a still, small, voice, he wasn’t in the storm or the fire… BUT like with Moses and the burning bush and like with the ark of the covenant (where the Hebrew people believed God lived, and what they took with them while wondering in the wilderness, God's presence revealed in flame). People have little pillars of flames alighting on their heads, and they are able to speak what the Spirit is saying to them. Not only that, but those who hear them can hear them in their own language. People from all over the world they knew are speaking in their own languages and everyone else can understand. In this diverse mix of people, the Holy Spirit makes it so that they can understand each other, and God makes God's self known by flame.
What do you think that would be like? What if you could suddenly understand someone who was speaking to you in Spanish or French or Italian or Arabic or Hebrew or German, even though you couldn’t understand them just moments before? What if you heard a tornado-like wind and then saw fire light on top of peoples’ heads, maybe even on your own. Would you think you were dreaming? Would you think it was impossible? Would you think it was amazing? Would you be scared? Would you be excited? Would you be shocked? “How can this be,” they ask? Even though they were promised the spirit, they didn’t know what that would mean. They didn’t know it would mean drastic change in their outlook, their world perspective.
When we encounter the Spirit, we are changed, our world is changed, our outlook is changed. We can talk to and understand people that we couldn’t understand before – maybe even people we thought were out of their minds for thinking the things they thought. Things become clear that weren’t clear before. Have you ever been thinking about the right thing to do in a situation and you’ve been really stuck on what the answer is? But you talk to someone and suddenly you realize the answer has been there all along, we just couldn’t see it or understand it. When we encounter the Spirit, we see it, we understand it, our outlook on the world is changed, our outlook on others is changed. We are changed. And that’s a good thing.
As believers, we are united in that change that happens in us. We talked about gifts last week, remember? The body is one in Christ but has many members – we are united in this change that we experience in the Spirit, even though that change results in different gifts. We are one in God, we are one in our transformation by the Spirit, we are one in our giftedness. We are one in the Spirit’s alighting on us, transforming us, helping us to understand things we never understood before. Helping us to do things we’ve never done before and lead with our gifts in ways we’ve never done before. That’s a good thing, a very good thing.
But these things – understanding each other when we haven’t before, having our perspective changed, being unified in Christ – in one spirit with different gifts – these things can be really disturbing and challenging to those who don’t understand the Spirit. Not everyone understands this change, do they? The people who saw all of this happening but didn’t experience it themselves actually think those who have been filled with the Spirit are drunk… they have been drinking new wine, they say. To them, these people who have been filled with the Spirit look foolish, silly, they’re saying crazy things. They’re like the town drunks – nobody should actually take them seriously. I mean, what they’re saying is gibberish. The Spirit has filled them, and they are prophesying, and they look like fools. People don’t know what to make of this. So they blame alcohol… it couldn’t possibly be God. Sometimes, when we are scared by how the Holy Spirit moves because it moves in unexpected ways, we see it and make excuses, try to make sense of it in ways we understand – that’s not God, they’re just drunk… There’s no way that could happen so lets not even give it another thought… it’s impossible…They don’t understand. They mock. They make fun. They make excuses. We mock. We make fun. We make excuses.
When the Holy Spirit fills us, we are changed, we are united but different, and not everybody understands the change that the Spirit brings, not everyone welcomes the change that the Spirit brings. Sometimes we don’t even understand this change, or we excuse it as silly or ridiculous, or illogical. Because the Holy Spirit does some pretty radical and unexpected things. The HS brings people together who wouldn’t normally be together and helps those communicate with one another who wouldn’t normally communicate with one another. The HS changes our worldview. The HS makes us look foolish to outsiders. The HS makes some really uncomfortable and they try to explain it away because the HS challenges us to do things we don’t normally do, things that society doesn’t always condone or appreciate…
…Like giving up power – that’s one of the things society tells us is important, right? Power is control over others, it’s wealth, it can get you almost anything you want or need in the world. But power is selfish. Power is about what I want, what I can do. It’s not about loving our neighbor or loving God first, it’s about loving myself first and giving God and neighbor the leftovers, the scraps. The world teaches us to take care of ourselves first, others can wait, God can wait. We are taught to be selfish. But being filled with the Holy Spirit is selfless – In Romans Paul says, “The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace.” Being filled with the Spirit leads to selfishness, lack of power. That’s crazy and foolish to those who don’t understand.
Being filled with the Spirit leads to reconciliation with one another. In John 20, Jesus breathes the Spirit on his followers and they have the power to forgive. Reconciliation among people happens through unity in the Spirit. The Spirit empowers us to be united with others in forgiveness and reconciliation with each other. That’s a challenge in our world where we are taught if someone hurts you it’s good for you to hurt them back, to teach them a lesson, to give them a taste of their own medicine. You hurt me, I hurt you, we’re even. It’s all about getting equal, right? No. When we can forgive instead of equalizing, getting even, we are doing a selfless act. Forgiveness, reconciliation, is what happens when a person is filled with the Spirit. And forgiveness brings peace. That’s crazy and foolish to those who don’t understand.
The Holy Spirit brings with it amazing gifts, good changes. The world doesn’t always recognize these changes in perspective and the actions that result from those changes as good. These things look crazy and foolish to those who don’t understand. But this is the fulfillment of what Christ promises his followers – the Holy Spirit will come. When you pray for the Spirit to fill you, to be with you, do you think about what that means? Do you think about how that will change you? How it will change us? How it will change the world? God makes a promise through Jesus. God and Jesus keep their promise. Are we ready for that? Are we prepared for the amazing gifts that God has for us? Are we prepared to look crazy to our neighbors? I don’t think we’re ever fully prepared for any of it. It will be difficult and it will be scary and it will be awesome and it will be exciting and it will be terrifying and it will be rewarding. But God is with us. We are reminded by the flame – God is here, God is in us. And when God is with us and in us we can face anything.
This seed has been planted, a promise has been made that the Spirit will come. The seed has been nourished, we have used our gifts and God has given the Kingdom to the world. Now, God’s promise has been fulfilled, the Spirit has come, the KOG is blooming, and we get to be a part of it, we get to receive from God the Holy Spirit, a huge gift. Don’t make excuses for how it can’t be God, how we’re not ready for it. The kingdom may look different than what we’re used to, it may look different than what people expect of us, but it is beautiful, and it is wonderful, and it is of God. Be brave. Lets be willing to look a little crazy. Lets allow God to fulfill God’s promise to you in filling you with the Holy Spirit. Amen.