Read Acts 2:1-21
Welcome to our graduates of 2015.
Some of you who went to high school in days past, or perhaps some of you in high school now will remember this cheer from football games: “We’ve got spirit, yes, we do; we’ve got spirit—how about you.” One side of the stadium would yell out that cheer, and then the other side would respond with the same words, trying to be the most enthusiastic, trying to have the most spirit.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day in the church when we are preoccupied with spirit, the Holy Spirit. These days when we talk about spirit, most of us think about it in the way the cheer thinks about it. Spirit is about enthusiasm, group energy. And that’s not a bad place for modern Christians to start in beginning to figure out what we mean by spirit. I mean, think about that weird story from Acts today. The disciples must have had a lot of energy and enthusiasm on Pentecost day, because some people wonder if what is going on is a matter of the disciples drinking too much.
However, they are not drinking, but they do have spirit.
There are times we are drained or despairing, and we could use a little more of what my Mom used to call “pep.” But this “pep,” is not from energy drinks or, worse yet, alcohol, but from the Spirit of God moving in our lives.
Yet, while spirit, the Holy Spirit, is connected to enthusiasm and group energy, this is not in full what the Bible means by Spirit.
Today, in our Bible readings for Pentecost day we are given three very distinct views of what the Spirit means, what the Holy Spirit is about.
And so, let’s start with this perspective on the Spirit: the Spirit connects you to God. IN our Bible reading from Romans, we read that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ it is the that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:14-16)
This Bible text tells us that the Spirit is a connector, the one who draws us into God, and gives us a status in relationship to God. We are led by the Spirit. But we’re not led like slaves; God is not like some taskmaster forcing us to serve him. Instead we are led as children of God; we are loved and cared for; God is involved with us, leading us into the life he would have us live.
What does that look like? Most of us have had an experience where we are involved in something much bigger than ourselves; where some positive effect is being made on the world, some good is being done through you or through a group you are part of that is much bigger than you or your group.
Maybe you had a sensed something like that on a mission trip, or as part of some project at school, at church, or in the community. The Apostle Paul would call that something the “Spirit of God” active and moving in your life.
According to these words in Romans, this Spirit of God, moving in your life, tells you that you a child of God. When you were baptized, it was said to you: “Child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.”
It was a reminder that you belong to God, and that God’s spirit is active and moving in your life.
That is important to remember, because along your way through life, there may be people who try to tell you that you really don’t have much worth. And you might even tell yourself that, especially when you fail or when life fails you. But you will know better.
Bigger than anything in your life, bigger than your failures, your achievements, your mistakes, even bigger than your accomplishments, is your status as a child of God.
The Spirit connects you to God and gives you that status.
And then, here’s a second perspective on the Spirit, the Spirit connects you to other people.
This journey through life as a child of God is not a journey you do by yourself. This is a journey that you share with a community, a community given to you by the Spirit.
And in this community, God will walk alongside of you.
In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus is heading to his death on the cross and his resurrection. And he says to his disciples: “The Father…will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16) An advocate, in this Bible text, is someone who has your best interests in mind – someone who will defend you before others, yes, but more importantly, someone who will cheer you on. The Advocate is the Spirit, either working directly in your life, or working through others to cheer you on.
You have had parents, teachers, and mentors who have supported you and loved you and encouraged you. Whether you realize it or not, they have cheered you on.
Graduation is a time to pause, to remember those who have helped you, and to say thank-you to parents, teachers, mentors and others who have cheered you on in your life thus far – those who have said, “You can do it, don’t give up, I am with you, right beside you.”
We need that in life. We need those who are advocates for us. We need a community of God’s people through whom God’s Spirit moves and works and acts in our lives.
While life is filled with much joy, it is also filled with times of testing, and challenges, and pain. In life, we will experience losses. People come and go. Joy comes and goes. Health comes and goes. Accomplishment comes and goes. But the promise is that we are not left without a helper, the Spirit, the advocate, the one who connects us to God, and the one who connects us to a community of God’s people.
And then, we have a third perspective on the Spirit, The spirit sends us.
As you look at the story of Pentecost from the book of Acts, it becomes clear, that the Spirit is the One who makes us restless, the One who will not let us sit still, the One who gets us off the couch and sends us to go, to do, and to make a difference in the world. Life lived connection to God and in connection to the community of God’s people is a life that looks outside of ourselves.
In the story from Acts, the disciples are huddled together in an upstairs room, when the Holy Spirit moves mightily in their lives and inspires them to go out into the world. If you read on in the Book of Acts, you see those disciples doing all kind of things – speaking, serving, helping, and making a difference in the world.
If we sense something calling us from the comfort of our own little world, sending us into places where there is hunger, thirst, poverty, sadness, pain, suffering, loneliness, despair – the kind of places where we can serve and make a difference – then we are experiencing the Spirit.
David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, at a graduation ceremony said, “Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their lives.”
We have the Spirit. We don’t need to go looking for it. The Holy Spirit is among us and in us. Our task, our calling, is to pay attention to what the spirit is doing in our lives. We have been gifted with the Spirit who provides us a status as children of God, a Spirit who calls us together into a community that advocates for one another, and cheers each other on, and a Spirit that makes us restless, giving us eyes to see beyond ourselves, sending us into the world to make a difference in the lives of others.
To our 2015 graduates, we are looking forward to seeing and hearing what the Spirit will be doing in your lives!
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