“The Waiting Is Over”

 

 

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 / Acts 2:1-21

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

A pious man who had reached the age of 105 suddenly stopped going to church. Alarmed by the old fellow’s absence after so many years of faithful attendance the Pastor went to see him. He found him in excellent health, so the Pastor asked, “How come after all these years we don’t see you at services anymore?” The old man looked around and lowered his voice. “I’ll tell you, Pastor,” he whispered. “When I got to be 90, I expected God to take me any day but He didn’t so I waited. I got to be 95, then 100, then 105. So, I figured that God is very busy and must’ve forgotten about me, and I don’t want to remind Him!”

All of us have some sort of experience waiting. I think we would all be amazed at how much of our lives were spent killing time. Who here hasn’t had to endure hours of waiting in a doctor’s office? Don’t you wish, sometimes, that we could charge the doctor for OUR time? Or how about the lines in the grocery store waiting for Mrs. Jenkins to count out the exact change (I’m sure there’s another penny in here somewhere). Only then does she remember her coupons that are sure to expire the next day if she doesn’t use them.

And then, of course, comes my favorite past time and one I’m sure men all over the globe are familiar with, waiting for your wife. “I’m almost ready.” A half hour later you’re finally in the car.    We all love waiting, don’t we? Not really. To most of us it’s nothing but dead time and fruitless. The less we wait the happier we are.

As Christians, we have gotten used to waiting. In fact we’ve become conditioned to wait. We know that Jesus is coming again, but when? So we wait. We can only imagine the thoughts of the disciples when Jesus told them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:7-8, Jesus said to His disciples: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

You want us to wait Lord? Surely you don’t want us to loose our momentum. In silence they most have wondered, “how long?”, “how will we know?” But Jesus says simply, “Wait for it.”

So Jesus ascends and the waiting period begins. I find it very interesting that it’s in these sections of scriptures that we see the disciples all together in prayer. As they waited, they came to each other for support. A great example of how we need each other for the same purpose.

And what were they waiting for? Jesus told them they would be waiting for power – an unseen, divine power. Sounds great but couldn’t they go on without that? Why must they wait? Isn’t a good plan and a little determination enough?

And what about us? Do we really need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to make a difference? The world tells us we don’t. In fact it says the total opposite when it tells us to look out for #1 and don’t depend on anybody or anything else to make a difference in your life. It says you’ll fail unless you make your own way. Evidently, Jesus didn’t think so, so He asked His disciples to wait.

And that is what they did together with their prayers to support them. What they received on that day of Pentecost, which was originally celebrated by the Jews to commemorate Moses receiving the ten commandments, must have been amazing and far beyond their wildest imaginations.

It was then that they finally understood the full impact of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives. What they learned is that, what this was really about was evangelism. When all is said and done, their mission and ours is to spread the good news of our salvation in Christ and to bring people to faith in God.

Today we’re going to speak of something we speak of a lot here but that isn’t spoken of nearly enough in many Lutheran churches and that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. During the celebration of Pentecost, we find an excellent chance to study the working of God’s Spirit in our lives and it gives us a chance to stand back and appreciate the importance of surrendering our lives to His guidance.

So why is the Holy Spirit needed? Why was it worth the wait for the disciples? Because, through the Holy Spirit, we find the power of God within us. Let’s talk about three things the Holy Spirit does for us.

First, only the Holy Spirit can enable us to overcome our self-doubt when it comes to witnessing for Christ. We too often disqualify ourselves from sharing the good news because we feel we’re not good enough examples or not knowledgeable enough to make a difference. Our awareness of our own moral flaws and spiritual shortcomings can lead us to “bow out” when it comes to being a witness for the Gospel.  “How can I encourage others to come to faith in Christ when I’m such a terrible example myself?” “How can I share the glories of God when I have so many problems of my own?” And so, with thoughts like this, we do nothing. We decline to witness because we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re not worthy.

Imagine what would have happened had the disciples had the same attitude. Peter could have said, “How can I urge people to give their lives to Christ? I denied Him three times. I even said I didn’t know Him?” Or think of Paul. What would have happened had He done nothing out of guilt for brutalizing Christians in his previous life? The power of the Holy Spirit changed them just like it can change us. The Spirit of God helped them overcome their own self-doubt. We need the Spirit for the same reason.

Secondly, we need the work of the Holy Spirit to enable us to get past our differences. God didn’t distinguish one race from another or one color of skin over another. Jesus taught that we were all the same in God’s eyes. The Gospel is for all people of every race, nation, gender and social class.

Yet we tend to “stick to our own kind.” We live by the birds of a feather principle. If we have to make a choice, we’d rather worship with people who are a lot like us. We don’t reach out to one group because they might have a different view on life, we don’t reach out to another because they were brought up in a different environment then we were. These people aren’t educated enough, those people aren’t family. Before you know it we disqualified almost everyone. Only the Holy Spirit can empower us to get beyond our “groups” with the Gospel. Only the work of the Holy spirit can blind us to our differences in an effort to spread the Good News.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t reach out to those we share similarities with. It makes sense to begin witnessing to people we are in common with. Paul, who was Jewish, had a saying, he said, “first to the Jews.” But he didn’t stop there. The second part of his saying was just as important, “but also to the Greeks.”

In witnessing we must be aware of the tendency we have to go where we are most comfortable going. For many of us that means we reach out to very few people in our lifetime. What the work of the Holy Spirit enables us to do is to reach beyond our comfort zones. The Spirit of God instills in us the knowledge that the importance is in the message, not in our own comforts or preferences. And once we make the decision to follow the Holy Spirit, He gives us the insight on where to be and what to say when the time comes. When Jesus said, “trust in me,” he didn’t mean just until He died. He meant for all time.

On the day of Pentecost, people from many nations heard the message of the crucified and risen Christ in their own tongues. From a very diverse group of people, God set about forming His church and only the work of the Holy Spirit could do that. The same is true for our time and in this congregation. If we only share the message with those of a common language or a common ancestry, then we will die. The Holy Spirit rests in those who put their trust in God, not in themselves.

But people don’t have to be from different nations and cultures to need the Spirit to bring them together. There are times when we feel separation right here and we are far more alike here then we are different from each other. As a church in Christ, we must come to depend on the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. It’s not any either or, it’s a both and.

And finally, only the Holy Spirit can empower us to speak with others about something so incredibly important as the hope we get from the message of the Gospel.

I live in Lynden and Lynden is a great place. It seems everyone knows everyone else. It’s like everyone’s related and that’s not too far from the truth. With that familiarity comes an ease people have with one another. It seems they can talk to anyone else in town about almost anything. It can be the price of gas, the level of taxes we’re paying, what our children are doing, the weather, our struggles at work, our plans for retirement, just about anything. But how do we move from these temporary things to speaking about the eternity with God? It’s not so easy. It requires the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It requires a little surrender on our part to the will of God.

The Holy Spirit isn’t just a thing. He’s the Holy and mighty presence of God in our lives. It’s the life force of the vine. It’s the power that Jesus spoke of to His disciples signified by the sound of the wind in the room. It’s the source of strength within us to testify to the truth. The Holy Spirit is God’s connection to us, the power of Christ flowing through us.

Asking God to fill us with His Holy Spirit will give us a certain courage to open our eyes to the opportunities that God gives us to share the message of Christ. Too often we miss these opportunities because we’ve already disqualified ourselves. We’ve convinced ourselves that we aren’t worthy. We’ve talked ourselves into leaving the work of spreading the Gospel to other, more qualified people. So often we miss opportunities and allow timidity to take over. Praise God that He didn’t allow Peter and Paul to have the same attitude and I pray that he will instill in all of us the courage to follow the same path that they chose to take. It’s simple, if we allow ourselves to let other people do the work of spreading the Gospel, we will no longer be a factor in the work of the Holy Spirit, but if we decide to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives we will see blessings we could never have imagined. The choice is ours to make. I think we’ve waited long enough.

So, why did God send a helper? Because He knew we would need the help. Help to take our next steps in ministry. Help to find the courage to transfer the light of Christ to others. Help to overcome our weaknesses with the power of God within us.

That same Spirit that transformed Peter and Paul from deniers to faithful warriors also works within you. That same Spirit brings with Him the powers of guidance and faithfulness that will lead us to everlasting life. That same Spirit that worked wonders in the lives of the first apostles is ready to do the same in you should you surrender your fight against Him.

Jesus Christ died and rose again so that His Spirit might work salvation in all people. But He’s chosen to work through you with the guidance of His Holy Spirit to begin the process. His love could not leave us stranded, so He sent His Spirit in goodness and grace to prepare us for our journey ahead. What kind of journey is He preparing you for?

Amen.

 

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