Many of you know I have a Starbucks addiction. I call it St. Arbucks. Sometimes I set up office at the chapel of St. Arbucks to do sermon research. I have to drive all the way to Decatur to feed my Starbucks addiction.
In Denver, however, there is a Starbucks on every corner. On Monday afternoon, before opening worship, I decided to wonder the city. I told you last week about being stopped for a survey before dinner. Earlier in the afternoon, I was hanging out at Starbucks enjoying a mocha frappucino.
There was a guy smoking a pipe outside. I commented that not many people smoke pipes anymore. Few people smoke anymore, but haven’t seen someone smoke a pipe in a very long time.
He asked me if I was in town for the conference. I said, “Yes.” I asked him where he lived and he said somewhere in Colorado that I don’t remember. He said he was in Denver at the conference representing an agency. He said he was also working with a local shelter while he was there.
We started talking about the community outreach work we do. We are both on the Board of Directors of community action agencies in our area – I through CEFS Economic Opportunity Corporation. We talked about the difficulty of getting those in need of services to ask for the help and connect them with what is available to them.
We specifically talked about the energy assistance program for low income households. The agencies we represent manage the state and federal funds for low income heating and energy assistance. It is called LIHEAP here and LEAP there. I told him how our governor had taken money from the state LIHEAP funds to cover other budget items leaving the state without the money they need to help people with their high energy bills from this winter. Luckily, the Bethany Ministerial Alliance had funds to help 6 families keep their utilities on last month.
I asked him how many people would be at the conference this year. He said about 250. I knew the Festival of Homiletics would have nearly 2,000. We were there for 2 different conferences, but he and I were doing similar work. He was representing an agency and I was representing the church, both serving God’s children with gifts from the Holy Spirit.
We talked about the make-up of the Boards of the agencies we serve on. Each agency has Boards comprised of 1/3 clients, 1/3 public servants, and 1/3 private sector representatives. I am a private sector representative. He said he was a client of the agency he was representing. He is a vet living in transitional housing getting him off the streets and helping him get on his feet.
We never got to talk about his military service or his faith. He had to get to a meeting. Based on the community service he is engaged in, I just assumed he was a Christian.
I recently heard that 7 out of 10 American identify as Christians. That doesn’t mean they all go to church or read their Bible regularly. That has to include the Spiritual but Not Religious group. I think identifying one’s self means he or she has been baptized and attended church at one time. If they’ve been baptized, then they are forgiven, saved, and received the Holy Spirit.
If they’ve been baptized, then they are forgiven, saved, and received the Holy Spirit.
That’s what we teach and believe, right?
You receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit when you’re baptized, right?
The story I read this morning from Acts 2 tells the story of the Holy Spirit coming upon those gathered. The sentence doesn’t tell us who the Holy Spirit came upon. It says, “they were all gathered in one place.” So, we assume it is the Apostles, because that is where the story leaves us in Chapter 1 of Acts. And, after all, it is the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit comes upon those gathered as violent wind and tongues of fire. That’s a much different image than comes to mind when we think of someone today receiving the Holy Spirit at baptism.
The story continues with Peter’s speech to those who saw and heard what happened. That day, 3,000 responded to the Gospel and were baptized. We teach that the Holy Spirit comes upon someone at baptism. The Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism. We teach the same of our baptism.
So, what happened to all the people in our generation who were baptized, received the Holy Spirit and have fallen away from the church? The end of chapter 2 in Acts, the paragraph following the telling of 3,000 baptisms, tells us that the fellowship of believers devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles’ and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer. Where are all the baptized who should be devoted to Biblical teaching, fellowship, worship and prayer?
All hope should not be lost. We’re collecting the Pentecost Special offering. Last week we heard the story of a growing church. This week, we’ll hear another story of a growing church. The church is growing. In 3 years, I’ve baptized 5 children and 2 adults. That’s 7 people who received the Holy Spirit.
I don’t think I’ve talked much about who the Holy Spirit is and what she does. I call the Holy Spirit she, because, in the Old Testament, the Spirit is feminine. This may not be popular, because the Holy Spirit is of the Triune God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three-in-One. So, if God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We assume the Holy Spirit is masculine like Father and Son. However, women were made in God’s image too so God must have a feminine image. I believe that is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Wisdom. In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit is associated with Wisdom. In Exodus 31, God tells Moses that He has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge, and with all kinds of skills. There are other Old Testament references to the Spirit having wisdom. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that the Holy Spirit reveals God’s wisdom. There are plenty of other New Testament references associating the Spirit with wisdom.
In John 14, Jesus foretells that the Father will give us an Advocate referring to the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of truth who will abide with you and be in you. The word we translate as Advocate is Greek meaning to come alongside. This Advocate comes alongside us for the journey of faith encouraging us, stirring up testimony within us. She defends and counsels us. She strengthens us and gives us courage.
Another reference to the Holy Spirit’s work is made in Romans chapter 8, in part of the chapter I didn’t read. The part that refers to the Holy Spirit’s work says in verses 22 – 27:
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in[o]hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes[p] for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes[q] with sighs too deep for words.27 And God,[r] who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit[s] intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.[t]
The Holy Spirit prays when we cannot pray. She is our hope and helps us.
This Spirit of wisdom, advocacy and comfort is the same within the baptized whether we go to church or not. The Spirit dwells within us and keeps us connected to God no matter where we are or where we go. As I read in Romans chapter 8 verses 38 – 39:
38 … neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I may not have had a chance to talk to that Vet about his faith, but I assumed he was a Christian. I assume, because it must be the Holy Spirit within him gifting him and encouraging him for service of his brothers and sisters whether in the military or in the community. How could anyone apart from the Spirit and the truth of the Gospel be willing to risk his life for the freedom and justice of God’s children?