Bible Text: 1 Peter 4:7-11, John 15:25-16:6 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Waiting Expectantly 1 St. Peter 4:7-11 & St. John 15:26-16:4 by William Klock This past Thursday we celebrated the Feast of Our Lord’s Ascension – one of the greatest festivals of the Christian year.  It’s really sad that we don’t do more with it, because it really is just as important as Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter when we look at the great events in the life and ministry of Jesus.  It really ought to be our great festival here in this parish.  We bear the name of Christ, who is the true, incarnate, and Living Word of God. Without the Ascension, Whitsunday has no meaning, because the coming of the Holy Spirit was the fulfilment of the promise made by Christ at his Ascension: “I’m leaving you, but I will send one to help you.”  On Friday of this week one of you came by the house and left some flowers, but because we weren’t able to receive them in person and didn’t know who they came from – at least for a few hours – there was, for that short time, a certain ambiguity about the gift.  They were appreciated and welcome, but not knowing the source made it difficult to know what to do. Just so with the gift of the Spirit.  It’s the Holy Spirit that makes the Church the Church, it’s the Holy Spirit that works in us to renew our hearts and minds and turn them to Christ.  It’s the Holy Spirit that actively works in us to stamp out sin and set us apart for God.  It’s the Holy Spirit that bears witness of the divine origin of the Gospel message itself. The Spirit is a great gift.  But that gift would never have come had Christ himself not Ascended, and without Christ’s promise to and commissioning of his followers at his Ascension, we wouldn’t know what to do with that great gift. The Ascension promise gives us hope.  It tells us that Christ is not leaving us alone to do his work.  He isn’t leaving to establish a merely heavenly Kingdom.  He’s going to his heavenly throne, but he’s doing so, so that he can rule over his spiritual kingdom here on earth.  But lest we become complacent, the Ascension promise also reminds us to get busy building our Lord’s Kingdom.  He’s is coming back and he’s coming back soon.  We have lots of work to do! And so here on this Sunday that sits between the Ascension and Whitsunday, we remember not only the promise of the Spirit that will be fulfilled a week from today, but we also remember the promise Jesus made of his sure, certain, and soon return to come back for his Bride, the Church.  As we sit here in this season of waiting, the Lessons remind us of what it is Christ calls and prepares his people to do here in the world as representatives of his heavenly Kingdom.  Look with me, if you will, at our Epistle Lesson from St. Peter’s First Epistle: The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers.  (1 Peter 4:7) I don’t know about you, but I find it really interesting that the Apostle Peter tells us this first.  “The end is near, so keep sane and keep sober.”  First, this is a caution.  Don’t freak out just because the end is near.  Don’t run around like you hair’s on fire, screaming that the end is coming tonight, tomorrow, or next week.  St. Peter also wants us to keep things in the proper perspective.  He’s telling us that the end is near, that Christ will return soon, because he wants us to understand that this gives urgency to our mission.  Think about it.  If there’s no deadline, there’s not much incentive to get the work done.  He’s saying, “The end is near.  No don’t go running off in a crazed frenzy.  We have work to do.”  It’s just like the two angels we read about in the Ascension Gospel:  Jesus ascended into heaven, and while the disciples just kept standing around staring up into space – I would bet for a pretty long time – two angels suddenly appeared with them and basically said, “Hey, why are you guys standing around staring into the sky?  Don’t you realize he’s gonna come back.  You have work to do!” There are a lot of preachers and teachers who seem to have missed the point of this.  St. Peter’s point isn’t the precise timing of Jesus return, it’s that he’s going to return so we need to get busy doing what he told us to do.   But a lot of preachers, instead of getting busy doing what Jesus told us to do, get fixated on the “time is at hand part.”  For two thousand years we’ve had men missing the whole point, misreading books like Daniel and Revelation, trying to fit the current events of their day into what’s already come and gone in the past, and ultimately getting Christians side-tracked from the real business of the Kingdom.  These off-base preachers get Christians all fired up, but not about our Gospel call – they get them all fired up about the end of the world that they think is going to happen tomorrow.  But then it doesn’t happen tomorrow.  Think of all the wasted energy that could have been put into just being the Church.  That’s why Peter says, “Stay sane.  Stay sober!”  Look at the next verses: Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another.  (1 Peter 4:8-9) People who are looking for one Lord need to draw closer together, encouraging one another, as the writer of Hebrews says, Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10:24-25) I find this really interesting.  If it were up to me, I’d be saying, “The end is at hand.  Get busy sharing the Gospel with the world out there.”  But Peter says, “The end is at hand.  Get busy loving one another.  Show each other what grace is all about.  Don’t be afraid to give of yourself to help others.”  But you see, before we can go out into the world, the Church needs to be what it is called to be in and of herself.  I think this is what St. John gets at in his First Epistle: “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, especially after what St. James told us last week about being doers, not just hearers.  It’s love and light that gather in the outcasts.  It’s love and light that keeps the flock from straying away.  It’s love and light that feeds the sheep and tends the lambs.  It’s love and light that are important to the Good Shepherd.  If you think about this from the perspective of our Epistle last week, when our Good Shepherd returns he won’t come looking for his Church based on our right belief.  No, he’ll come looking for us and will find us by seeing the evidence of our faith and belief worked out in practise.  He’ll be saying well done, good and faithful servant based on our having shown hospitality, based on how we’ve treated each other, and based on the love we’ve shown.  A master doesn’t reward his servant for knowing what he was supposed to do in the master’s absence.  He rewards the servant for actually having done it.  It’s just so for us when our Lord and master returns.  And that leads us into the rest of the Epistle: As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.  (1 Peter 4:10-11) As we await our Lord’s soon return we really do need to see ourselves as servants – more specifically as stewards of what God has given to us.  But we’re not just stewards in respect to God, were also stewards in respect to each other.  As Christians we all make up the Body of Christ and God gives each of us gifts and abilities to use to build up that body.  And not just to build it up, but to make it active so that it can do the work that God wants it to do. This has got to be the number one reason why the Church is so often ineffective.  I’m glad this isn’t the typical Church, but neither is it perfect.  In the “typical” Church 10% of the people do 90% of the work.  It’s also usually true that 10% of the people give 90% of the financial support.  Here’s something to ponder: What would happen if 10% of your body did 90% of the work.  You wouldn’t survive.  Thankfully God is gracious.  Thankfully God has built his body in such a way that it doesn’t die if only 10% of it is working.  But at the same time, the Body of Christ is crippled if the person gifted to be an ear is also forced by necessity to also be an eye and a finger, because the people gifted to be eyes and fingers aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do.  St. Peter’s telling us here, if God has gifted you – and he’s gifted all of us generously – don’t hold out.  He’s gifted you for a reason.  Not using your gifts to build up the church is just as much a sin as anything else.  We need to ask ourselves if we’re willing to give back to God for his service some of our time, talents, and treasure.  All those things came from him in the first place.  If we’re not willing to give a portion of them back to God, then we’ve got a big problem – not just personally, but the entire body – because were missing what God expects us to be using to fulfil his Great Commission. If we’ve got it all sorted out what we’re supposed to be doing internally as the Church, Christ’s Great Commission follows naturally.  The waiting Church is called to be a witnessing Church.  Look at our lesson from St. John’s Gospel: But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27) When the Counsellor comes.  In the Greek the word is parakletos.  It literally means, the one who “comes alongside.”  This is the Holy Spirit, who was sent into the world once Christ had Ascended to heaven.  He is the Spirit of Truth.  The disciples had been with Jesus through everything, and most importantly, they were eyewitnesses to his death, resurrection, and ascension.  They were called to go out and share what they had seen as witnesses, but Jesus says that the Spirit will “come alongside” as a witness too.  And the Spirit did exactly that.  The most profound instance was on Whitsunday itself.  Pastor Bill will be preaching on this next week, but we all know the story.  St. Peter got up to preach.  He talked about what Christ had done in his life, death, and resurrection.  He talked as an eyewitness, but it was when the Spirit came that the real work was done of changing hearts.  There was a great sound like wind, tongues of flame came down and rested on their heads, and the believers there started speaking in other languages.  Peter gave the message, but the Spirit backed it up with the authority of God.  The Spirit gave the signs and wonders to prove the divine source of the message.  And we see this throughout the New Testament.  You always see the Spirit providing miracles to accompany the Gospel message of the apostles.  The Spirit served as a witness to convince men and women of the truth of the Gospel. The New Testament period was a special time with a special need.  Those early disciples were sharing a message to a world that had never heard it before and had no historical witness.  They had the Old Testament, but the inspired books of the New Testament weren’t written yet, and so the Spirit manifested in ways and to an extent that it never has since.  And this is why it’s so important that the inner life of the people of God be right, as we see St. Peter saying in our Epistle.  We still do sometimes see the Spirit work those amazing miracles, but today the greatest miracle of all – and the greatest of all witnesses to the world – is the regenerated and renewed heart of the believer.  We have the authoritative Word of God written to share with the world, and to back up its truth, the Spirit renews our sinners’ hearts and puts in them a love for God that should show the world the power of the Gospel.  If the fruit of the Spirit are missing from our lives, half of our message is missing – we become hypocrites. And as we go out with our message, Jesus also give us a warning and an encouraging word here: I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away.  They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me.  But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them.  (John 15:26-16:4) Jesus promised the Spirit would come alongside.  The disciples might not have understood why they needed a divine helper, so Jesus warns them, telling them that there will come a time – not very far off – when they’d not only be thrown out of the synagogues, but that Jewish and Roman leaders alike would put them to death.  In his death and resurrection, Jesus had won the victory over Satan.  Yet in his fury Satan, like some kind of Hitleresque madman out for world domination and learning that his chances have just been shot, goes on a wild rampage of fury just before he’s finally caught and dealt with.  We see just this happening in the early years of the Church.  The Jewish nation rejected the truth of God for a lie.  They rejected God’s Messiah and turned on his people with a fury that can only be described as demonic.  They not only threw the Christians out of the synagogues, but rounded them up and brutally put them to death.  Saul of Tarsus was just one such persecuting Jew.  But even after the Jewish nation was destroyed in A.D. 70, the Roman Empire rose up against the next generation of Christians in much the same way, until God brought about his judgment on them as well, ushering in his Kingdom. The blood of the martyrs became a witness of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We’ve been spared the great tribulation that those early Christians experienced, but it’s still not always easy to confess Christ in every aspect of our lives.  We can expect to be ridiculed for giving witness to him by what we are, by what Christ has done in us, and by what we do for him.  But Jesus tells us here not to lose faith because our success comes slowly.  He predicted this from the beginning.  Jesus tells us that we run into opposition because the people around us don’t know him.  And when that happens, what we need to do is to show those people Jesus.  They need to see Jesus in us.  They need to hear about Jesus from us.  And that means being consistent followers of Christ.  The need to see the Spirit bearing witness – backing up our message – through our own changed lives. Today as we gather at our Lord’s Table, we need to remember that here Our Lord gives us a foretaste of the marriage feast that waits for us in heaven.  Those faithful martyrs of the Early Church built their hopes and future on and around the confident expectation of their Lord’s soon return.  But we today still have the same hope.  If anything I think we have even more reason to be hopeful, confident, and eager, remembering the final message of our exalted groom, “Behold, I come quickly!” For two thousand years the Church through all the ages has been kept conscious of her status as the bride of Christ and has hopefully looked forward to his return.  What’s kept her hopeful is that each Sunday the faithful are able to gather here at his Table and remember to whom we belong.  He says to us here, “Take and eat this, my body.  Take and drink, this my blood.  Do this in memory of me until I come again.”  Each Sunday we see and hear him again – we hear him remind us of his soon coming in glory, and as we hear him, we trust in his promise and wait expectantly for the hour of his return.  We are his people. Please pray with me:  Heavenly Father, we you for sending your Son to redeem us from our sins.  We thank you not only for his coming, for his death, and for his resurrection, but also for his glorious Ascension, through which we have the promise of his soon return.  We thank you for giving us the gift of your Holy Spirit as we await his return.  As we wait, Father, let us put your gifts to use.  Let us not be a complacent people, but instead let us be a people that puts your gifts to use: loving one another and showing your love to those around us in the world, that we may build your Kingdom in anticipation of your Son’s soon return.  We ask this in and through his name.  Amen.
Bible Text: 1 John 5:4-12; John 20:19-23 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year The Easter Life 1 St. John 5:4-12 & St. John 20:19-23 by William Klock Just two weeks ago we celebrated the feast day of a British teenager, who in the early 5th was kidnapped from his home by Irish pirates. His name was Patrick. Those pirates took him back to Ireland where he was sold as a slave. When he escaped he travelled to France where he entered the priesthood, following in the steps of his father and grandfather. He studied and about AD 432 was appointed to be a missionary bishop to Ireland. His great desire was to return to the people who had kidnapped him and who had made him a slave so that he could share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. As word of Patrick’s ministry spread people began to seek him out. One of those people was Findcath mac Dego, one of the Irish kings. Patrick shared the Gospel with this pagan king and with his whole entourage of warriors and druids. The king and his men took the message of Jesus Christ to heart that day and were baptised by Patrick. His instruction to the newly baptised men went something like this: “Today you have put on Christ. You have bound him to you like the armour on a Roman soldier’s chest, a lorica, is tied to him. Now you belong to Christ. As you have been washed in the well of washing and poured and sprinkled with water from above, so have you received the Spirit from Heaven. You are surrounded by Christ as the waters swelled around you in the regeneration of new life.” Patrick’s parting advice to the King was this: “My King you now belong to Christ and Christ belongs to you; go and live your Baptism.” Martin Luther described Findcath when he left Patrick that day as going out “to swim in his Baptism.” I think Luther’s words describe our new life in Christ very well. We’re to go out and swim in our Baptism. The Sacraments are the outward and visible signs of the grace that God has worked in us through his Son. Next time you go to a Christian bookstore, look around you at all the books that aim to tell us how to successfully be a Christian. Some of those books are good and lots of them are trash, but how many of them start where Patrick started – with the Sacramental sign of our being grafted into the Body of Christ? It shouldn’t be any surprise to us that Jesus forever linked Christian discileship to the sacrament of Holy Baptism when he gave his Great: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” One of the great errors of the modern Church has been to separate the very Sacraments that Our Lord ordained from his call to discipleship and our sanctification. Too often the Sacraments have become something optional. You get baptised if and when you feel like it. Holy Communion has been taken from the main gathering of God’s people on Sunday morning and has been moved to a small, optional, and poorly attended Wednesday or Sunday evening service. Jesus didn’t give us a whole lot of direct commands, but he did tell his people to do these two things: to be baptised and to receive his Supper until his coming again. These two Sacraments should be the starting point of our faith, but they aren’t just ceremonial points in time with a beginning and an end. Our baptism marks a new life – one that continues. Baptism isn’t a “been there, done that” sort of thing. It’s “been there, still there.” It’s done that, still doing that. The same goes for Communion. It’s not just something we do on Sundays. What we do on Sunday is to be a reminder to us that we live our lives in perpetual Communion with Christ. He is our spiritual nourishment. As we go down the road of discipleship, we start with our baptism and continue in Communion with our Lord as we make the journey. As modern people we want to segment or compartmentalise our lives. We go to work and live in the “work sphere.” We go home and we live in the “family sphere.” We go to church and live in the “church sphere.” A lot of us have a hard time putting it all together and realising that they’re all ongoing and part of one life. We tend to look at things as isolated events. Easter tends to be that way. We celebrate Easter one Sunday and the next we’re on to something else. But the Church knows better than that. That’s why we celebrate Easter for fifty days. It’s a reminder that Easter is the reality of the Christian life – that every day is an Easter for each of us as we celebrate and live in Christ’s resurrection. The Resurrection is supposed to have a lasting effect on us. In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul writes, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). We need to rebuild our lives on the grace of Easter and that means building on a solid foundation of faith. The Sacraments are signs and seals of Gods grace. As they communicate God’s promises to us they confirm and strengthen the faith that God calls us to live daily. Our Epistle lesson tells us that the victory that overcomes the world is that faith. In the Gospel lesson Jesus says to Thomas, “have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Our faith is what gives us the desire to put into action what God has taught us. Faith should never stop with head knowledge or intellectual assent – our faith has to go into action. The problem is that our human nature is inconsistent. We stumble and fall. But God knows we’re prone to getting weak as we journey with him. He knows that and he gives us the grace to persevere. In the Epistle we’re told that Christ comes to us in both water and blood and by the Spirit. All three are there to encourage us. Our baptism is a reminder that we are not of this fallen world – we’re a part of Christ’s Body – and the Holy Communion reminds us that we receive our life from Christ. These are what give us strength to persevere when we’re spiritually tired. In Romans 6, St. Paul tells us that all who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death. As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, should walk in newness of life. Last Sunday our focus was on the Resurrection. But it’s important that we remember that the resurrection isn’t something that just relates to Jesus – it related to us to. St. Paul wrote to Timothy: “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11). So we need to ask, “What does it mean that we partake of Christ’s resurrection too?” Look at our Epistle lesson, 1 John 5:4-5: For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? The power for the risen life comes from union with our risen Saviour. We know that we’re citizens of God’s Kingdom, but until we either die or Jesus comes again, we all have to spend our earthly lives living in a sinful and fallen world. If you remember back a few weeks, the lessons of the first three Sundays in Lent put our focus on how we’re assaulted by the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We might be God’s children, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still face very real temptations and struggles with what we’ve been called away from. The only way that we can overcome the ways of our old lives is by a life and an energy from a higher source. The Christian must be “born from above.” It’s not enough to have head knowledge, as I said earlier. It’s not enough to accept Christ as a teacher who came to show us a higher and better way for living. If that’s all we do, then all we have is a higher standard than others, but no real power to rise to it. The difference comes when we believe that our Teacher and Master is the Son of God who was resurrected and has triumphed over sin and death. We can find the grace and power to live according to his commandments when we understand Jesus is the Son of God. Through faith we receive the grace of God. Our old selves are buried with him in the grave and we born again through his Easter Resurrection. Because he has already conquered sin and death, he gives us the power to do so to. As citizens of his Kingdom, living under his victorious reign we live the new life that he gives – we overcome the world. The bringer of life is Christ. Look at verse 6: This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. Christ came by water and by blood. First, he came to cleanse us from our sins by the washing of water. The baptism that he commanded is the outward sign of the remission of our sins and his relieving us of our guilt and punishment. In him every sin we have ever committed is washed away. Because of Christ’s cleansing us, we can stand before a holy and just God and not be condemned. Jesus received our condemnation. He is our life. Because of that, every remission of sins after our baptism is only the renewal of the grace that has been given to us. St. Paul also wrote to Titus about baptism being the washing of regeneration the means by which we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, which then works in us to renew our hearts and minds and make us fit servants of God(Titus 3:5. Baptism incorporates us into the living Body of Christ. It grafts us into the living Vine and makes old dead wood that could produce nothing to be alive with the Spirit so that it can bear new fruit. We are taken into a new covenant with God, being baptised into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because Christ died for us – he took our punishment on himself – we have a new standing before God. When the soldier pierced Jesus side as he was hanging on the cross “there came out blood and water,” to signify the cleansing power of his blood. Secondly, St. John emphatically adds: “Not with water only but with water and the blood.” The blood is the life. Remember all the way back to Genesis: God warned Noah “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4). God taught his people over and over that blood is life. The old sacrificial system taught that blood – life – had to be shed to cover sins. When a sacrifice was made in the Tabernacle of the Temple, the point wasn’t to symbolise an offering of death. The shedding of blood on the altar was a symbolic offering of life to atone for sin. The whole point of the Old Testament sacrificial system was to teach God’s people that innocent blood must be shed to cover sins. Those imperfect sacrifices of dumb animals pointed to the perfect sacrifice that Christ made for us in his own death. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He gives us that abundant life through is blood. Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever” (John 6:53-58). We are grafted into his Body and we receive our nourishment from him. The Holy Communion is the outward sign and seal of that grace. Through his blood we abide in the living Christ and he abides in us. Finally, look at verses 7-12: And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. St. John’s train of thought is plain. The life given by the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood is the ongoing and perpetual witness to the Son of God. The Holy Spirit creates new life in us, which is seen outwardly in our baptism, and then the Spirit feeds and strengths that life through our communion with Christ as we receive his body and blood, our heavenly food. The very fact that we live – and when we’re all gathered together, that the Church lives – is the evidence of the claim that Jesus has made to be our Lord. This isn’t the testimony or witness of men; it’s the witness of God the Holy Spirit living in men. It might come through men and women, but that’s because each believer lives again in Christ and can witness him. Life comes from life, and the risen Christian proves a risen Christ to be the source of our Christianity. In fact, the growth of the Church – of the Body of Christ – is the ongoing growing and strengthening witness to Christ in the world. St. John Chrysostom wrote: The Chruch consisteth of these two together, and those who are initiated know this, being regenerated by water and nourished by the Blood and Flesh. Hence the Sacraments take their beginning” (Homily 85). The Church fulfils her mission and grows as she abides in Christ and he abides in her. To be the Church means that we stress this new life above all else. In our Gospel lesson this morning we see Jesus giving his divine commission to the disciples. They were laying low and hiding out from the authorities when Jesus appeared in the room before them. And yet Jesus gave these men calm assurance. He came into the room and simply said, “Peace be with you.” They saw his pierced hands and his feet and that was all they needed. St. John says that they were glad to see their risen Lord. But notice that Jesus didn’t just come to give a little bit of reassurance to a group of men who feared that the authorities might come for them next – to crucify them the same way their Lord had been. No, Jesus reassured them and gave them a commission: Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Think about it. Those disciples were scared. When Jesus was before the Sanhedrin Peter had been identified as one of his followers. They were afraid to show their faces in Jerusalem. Jesus came to give them reassurance, but that’s not all – he and call them to go out and boldly proclaim that the Kingdom of God had come, just as he had spent the last three years proclaiming that same Kingdom. They just wanted to hide and Jesus said, “No! God out and boldly proclaim the message I gave you!” You see, too often we as Christian are happy to receive Christ’s comfort. We’re happy that we’ve been saved from our sins. We’re happy to leave sin behind and live our lives, by the help of the Spirit, in ways that are pleasing to God. But does that involve actually going out into the world to use those Spirit-given gifts to proclaim the Kingdom of God? The Father didn’t send the Spirit just to make us feel warm and fuzzy. He sent the Spirit to empower his people for service and ministry. Pentecost wasn’t about feeling warm and fuzzy or about having nice feelings about God. It was about boldly proclaiming a message of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The early Christians understood what it meant to be Easter people – to be people united with Christ in his Resurrection. But Jesus breathes on each of us too. To swim in your baptism, as Luther used to put it, means to live the Spirit-filled life. God fills each of us with his Spirit just as he did those disciples he breathed on as he commissioned them. Jesus empowered his disciples and said to them, “I send you.” And he does the same to each of us. Take those words in our Gospel lesson as if they were spoken to you. This is where we start. We find our risen life in our risen Saviour. We have been joined with him and we find our spiritual food in him. When Christ died and rose from the dead he crushed the head of the Serpent. St. John described in his vision, how the angel chained that old Serpent, the Devil, and threw him into the pit. On the cross, Christ bought not only his victory, but our own, and now he sits in heaven at the right hand of the Father where he reigns over his Kingdom. His disciples huddled fearfully in that room with the doors and windows shut, fearing the world outside and what might happen to them if they showed their faces in Jerusalem. They didn’t realize that they had nothing to fear. Our Lord and Master is ruler over all and has won the victory for us. Too often we’re just like the disciples. Jesus says to each of us, “I send you,” but we’re afraid. We just need to remember that he reigns and that we have nothing to fear when we go out in his name. That was what drove those early Christians, even when they suffered martyrdom. They understood what it meant to be an Easter people. They understood what it meant to be citizens of God’s Kingdom. They knew what it meant for their Lord to have already won the victory. I’m reminded of the chorus of a popular hymn – it’s not a typical Anglican hymn – but I think the words really sum up the life we find in our risen Saviour: O victory in Jesus, My saviour forever, He sought me and he bought me With his redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew him, And all my love is due him, He plunged me to victory, Beneath the cleansing flood.
Bible Text: Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-10 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Therefore Let Us Keep the Feast Colossians 3:1-4, 1Corinthians 5:6-8, and St. John 20:1-10 by William Klock In our Gospel lesson this morning we read St. John's account of that first Easter morning – of Mary's coming to the tomb where Jesus had been laid after being taken down from the cross.  She arrived in the darkness just before sunrise and when she got there she found that giant stone that had been used to seal the tomb's entrance had been rolled away.  She panicked, thinking that someone had stolen Jesus' body.  In the other Gospel accounts we're told that when she went into the tomb she was met by an angel who calmed her and told her that the body wasn't stolen, but that Jesus had actually been raised from the dead.  And so she ran to tell Peter and the other disciples the good news.  When they came they ran into the tomb and, we're told, “saw” the empty linens used to wrap Jesus' body, and that they “believed” what the angel had told Mary. Today we celebrate that empty tomb, but what are the implications of that empty tomb for us?  I think it's easy to understand the implications of Jesus' death – he who was perfect, he who knew no sin, took our sins upon himself and died in payment for them.  When we put our faith – our trust – in Jesus’ sacrifice, we can stand before God and instead of seeing us clothed in the filthy, tattered, and stinking rags of sin, all he sees is the righteousness of Christ.  Instead of being driven away from the holy presence of God by our sin, through Christ we are drawn into his holy presence.  The fellowship with God that was lost when Adam and Eve sinned is restored as Jesus, the second Adam, sheds his blood to wash us clean.  That's what Jesus did for us in his death.  But what about his resurrection? I think most Christians can pretty easily explain why Jesus had to die.  But my experience is that we have a lot of difficulty explaining why his Resurrection was just as necessary.  St. Paul explained the implications of the Resurections to both the Colossian and Corinthian Christians.  Those are the two epistle lessons appointed for Easter. Look at the first with me.  St. Paul writes: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Colossians 3:1-4) Not only has our old and sinful self been crucified with Christ – dead and buried in that tomb with him – but we have also been raised with Christ.  His death redeems us from our sins.  Our “old man,” as Paul calls him, was nailed to the cross with Christ and is now dead.  But what then?  You see, there has to be a “new man” to replace him.  It's not enough to forgive our sins and put us on neutral ground before God.  In Christ's resurrection we are raised with him.  Just as our old man died on the cross with Jesus, our new man was born on that first Easter morning.  St. Paul could have written something like this: “If then you have been crucified with Christ, know that your sins are dead, buried with Christ, in the grave.”  There are some that take the Gospel only far, but stop at that point.  “I’m forgiven; that’s enough.  My sins are forgiven and when it comes to heaven, I’m good to go!”  I guess that there’s some comfort in knowing that our sins have been buried with Christ, but if the message stops at that point, there's no hope – nothing to turn our hearts and minds heavenward.  There would be forgiveness, but we’d still be the same sinful people.  There’d be no change.  That’s not the Gospel, it’s only the first part of the story.  Not to mention that without the Resurrection, Paul could tell us that we’ve been forgiven, but what evidence would we have of it?  We’d always be asking, “Was Jesus sacrifice really good enough?  Was it really accepted by the Father?”  Was Jesus really God incarnate or just another guy making that claim like so many others? You see, Jesus’ resurrection solves all those problems.  Because we have died with him, were also raised to new life in him.  Because he was raised from the dead, we know that his sacrifice was acceptable to God – the Father didn’t just leave him in the tomb.  And because he rose again, we see the validation of Jesus’ message that he really was God incarnate – the second person of the Trinity come as one of us.  Jesus resurrection doesn’t leave us forgiven and just on neutral ground before the Father – it’s the Resurrection that credits our account with something positive! It's because of the Resurrection that St. Paul can exhort us saying, “ Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” and “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Those are the two main implications of the Resurrection: First, a calling to a new kind of life – a righteous life lived for God – and, second, a hope for the future – a hope that tells us that there's more to life than the battle we fight here on earth. St. Paul made exactly this point when he wrote to the Corinthian Christians, saying: If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.    But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Corinthians 15:17-20) The Gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of our new life.  It's what the saints of the Old Testament hoped for and it's what the Old Testament prophets foretold would come.  The Old Testament Law was a reminder of our sinfulness, but in it we only find death.  The Law could never create life where there was death – it tells us what we should be doing, but it doesn't give us a way to do it.  It gives a standard of holiness, but no way to live up to it.  Ultimately it shows us our own sinfulness in light of the perfect and ultimate holiness of God.  It reminds us, when we're tempted to rationalise our sin or think more highly of ourselves than we ought to, that were we to enter the presence of God as we are, we would merit nothing but eternal punishment.  John Bunyan wrote: Run, John, run, the Law commands But gives us neither feet nor hands, Far better news the Gospel brings: It bids us fly and gives us wings. The Gospel message of Easter is what brings life to the dead.  The practical application of the Easter message is found in the second Easter epistle lesson, which also happens to be from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians: Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6b-8) Christ as our Passover is a reference to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.  You all know the story of the ten plagues that God unleashed on Egypt because of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart.  In sending the final plague, God took the life of every firstborn son in Egypt.  The Israelites were spared as they obeyed God's command to sacrifice a spotless, year-old lamb.  The lamb was to be killed, roasted, and eaten and then the blood was painted on the lintel and doorposts of the home as a sign to the Angel of Death to “pass over” that house.  By the blood of an innocent, the Israelites were saved.  Note that they weren't called to make a personal sacrifice, cutting themselves and putting their own blood on the doorposts.  What good was the shed blood of a sinner?  They had to take the life of an innocent animal, guilty of no sin, and paint its blood on the doorposts.  Their salvation was dependent not on themselves, but on the blood of another. And so here the Apostle refers to that ancient event of the salvation of the Jewish people and describes Christ as our Passover lamb.  The first Passover in Egypt pointed to Christ, the perfect Passover lamb.  The Old Testament lamb was only that, a dumb animal, however innocent it may have been.  There was nothing in that animal that could cover human sin, but in making the sacrifice the ancient Israelites made an acclamation of faith and put their trust in the gracious mercy of God to forgive them.  Notice: God warned that his judgement was coming.  If the people would only trust in what he told them to do – to sacrifice a pure lamb and paint its blood on the doorpost, the angel of death would pass by.  Ultimately it was a call to faith. In Christ we see God himself, the Word Incarnate, humbling himself and becoming the perfectPassover sacrifice.  We, too, were prisoners in the land of Egypt and in danger of death.  We were once the captives and slaves of sin, prisoners of the Devil with no hope but an eternity of hell and damnation.  But in Christ we have been delivered and led out of that slavery into a new life in the Promised Land of the Kingdom of God.  St. Peter writes, “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).  As we sing in one of the great Easter hymns: Where the Paschal blood is poured, Death's dark angel sheathes his sword; Israel's hosts triumphant go Through the wave that drowns the foe. Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed, Paschal victim, Paschal bread; With sincerity and love Eat we manna from above. By his sacrifice Christ has bought our freedom from the power of sin and death.  We have the perfect Passover lamb in Christ.  And so it's only “meet and right” that we “celebrate the feast.”  The blood of the first Passover lamb was painted on the doorposts for one night and served as the peoples' redemption for one night, but Christ is always our Passover lamb, as he pleads his shed blood before the Father constantly.  And so shouldn't our celebration be constant too?  I guess the question then is: How do we do that? The Jewish Passover celebration required that the lamb be entirely consumed – nothing was to be left over.  Maybe even more than painting the blood on the doorposts, this was the critical part of the Passover feast.  It's just as critical for us.  The most important thing for us is that we appropriate for ourselves the Passover Lamb.  The eating of the lamb by the Israelites symbolised their appropriation of the blessing given by the lamb.  Not understanding and not knowing about the future Messiah, the greatest symbol for them was the blood on the doorposts, but in eating the lamb they were also symbolically appropriating its sacrifice for themselves.  But where they did it once and did it symbolically, we do it as a spiritual reality and we do it constantly.  We do it by faith.  We rejoice over our Saviour, who died and rose for us.  We claim his promises as our own and live day by day in the grace of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to do his sanctifying work of renewal in our lives.  We set out minds on the things that are above knowing that even if we have not been physically raised to heaven, we have been spiritually raised to new life with Christ and that the Kingdom of God is a reality for us here and now. We are an “Easter People,” not because we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection as it rolls around the Church's calendar every spring, but because we live daily, hour by hour and minute by minute, the new life that Christ has given us.  We gather for corporate worship each Sunday, because it was on Sunday that Christ rose from the dead – each Sunday is effectively a “mini-Easter.” But more than celebrating Easter once a year or every Sunday, we are to celebrate Easter every day.  As Christians we have life because Christ has become our spiritual sustenance.  Jesus has given us the bread and wine as an illustration of what he has done for us in giving his own body and blood as a sacrifice for sin.  Our physical bodies will never survive without our daily bread and similarly we can never spiritually survive without daily coming to Christ, our Passover lamb, and keeping his feast.  This is the only way that we can be confident and no longer fear death and judgement, devil and hell, because of our sins.  St. Paul is calling us to exercise this faith constantly, in every part of our lives, in every need and temptation.  This is how we appropriate the power of Christ's resurrection: by making our lives a constant celebration of Easter. Whenever we gather together to hear the Gospel preached and to receive the Sacrament, and believe and take comfort in what's offered and sealed to us, we are partaking of our Passover lamb and rejoicing in his resurrection.  Whenever our consciences accuse us and drive us to confess our sin in shame and sorrow, remembering again that on our own we earn nothing but God's anger and judgement, and yet we remember the words, “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?...It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead for us,” we partake of our Passover lamb and celebrate his feast.  When hard times and difficult situations beat us down and we don't feel like we have anything left and can't go on, but in faith repeat those words, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” in this too we partake of Jesus by faith and celebrate his Passover feast.  When we go to pray and realise how unworthy we are to come before the throne of God, but remember that we pray in the name of Jesus; or when we realise how kind the Lord is and that this grace is ours through Christ, and we lift our hearts in thanksgiving, all this is a celebration of Easter as we take comfort in what Christ has done for us, the Risen One.  In him we rejoice in faith.  When we find ourselves filled with the fear of death and hell and remember that the Risen One has already conquered death and hell, and our hearts and mouths sing St. Paul's song of triumph: “O Death, where is thy sting?  O Grave, where is thy victory?” this is to believe in Christ, the Risen One and to rejoice in his victory. We celebrate Easter as we do all of these things.  The question is: Do we know it?  Do we live with it?  [Maybe you've never taken part in this celebration of Easter.  You may not be a Christian and have never partaken of the new life of the Rise One and been raised to new life yourself.  Christ died and rose for you too.  If you can understand your own sinfulness, you can appropriate new life yourself.  If you can understand that in your natural state, you are separated from the holy presence of God, you too can be reconciled to him through Christ.  You too can take comfort in Jesus.  If there is a hunger in you for God's grace and forgiveness of sins through Christ's death and resurrection, then take your place at the Easter table.  The lamb is prepared also for you.  Eat and partake of him by faith and your soul will be refreshed.]  As Christians we know the celebration of Easter, but we can always know it better.  We can always be more diligent about it.  The more we make use of our Passover lamb, the more like him we will become, the more blessed we will be, and the closer to God we will come.  I urge you, make your life a constant celebration of Easter.  Knowing that we have been raised with Christ, let us daily set our minds on things above, finding new life in our Risen Lord and at his Easter table.  His table is always set and he is always ready for us to join him. Let us pray: Almighty God, through your only Son Jesus Christ you have conquered death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: by your grace put good desires into our minds and, in your mercy, help us to bring them to their fulfilment, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Bible Text: Acts 2:1-11; John 15:26-16:15 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year When the Helper comes Acts 2:1-11 & St. John 15:26-16:15 by William Klock Today is the day when we draw to a close the first half of the Church Year.  If you notice, during the first half of the year the lessons take us through the life of Christ.  During the second half of the year they take us through the life of the believer – giving us a sort of overview of what it means to live the Christian life that comes as a result of the Gospel message we heard during the first half. So today, Whitsunday or Pentecost, we come to the story, as we just heard it read from Acts 2, where the Gospel story itself ends and the story of our life in that Gospel begins.  We started in Advent with the proclamation that the new life was going to come in the person of the Messiah.  At Christmas we heard the message that God had come himself – incarnate as one of us.  He lived like us with the one very important exception: where we are sinners, he was not.  He fulfilled the Law.  During Holy Week we followed him from the Upper Room to the Cross and finally to the Tomb – we followed him as he who knew no sin, became sin for us and bought our redemption.  He took God’s wrath and punishment for sin in our place.  And on Easter we followed his disciples to the tomb and found it empty – empty because God had raised him from the dead.  We received the message that we are raised to new life with him.  Good stuff!  But it didn’t end there.  A week-and-a-half-ago we followed Jesus and his disciples outside the city and heard those men receive their commission from him: Go out and share the good news.  Go out and baptize and make disciples!  And then he rose to heaven. The funny thing through all that is all along Jesus was preaching his message of the kingdom of God – that it wasn’t about a place, but about a person and was something that reigns in our hearts as we are joined to that person (to him).  And yet at every step the disciples kept stopping to ask him, “Yeah, Jesus, that’s great, but when are you going to work your Messiah stuff, throw off this poor itinerant preacher disguise, kick out the Romans and rebuild the great kingdom that we knew when David and Solomon were kings in Israel?”  They didn’t get it.  Even as he was preparing to ascend to heaven and take his throne, they were asking him when he was going to restore the “Kingdom of Israel.” And so last week we read the story of Jesus’ ascension – how he returned to heaven to sit down on his throne and rule his kingdom.  The disciples still didn’t get it.  And yet Jesus had told them before that he couldn’t stay – he had to go so that he could send another.  We read one of those passages in our Gospel this morning: John 15:26-27: But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. A few verses later, in Chapter 16, Jesus explains it to them in more detail. He says, I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me… I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.   Jesus has been providing the teaching, he’s done the work of redemption, but it’s the “Helper,” literally in Greek it’s the “one who is called alongside” is the one who has to come and put it all into action.  Each person of the Trinity has his own part in this whole work of restoration.  It was the Father who sent the Son.  It was the Son who died and rose again accomplishing the actual work of redemption.  And it’s then the Spirit who works in the hearts of men to turn them to Christ and to give them understanding.  Think about that.  Consider the fact that these guys had been following Christ around for three years, not just hearing him preach, but living with him and engaging in personal conversation with him – and yet they still didn’t have a clue as to what he was really all about.  They were still looking for an earthly conquering hero.  As much as they didn’t want their friend to leave, he needed to so that his Spirit – the Helper as St. John calls him – could be sent to complete the work.  Jesus goes on to say: And when [the Helper] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The job of the Holy Spirit is to awaken the deadened hearts of men and women to their need for a Saviour.  Again, Jesus has to go so that he can send the Spirit.  Without the work of the Spirit those cold and stony hearts will never be turned to Jesus Christ.  Without the Spirit they will never be softened.  Without the Spirit we’ll never have those “hearts of flesh” God told Ezekiel about. From time to time we need this reminder of what the Spirit’s work is.  Sometimes we overstep our bounds.  Jesus calls us to proclaim the message of the Gospel, but  it’s the Spirit’s work to convict hearts and to make them understand the message we preach.  You and I can never move someone’s heart to believe the Good News, and yet throughout history we’ve seen Christian step over the line.  Our job is evangelism.  The Spirit’s job is to make it fruitful.  You can’t judge the work of an evangelist by the fruit, because the fruit isn’t something he has any control over.  It also means that we need to examine our evangelistic methods.  Are we pressuring, manipulating, and cajoling in order to force fruit ourselves, or are we sticking to our part – sharing the Good News – while relying on the Spirit to bear fruit? But there’s more to the Spirit’s work than convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgement in the world.  Jesus goes on: I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [We’ve been seeing that all along through the story!] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:4-5, 7-15) The ministry of the Spirit is first and foremost to take what Jesus has said and apply it to our hearts as he gives us understanding.  This is what the disciples had been missing all along.  This is what the world is missing when it hears the Gospel message, but chalks it up as foolishness.  It’s the result of our fallen and sinful natures.  God created us to understand him, but because we have sinned, our understanding, our reason, our thought processes have all been tainted with sin.  Even with the Spirit dwelling in us, St. Paul says that even then we still see as through a darkened mirror.  Without the Spirit we can’t see at all.  Without the Spirit our hearts are naturally against God.  So the most important working of the Spirit is to open our eyes to God’s truth.  Jesus notes that the Spirit doesn’t speak on his own authority, but that the work of the Spirit is to declare – to make understood – to us the message of Jesus Christ. Notice also Jesus says that the function of the Spirit is to give him glory.  Even though there is equality within the Holy Trinity, there is still a hierarchy within the relationships of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  Jesus is subordinate to the Father, just as any son is subordinate to his earthly father.  Notice that throughout Jesus’ ministry he tells us that his purpose is to glorify the Father – never once does he bring glory on himself.  In fact, that was what Satan tempted him with in the wilderness.  And so with the Holy Spirit, except that the Spirit’s ministry is to glorify Christ.  The Spirit never glorifies himself.  Notice that the Spirit never attracts attention to himself.  His mission is to point us to Christ and Christ’s mission then is to point us to and reconcile us with the Father. All this is exactly what happened at Pentecost.  When Jesus ascended he commissioned his disciples, telling them that they were to go out to all the world to be his witnesses, first to Jerusalem and to Judea, but them to Samaria and eventually to the whole world.  But, he said, you need to go to Jerusalem and wait.  I need to return to my Father, but when I get there, I will send the Helper – my Spirit – who will indwell you and enable you to do all these things I’ve commissioned you to do. And that’s what they did.  They went back to Jerusalem.  St. Luke tells us that for the next week-and-a-half, they didn’t just sit on their hand waiting for the promised power to come, but spent their time in the temple praising and blessing God. And then Luke tells us that when the day of Pentecost had come – the second of the Jewish harvest festivals when the city of packed with Jews from all over the world – the disciples were all gathered in one place.  Presumably when he says “all,” he’s talking about the whole 120 of them.  Tradition says they were gathered in the same “upper room” where Jesus had instituted his Supper.  He says in Acts 2: And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and beganto speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (Acts 2:2-4) This was what they had been waiting for.  It’s appropriate that the Spirit came as it did.  Jesus had described the working of the Spirit as gentle breeze – and that’s very true – but here on the day when the Spirit was given to the Church – on the very birthday of the Church – he came with the sound not of a little rustling breeze, but with the sound of a storm.  And it’s interesting that St. Luke is specific.  It’s not that the Spirit came as a wind, but specifically that he came with the sound of a mighty wind, which tells us something about the way he works. And as something that looked like tongues of fire rested on their heads, that sound of the mighty wind broke into the sound of those 120 disciples suddenly speaking in other languages as the Spirit directed them.  What happened?  Luke doesn’t give full details.  All he says is that they started speaking in other languages.  The Greek word used refers specifically to known languages.  It was a reversal of what had happened at Babel, when God had confused and scattered the human race by confusing their languages.  Now at Pentecost he brings them back together – not by their own doing, but by the power of his Spirit and through unity in Jesus Christ.  For that reason it seems unlikely that they were all shouting at once.  This wasn’t a chaotic scene.  Luke says that they spoke in these languages as the Spirit gave them utterance – as the Spirit directed. Now remember that for the festival there were Jews in the city from all over the world.  If the disciples were in the Upper Room, they weren’t very far from the Temple.  The men outside heard the sound – presumably the sound that was like a mighty wind – and went to investigate, and when they got there, all these foreigners heard the gathered disciples speaking their own languages.  Jews from Rome heard men speaking in Latin and Jews from Greece heard men speaking in Greek, and they said, “What’s up with this?  These guys are all locals from Galilee – they’re yokels!  I mean, maybe we could expect them to speak Greek and some of them a little Latin, but they’re speaking in all sorts of languages!  Our languages!” Some of those who heard were convinced that those speaking in these other languages were drunk, but the speaking caught the attention of lots of them who listened and heard the disciples telling them of God’s mighty works.  As the crowd gathered the little group of 120 attracted thousands.  We don’t know how many thousands, just that the end result of what the Spirit did on that day was that three thousand came to faith in Christ. The only place in Jerusalem big enough to handle that kind of crowd was the temple environs.  St. Luke doesn’t say how they got there from the Upper Room, which was nearby, but one tradition describes the crowd growing as foreigners were attracted, hearing their own languages spoken, and that groups started forming outside the house, men from each province gathering around the disciples speaking their language, listening to them talk about God’s mighty works as they all made their way up to the temple.  However it happened, the temple has to be where they ended up. And when they got their St. Peter spoke up and began preaching to them.  And this to me is the most remarkable thing that happened on Pentecost – the thing that shows more than anything else that the Spirit was at work and that shows us what the primary ministry of the Spirit is.  Peter suddenly understood! Remember how all along Jesus preached about the kingdom of God, and all that time the disciples kept not getting it.  Even on the Mount of Olives, just before he ascended, the disciples were asking him, “Okay, Jesus, all this stuff you’ve done is really cool – especially the whole rising from the dead thing – but when are you going to do what you came here to do?  When are you going to defeat the Romans?  When are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?  When are you going to make the Jews great again?”  Even at the very end, the disciples didn’t get it.  And now suddenly, Peter stand up before the crowd – and he gets it.  And he starts preaching to them the Good News – and the coolest part is that where before he was looking back at all those Old Testament prophecies that the Jews thought were about the restoration of an earthly kingdom, now suddenly he understands them.  He starts preaching Christ and the kingdom of God from those same passages he’d never understood before. At the same time the Spirit was at work in the people listening.  St. Luke says they were “cut to the heart.”  They ask Peter what they should do, and Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Luke says that three thousand did just that and as the weeks and months went by more and more did the same – and they did so as the Spirit did what he was sent to do: to turn our hearts toward Christ and to open eyes and ears to the truth of the Gospel. Of course, we can’t forget that the work of the Spirit goes beyond Pentecost.  The purpose of the Spirit is to unite us to Christ.  He’s the one who grafts us into Christ, the vine, so that we can have new life.  And of course St. Paul reminds us of the results of that change.  In Galatians he lists the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like those.  Those are the behaviours that describe our life before Christ, but as the Spirit indwells us our lives are changed, we receive life from Christ the vine and the Spirit causes us to bear his fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those are the evidences of the indwelling Spirit.  Doing amazing things and working miracles, casting out demons and prophesying, speaking in tongues or healing, are often signs the Spirit works to validate the message, but even Jesus warns us that those things can be counterfeited and often will be – we saw that just a few weeks ago in the Sermon on the Mount.  The real evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a changed life – a life that bears the fruit of the Spirit – and that’s the greatest miracle of all! If the Spirit chooses to work miracles sometimes to add extra weight to the Gospel message, that’s great, but the consistent message throughout Scripture, and especially the New Testament is that we are called to witness the Gospel by living it, by bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  Where there is love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control you know you’re dealing with a person full of the Spirit and because of that a person who is grafted into Jesus Christ.  That’s what the world needs to see in us. I want to close with an example from the Old Testament. Samson was a man who had been gift by the Spirit.  In his case it was supernatural strength. The Spirit doesn’t give us gifts today for no reason and he didn’t then – in fact, when he did in those days it had to be for some reallyimportant purpose.  Samson was truly gifted in regard to his strength.  He was also called to exhibit godliness as one of God’s elect, but even more so because of his Nazirite vow.  He was to be especially dedicated to God and to his kingdom.  And yet throughout his life, despite his calling to holiness, he consistently lived in an unholy and ungodly way.  He lived in direct disobedience of not only his vows, but of the Law.  Samson took the gift of strength that God had given him to use for his kingdom and instead used it to take advantage of people and to basically be an all around jerk. Had Samson followed God closely it boggles the mind to think what he could have done to witness the glory of God, but instead he abused God’s gift.  In the end God used him for two things: first, to bring the house down with his strength and kill a whole bunch of Philistines, and second, to be a lesson to us: don’t’ be like Samson.  Don’t squander and abuse the gifts God gives.  I often wonder if some of the Philistines might somehow have had their eyes opened to God had Samson exhibited what the New Testament calls the fruit of the Spirit. Each of us is gifted by the Spirit.  Some of us having amazing gifts like Samson did and some of us have more mundane gifts, but the Spirit gives them to each of us for the purpose of building his kingdom and building up his body – no gift is more important than another.  But those gifts are only used appropriately as we live in the Spirit and bear Christ-like fruit.  The Corinthians were being kind of like Samson.  Some of them had been given amazing gifts by the Spirit, but instead of using them to build up the Body, they were using them to build up themselves, to show others their supposed superiority, and in many ways just being jerks.  And Paul wrote to them, showing them how they were abusing those gifts.  One person’s gift doesn’t make them any more special than someone else.  Just because your gift is a “wow” gift, doesn’t make it better than someone else’s gift that isn’t a “wow” gift.  Far more important than the gifts is the fruit.  And that’s where he goes on to talk about the supremacy of love – the foremost of the Spirit’s fruit.  The fruit, not these other gifts, is the most conclusive manifesting of the indwelling Spirit.  That fruit – that life lived with the indwelling Spirit – needs to be our primary focus because it’s only in combination with living that Spirit-filled life that our other gifts will build the kingdom of God and bless the Body. Please pray with me:  Heavenly Father, you not only sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to purchase our redemption from sin and death, but you sent your Spirit to turn our stony hearts into hearts of flesh, that we might understand and receive your Gospel. Today Father we ask again for your Spirit to do his work, that we might not merely believe your Gospel, but that we might also receive your power to live it, that we might bear the fruit of the Spirit and be living witnesses of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.
Bible Text: John 1:1-18 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year What child is this? St. John 1:1-18 by William Klock What child is this? St. John 1:1-18 Before we prayed the collect and heard the lessons, we sang in the carol: What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? What child is this? We sang the answer in the refrain: This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the son of Mary. The Babe is Christ the King. But who is Christ? Why is he king? And where is his kingdom? “What child is this?” is the all-important question and depending on who you ask, you might get a host of different answers. So this evening I want to look at our Gospel lesson for the authoritative answer. Not only is the answer there Holy Spirit-inspired, but it was written by the one who knew Jesus more closely than anyone else – by St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. In these opening verses of his gospel, he lays out for us five truths about Jesus – about the Word-made-flesh or the Word Incarnate – that we might know who he is. The first truth about the Word Incarnate is that his is Jesus Christ. In verse 17 St. John tells us: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. You’ll remember from St. Matthew’s telling of the Christmas story that “Jesus” was the name that Joseph was told to give the child, because it means “Saviour.” Matthew writes: An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (St. Matthew 1:20-21) “Christ” was a Greek form of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” the long-awaited king of the Jews who would bring victory to the people and bear the government of the world on his shoulders, as Isaiah prophesied. Jesus’ own disciples recognised him as this Christ – as this Messiah. When Andrew, Peter’s brother, told him he hat met Jesus he said, “We have found the Messiah”, and then John adds, “(which means Christ).” What child is this? John tells us that he is Jesus Christ. That he is Jesus the Saviour and that he is the Christ, the Messiah: the great King. The second truth in these verses is that the Word Incarnate existed as God and with God before he was born in human flesh. St. John says in the first verse of our Gospel lesson: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This just might be one of the most attacked verses of Scripture in all of history. Almost every major heresy, false doctrine, or cult is, at its core, rooted in some kind of misunderstanding of the nature of the Holy Trinity and especially of the person and nature of Jesus. This is why the early Church worked so hard to establish who God is and especially who Christ is. That’s how we got our Creeds that we recite each week. This verse has often come under attack because it states so clearly who Jesus is: that before he came to earth and took on human form, he was God. But further, that Jesus was not as God the sum total of the Godhead, but that he existed with God – with the Father – both God, the same in substance, and yet each distinct in person. Each one, the Father, and the pre-incarnate Word, existed together in unity, but also as distinct persons within the Holy Trinity. What child is this? He’s not only man, but just as fully God. It’s for this reason, that when we worship Jesus Christ, we bow before him and proclaim with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” Now, we’ve been talking about the Word Incarnate. Why the “Word”? That’s the third truth: Before he became incarnate – before he took on human flesh – John says he was called the “Word.” Again, looking at verse 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The fact that the Second Person of the Trinity is called the Word tells us something about God. Consider if he were called the Deed. “In the beginning was the Deed, and the Deed was with God, and the Deed was God.” Deeds speak loudly, but they don’t always speak clearly. Consider that our deeds are prone to misunderstanding, which is why we so often find ourselves explaining them with words. Yes, God did mighty deeds in history, but he gave priority to explaining them to us with words. Could Jesus have been the Thought? “In the beginning was the Thought, and the Thought was with God, and the Thought was God.” That doesn’t work either. As much as our thoughts might turn outward toward others, they’re something that exist solely within us. Words, on the other hand, are something outward focused – something we specifically use to communicate with others. And that’s just what God’s Word does – he communicates to us and with us. What about the Feeling? “In the beginning was the Feeling, and the Feeling was with God, and the Feeling was God.” Again, just as with our deeds, feelings aren’t always clear – they need explanation. What child is this? This is the Word. This is the one who exists as God to communicate – as God to make himself known, and known clearly. The Word has existed eternally to communicate within the Holy Trinity itself, but in taking on human flesh he became divine communication to us. In the person of Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, God makes himself clearly known to us. Fourth, all things were created through the Word. Look at verse 3: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. St. John tells us this for at least two reasons, the first being that it emphasises that Jesus Christ is God. God is the Creator. He’s the source and the origin of everything that exists except for himself. Whether it’s a rock, a tree, the earth, the sun, the vast expanse of space, you, or me, it all comes ultimately from God as Creator. So when St. John tells us, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made, “ he’s telling us that Jesus – the Word – stands outside the created order – that the Word is God. But in verse 10 John also writes: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. John stresses the ugliness – the sinfulness – of our sin, the seriousness of the world’s guilty blindness, and the greatness of the world’s evil in rejecting Jesus. He is just as much our Creator as the Father is. Through him the Father created all things. And yet even as its loving creator, the world refuses to receive him. Those are the first four truths John tells us about the Word Incarnate. First, that he is Jesus Christ, Saviour and King. Second, that he is God – the second person of the Holy Trinity. Third, that he is the Word – he is God speaking to us. And fourth, he is the Creator of all things. Now fifth: the Incarnate Word bears life in himself and that life is the light of men. John writes in verse 4: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. As the one who gave life to the universe in the first place, he is the one who now offers life to sinful men and women. Every one of us has two basic problems. We’re all born spiritually dead, and because of our spiritual deadness, we’re all therefore spiritually blind too. John tells us that Jesus is the solution to both problems. He has the life we need and his life becomes the light we that lifts our darkness. John says in 5:21, “the Son gives life to whom he will.” In other words, he does for us spiritually what he did physically for Lazarus. Remember that Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, and yet Jesus stood outside his tomb and called out to the dead man, “Lazarus, come out!” And out walked Lazarus. How does that life that Jesus gives relate to light? It relates in two ways. First, it gives us the ability to see. When dead people are given life, they see. Changing the image a bit: when you’re born, you see. It’s the same spiritually speaking. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus gives life and that life then becomes light – it becomes the ability to see spiritual reality. But second, the life he gives relates to light in that Jesus is himself the light that is seen. What, after all, is the unbeliever blind to? Before we receive Jesus’ life, we’re blind to the truth and beauty and worth – the glory – of Jesus. So when John says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men,” he’s saying that the Word Incarnate is both the power to see spiritual splendour and the splendour to be seen. That’s why John says in verse 14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.” This was precisely what Jesus prayed for us – for his people – in John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory.” This is what he claimed when he said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). What child is this? This is the Word Incarnate who has life in himself and that life is the light of men. He is the power to open our eyes to splendour, but he’s also the very splendour our opened eyes are to see. Let me recap these five truths again. (1) He is in the flesh Jesus Christ – both the Saviour and the anointed King of all. (2) He is God. He was with God and he was God from eternity past. (3) He is the Word. He is God-speaking-to-us. (4) He is the Creator. All things were made through him, but he himself was not made. Again, he is God. And (5) he is life and light. He is the living power to see and the all-satisfying splendour to be seen. Now knowing whom this child is, how do we respond to him? Verses 10 and 11 describe the response of many: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” You might hear all this about Jesus Christ and say, “I don’t know him and I’m not going to receive him.” That’s a scary thing to say to your Creator and your life and your light. It’s something said because of our blindness and if that’s your response this Christmas, hear these truths from John’s gospel again and allow Jesus – the light – to take off the blinders that you might see him and know him. You see, that’s the second response. Verses 12 and 13 say, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” There will always be those who reject him out of blindness, but the Word became flesh, the Word shines as light in the darkness, so that we might see him for who he is and receive him as Saviour and King and receive the life and light he offers. Christmas is the time when we remember that God sent his Son into the world to give new life to sinners and to restore us to fellowship with himself. Jesus comes to the spiritual caves where we’ve holed up in the dark, and as he stood at that cave in which Lazarus was buried, he cries out to us, “Come out!” Friends, judgement is coming one day, but before it comes Jesus cries, “Come out! Leave the darkness and come into the light. Receive me as your God and our substitute and your treasure. My death counts as your death and my righteousness counts as your righteousness, and through me you will have eternal life.” Heavenly Father, you have sent he who is life and light into the world to lead us out of our spiritual death and darkness. Open our eyes to his light, we pray, perhaps for some of us for the first time, that we might praise him as the angels and shepherds did on that night so long ago. And yet remind us, Father, that to truly praise him, we must fully entrust ourselves to him as the one who saves us from the consequences of our sins and as the King whom we faithfully serve. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King. Amen.
Bible Text: Acts 2:1-11; John 15:26-16:15 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year When the Helper Comes Acts 2:1-11 & St. John 15:26-16:15 by William Klock Today is the day when we draw to a close the first half of the Church Year.  If you notice, during the first half of the year the lessons take us through the life of Christ.  During the second half of the year they take us through the life of the believer—giving us a sort of overview of what it means to live the Christian life that comes as a result of the Gospel message we heard during the first half. So today, Whitsunday or Pentecost, we come to the story, as we just heard it read from Acts 2, where the Gospel story itself ends and the story of our life in that Gospel begins.  We started in Advent with the proclamation that the new life was going to come in the person of the Messiah.  At Christmas we heard the message that God had come himself—incarnate as one of us.  He lived like us with the one very important exception: where we are sinners, he was not.  He fulfilled the Law.  During Holy Week we followed him from the Upper Room to the Cross and finally to the Tomb—we followed him as he who knew no sin, became sin for us and bought our redemption.  He took God’s wrath and punishment for sin in our place.  And on Easter we followed his disciples to the tomb and found it empty—empty because God had raised him from the dead.  We received the message that we are raised to new life with him.  Good stuff!  But it didn’t end there.  A week-and-a-half-ago we followed Jesus and his disciples outside the city and heard those men receive their commission from him: Go out and share the good news.  Go out and baptize and make disciples!  And then he rose to heaven. The funny thing through all that is all along Jesus was preaching his message of the kingdom of God—that it wasn’t about a place, but about a person and was something that reigns in our hearts as we are joined to that person (to him).  And yet at every step the disciples kept stopping to ask him, “Yeah, Jesus, that’s great, but when are you going to work your Messiah stuff, throw off this poor itinerant preacher disguise, kick out the Romans and rebuild the great kingdom that we knew when David and Solomon were kings in Israel?”  They didn’t get it.  Even as he was preparing to ascend to heaven and take his throne, they were asking him when he was going to restore the “Kingdom of Israel.” And so last week we read the story of Jesus’ ascension—how he returned to heaven to sit down on his throne and rule his kingdom.  The disciples still didn’t get it.  And yet Jesus had told them before that he couldn’t stay—he had to go so that he could send another.  We read one of those passages in our Gospel last Sunday: John 15:26-27: But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. A few verses later, in Chapter 16, Jesus explains it to them in more detail. He says, I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me… I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, forif I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.   Jesus has been providing the teaching, he’s done the work of redemption, but it’s the “Helper,” literally in Greek it’s the “one who is called alongside” is the one who has to come and put it all into action.  Each person of the Trinity has his own part in this whole work of restoration.  It was the Father who sent the Son.  It was the Son who died and rose again accomplishing the actual work of redemption.  And it’s then the Spirit who works in the hearts of men to turn them to Christ and to give them understanding.  Think about that.  Consider the fact that these guys had been following Christ around for three years, not just hearing him preach, but living with him and engaging in personal conversation with him—and yet they still didn’t have a clue as to what he was really all about.  They were still looking for an earthly conquering hero.  As much as they didn’t want their friend to leave, he needed to so that his Spirit—the Helper as St. John calls him—could be sent to complete the work.  Jesus goes on to say: And when [the Helper] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The job of the Holy Spirit is to awaken the deadened hearts of men and women to their need for a Saviour.  Again, Jesus has to go so that he can send the Spirit.  Without the work of the Spirit those cold and stony hearts will never be turned to Jesus Christ.  Without the Spirit they will never be softened.  Without the Spirit we’ll never have those “hearts of flesh” God told Ezekiel about. From time to time we need this reminder of what the Spirit’s work is.  Sometimes we overstep our bounds.  Jesus calls us to proclaim the message of the Gospel, but it’s the Spirit’s work to convict hearts and to make them understand the message we preach.  I talked about this a couple of months ago when we looked at what it means to have a biblical understanding of conversion and evangelism.  Our job is to share the message.  The Spirit’s job is to change hearts.  We sow the seed.  The Spirit brings the fruit. But there’s more to the Spirit’s work than convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgement in the world.  Jesus goes on: I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [We’ve been seeing that all along through the story!] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:4-5, 7-15) The ministry of the Spirit is first and foremost to take what Jesus has said and apply it to our hearts as he gives us understanding.  This is what the disciples had been missing all along.  This is what the world is missing when it hears the Gospel message, but chalks it up as foolishness.  It’s the result of our fallen and sinful natures.  God created us to understand him, but because we have sinned, our understanding, our reason, our thought processes have all been tainted with sin.  Even with the Spirit dwelling in us, St. Paul says that even then we still see as through a darkened mirror.  Without the Spirit we can’t see at all.  Without the Spirit our hearts are naturally against God.  So the most important working of the Spirit is to open our eyes to God’s truth.  Jesus notes that the Spirit doesn’t speak on his own authority, but that the work of the Spirit is to declare—to make understood—to us the message of Jesus Christ. Notice also Jesus says that the function of the Spirit is to give him glory.  Even though there is equality within the Holy Trinity, there is still a hierarchy within the relationships of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  Jesus is subordinate to the Father, just as any son is subordinate to his earthly father.  Notice that throughout Jesus’ ministry he tells us that his purpose is to glorify the Father—never once does he bring glory on himself.  In fact, that was what Satan tempted him with in the wilderness.  And so with the Holy Spirit, except that the Spirit’s ministry is to glorify Christ.  The Spirit never glorifies himself.  Notice that the Spirit never attracts attention to himself.  His mission is to point us to Christ and Christ’s mission then is to point us to and reconcile us with the Father. All this is exactly what happened at Pentecost.  When Jesus ascended he commissioned his disciples, telling them that they were to go out to all the world to be his witnesses, first to Jerusalem and to Judea, but them to Samaria and eventually to the whole world.  But, he said, you need to go to Jerusalem and wait.  I need to return to my Father, but when I get there, I will send the Helper—my Spirit—who will indwell you and enable you to do all these things I’ve commissioned you to do. And that’s what they did.  They went back to Jerusalem.  St. Luke tells us that for the next week-and-a-half, they didn’t just sit on their hands waiting for the promised power to come, but spent their time in the temple praising and blessing God. And then Luke tells us that when the day of Pentecost had come—the second of the Jewish harvest festivals when the city of packed with Jews from all over the world—the disciples were all gathered in one place.  Presumably when he says “all,” he’s talking about the whole 120 of them.  Tradition says they were gathered in the same “upper room” where Jesus had instituted his Supper.  He says in Acts 2: And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (Acts 2:2-4) This was what they had been waiting for.  It’s appropriate that the Spirit came as it did.  Jesus had described the working of the Spirit as gentle breeze—and that’s very true—but here on the day when the Spirit was given to the Church—on the very birthday of the Church—he came with the sound not of a little rustling breeze, but with the sound of a storm.  And it’s interesting that St. Luke is specific.  It’s not that the Spirit came as a wind, but specifically that he came with the sound of a mighty wind, which tells us something about the way he works. And as something that looked like tongues of fire rested on their heads, that sound of the mighty wind broke into the sound of those 120 disciples suddenly speaking in other languages as the Spirit directed them.  What happened?  Luke doesn’t give full details.  All he says is that they started speaking in other languages.  The Greek word used refers specifically to known languages.  It was a reversal of what had happened at Babel, when God had confused and scattered the human race by confusing their languages.  Now at Pentecost he brings them back together—not by their own doing, but by the power of his Spirit and through unity in Jesus Christ.  For that reason it seems unlikely that they were all shouting at once.  This wasn’t a chaotic scene.  Luke says that they spoke in these languages as the Spirit gave them utterance—as the Spirit directed. Now remember that for the festival there were Jews in the city from all over the world.  If the disciples were in the Upper Room, they weren’t very far from the Temple.  The men outside heard the sound—presumably the sound that was like a mighty wind—and went to investigate, and when they got there, all these foreigners heard the gathered disciples speaking their own languages.  Jews from Rome heard men speaking in Latin and Jews from Greece heard men speaking in Greek, and they said, “What’s up with this?  These guys are all locals from Galilee—they’re yokels!  I mean, maybe we could expect them to speak Greek and some of them a little Latin, but they’re speaking in all sorts of languages!  Our languages!” Some of those who heard were convinced that those speaking in these other languages were drunk, but the speaking caught the attention of lots of them who listened and heard the disciples telling them of God’s mighty works.  As the crowd gathered the little group of 120 attracted thousands.  We don’t know how many thousands, just that the end result of what the Spirit did on that day was that three thousand came to faith in Christ. The only place in Jerusalem big enough to handle that kind of crowd was the temple environs.  St. Luke doesn’t say how they got there from the Upper Room, which was nearby, but one tradition describes the crowd growing as foreigners were attracted, hearing their own languages spoken, and that groups started forming outside the house, men from each province gathering around the disciples speaking their language, listening to them talk about God’s mighty works as they all made their way up to the temple.  However it happened, the temple has to be where they ended up. And when they got there St. Peter spoke up and began preaching to them.  And this to me is the most remarkable thing that happened on Pentecost—the thing that shows more than anything else that the Spirit was at work and that shows us what the primary ministry of the Spirit is.  Peter suddenly understood! Remember how all along Jesus preached about the kingdom of God, and all that time the disciples kept not getting it.  Even on the Mount of Olives, just before he ascended, the disciples were asking him, “Okay, Jesus, all this stuff you’ve done is really cool—especially the whole rising from the dead thing—but when are you going to do what you came here to do?  When are you going to defeat the Romans?  When are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?  When are you going to make the Jews great again?”  Even at the very end, the disciples didn’t get it.  And now suddenly, Peter stands up before the crowd—and he gets it.  And he starts preaching to them the Good News—and the coolest part is that where before he was looking back at all those Old Testament prophecies that the Jews thought were about the restoration of an earthly kingdom, now suddenly he understands them.  He starts preaching Christ and the kingdom of God from those same passages he’d never understood before. At the same time the Spirit was at work in the people listening.  St. Luke says they were “cut to the heart.”  They ask Peter what they should do, and Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Luke says that three thousand did just that and as the weeks and months went by more and more did the same—and they did so as the Spirit did what he was sent to do: to turn our hearts toward Christ and to open eyes and ears to the truth of the Gospel. Of course, we can’t forget that the work of the Spirit goes beyond Pentecost.  The purpose of the Spirit is to unite us to Christ.  He’s the one who grafts us into Christ, the vine, so that we can have new life.  And of course St. Paul reminds us of the results of that change.  In Galatians he lists the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like those.  Those are the behaviours that describe our life before Christ, but as the Spirit indwells us our lives are changed, we receive life from Christ the vine and the Spirit causes us to bear his fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those are the evidences of the indwelling Spirit.  Doing amazing things and working miracles, casting out demons and prophesying, speaking in tongues or healing, are often signs the Spirit works to validate the message, but even Jesus warns us that those things can be counterfeited and often will be.  We have all sorts of guys on TV that are poster children for this—guys who claim to be faith healers, working miracles, and yet their personal lives are dominated by greed, and dishonesty, and lust and adultery.  The real evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a changed life—a life that bears the fruit of the Spirit and as I talked about last Sunday: that is every growing in holiness—and that’s the greatest miracle of all! If the Spirit chooses to work miracles sometimes to add extra weight to the Gospel message, that’s great, but the consistent message throughout Scripture, and especially the New Testament is that we are called to witness the Gospel by living it, by bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  Where there is love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control you know you’re dealing with a person full of the Spirit and because of that a person who is grafted into Jesus Christ.  That’s what the world needs to see in us. I want to close with an example from the Old Testament. Samson was a man who had been gifted by the Spirit.  In his case it was supernatural strength. The Spirit doesn’t give us gifts today for no reason and he didn’t then—in fact, when he did in those days it had to be for some really important purpose.  Samson was truly gifted in regard to his strength.  He was also called to exhibit godliness as one of God’s elect, but even more so because of his Nazirite vow.  He was to be especially dedicated to God and to his kingdom.  And yet throughout his life, despite his calling to holiness, he consistently lived in an unholy and ungodly way.  He lived in direct disobedience of not only his vows, but of the Law.  Samson took the gift of strength that God had given him to use for his kingdom and instead used it to take advantage of people and to basically be an all around jerk. Had Samson followed God closely it boggles the mind to think what he could have done to witness the glory of God, but instead he abused God’s gift.  In the end God used him for two things: first, to bring the house down with his strength and kill a whole bunch of Philistines, and second, to be a lesson to us: don’t be like Samson.  Don’t squander and abuse the gifts God gives.  I often wonder if some of the Philistines might somehow have had their eyes opened to God had Samson exhibited what the New Testament calls the fruit of the Spirit. Each of us is gifted by the Spirit.  Some of us having amazing gifts like Samson did and some of us have more mundane gifts, but the Spirit gives them to each of us for the purpose of building his kingdom and building up his body—no gift is more important than another.  But those gifts are only used appropriately as we live in the Spirit and bear Christ-like fruit.  The Corinthians were being kind of like Samson.  Some of them had been given amazing gifts by the Spirit, but instead of using them to build up the Body, they were using them to build up themselves, to show others their supposed superiority, and in many ways just being jerks.  And Paul wrote to them, showing them how they were abusing those gifts.  One person’s gift doesn’t make them any more special than someone else.  Just because your gift is a “wow” gift, doesn’t make it better than someone else’s gift that isn’t a “wow” gift.  Far more important than the gifts is the fruit.  And that’s where Paul goes on to talk about the supremacy of love—the foremost of the Spirit’s fruit.  The fruit, not these other gifts, is the most conclusive manifesting of the indwelling Spirit.  That fruit—that life lived with the indwelling Spirit—needs to be our primary focus because it’s only in combination with living that Spirit-filled life that our other gifts will build the kingdom of God and bless the Body. Please pray with me:  Heavenly Father, you not only sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to purchase our redemption from sin and death, but you sent your Spirit to turn our stony hearts into hearts of flesh, that we might understand and receive your Gospel. Today Father we ask again for your Spirit to do his work, that we might not merely believe your Gospel, but that we might also receive your power to live it, that we might bear the fruit of the Spirit and be living witnesses of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.