Written by Pastor Ed
As the Spirit Leads
June 4, 2017 – Pentecost
Acts 2: 1-21
As Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure, he promised them that an Advocate would be sent to be with them. Various attributes are given when Jesus talked about this. They would “receive power” when the Holy Spirit came. The Spirit would “guide them into all truth.” Even the word used to talk about the Spirit was that of one who would “walk alongside.” And when Jesus talked to Nicodemus he compared the Spirit to the wind that “blows where it will.”
So today we mark the coming of the Spirit on that first Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, 10 days after the ascension, as the disciples are waiting, gathered in Jerusalem wondering what would happen next. And then it happened – the wind, the fire, the voices in many languages, the reversing of the story of Babel. Rather than a separation of peoples by a dividing of languages, there is an understanding and a coming together of people, a foretaste of the vision of heaven where people from every tribe and language are together around the throne praising God.
If there is ever a Sunday when we should recognize the universal nature of the church, it is on Pentecost. There is no place where the Spirit is not present and when we characterize a country or make some comment about a people, we must remember that there are Christians around the world, of all races and peoples and languages. I recall Jack Suderman telling about someone during his visits across Mennonite Church Canada who declared that the Spirit was not present in a certain congregation because of a stance they had taken on a particular issue. Jack noted that such a claim was, in fact, heresy, since the Bible says God’s Spirit is everywhere!
Not only that, but we must also remember that the Spirit blows where it wills. God’s spirit is not confined to the way we think God ought to work. God’s spirit works through and in the most unlikely circumstances and people sometimes. We can’t always know how God’s Spirit is moving, but we must remain alert to the fact that it is. As, I think it was Jenn pointed out when she talked about the Good Samaritan, the people listening would have been shocked that a Samaritan could act like he did and set an example for others.
Pentecost was not just a one and done deal. We believe that the Spirit continues to be active in the world and continues to lead us toward the truth. I am sometimes reminded of that when people make a claim that “we know what the Bible says” or “we know where we stand” on certain issues. But as Jack Suderman reminded us a number of years ago now, the church has continually re-thought and asked questions about what we believe. Sometimes the Spirit has led the church to affirm its beliefs, other times the church has been led to modify its stance, and on occasion the Spirit has led the church to change its position on some issue, like the fact that Ruth could be up here behind the pulpit.
That’s not to say that anyone can just decide, “The Spirit told me something” and we should just accept it. The Spirit speaks in and through the church, and others as well, and we should always test what we are hearing with what we know about Jesus, for the Spirit comes from the Father and the Son, as the creeds say. And sometimes it takes a long time for the leading of the Spirit to be clear, as is currently the case in the Being A Faithful Church process. Our conclusion last summer was, we’re still not sure what the Spirit is saying, but we are going to hang-in there together and keep listening.
While the Spirit works throughout the world and the church, the Spirit also does work in our individual lives in many different ways, and is at work throughout our journey of faith. As children we experience God’s love through our parents and through other people in the church. We just recently pledged, along with parents, to provide a safe and loving environment for the infants among us. We work to nurture that sense of belonging and faith through our Sunday School, our children’s program, and through the kinds of interactions and encouragement, like we saw this morning, recognizing important milestones (or is kilometerstones) in our children’s lives.
As the blessing I use in those Parent-Child dedications says, our goal is that children come to their own full life in Jesus Christ. And today we want to mark another milestone as Justin has asked for baptism as a sign of his commitment to Jesus and growth in his faith. Baptism is not, however, an ending. It is simply another point on our journey of faith, albeit an important one as we make a public confession of faith. In so doing we become accountable to our brothers and sisters in the church, not only here in our local expression of the church at First Mennonite, but also to the church at large.
Baptism marks a milestone, but it is only the beginning of a new phase in our faith journey, and the Spirit will continue to lead us and draw us closer to that full life, if we are open to it. God doesn’t coerce us, but rather invites us, and continues to invite us to an ever fuller walk.
Justin responded to an invitation to meet earlier this year, he has met with the Deacons who have given their approval, and so I would like to invite Justin to join me here.
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).
Because of Jesus’ commandment and promise, we are here today. For this reason people make the covenant of baptism with God and the church. We are witnesses to their choice and companions to it.
Baptism is an act of God, of the church, and of the believer. In baptism, God gives us a good conscience and the seal of the Holy Spirit. Baptism enacts what God has done with us: made us dead to sin and alive to Christ. As an act of the church, baptism vouches for the faith of the believer and affirms the work of grace in her/his life. As an act of the individual, baptism enacts her/his surrender of the old self and the embrace of a new self, born in the image of Christ.
Rite of Baptism