Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sermon-Feast of Pentecost, May 20, 2018- “Life in the Power of the Holy Spirit”

    The Church has seven major commemorations throughout the church year that celebrate God and what He has done for us in Christ.  These seven celebrations have through the centuries been called Principal Feast Days. Today is one of them- The Feast of Pentecost.   
    What is it that we are celebrating today?  Pentecost Sunday celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church; that is, the Spirit of God coming to indwell all who belong to Him in Christ.  We easily think of God as the transcendent and the all-powerful Creator of the Universe, but today we celebrate the fact that God is also close up, personal, immanent, and intimate.  The fact that God is simultaneously both transcendent and immanent is a great and wondrous attribute of our Triune God. Pentecost is God’s Holy Spirit coming to empower us to take on the likeness of Christ in this life and prepare us for perfect union with Him in the next.  This is important and indispensable in God’s Plan of Salvation and why we rank Pentecost up there with such celebrations as Easter and Christmas. 
    So, what is God’s Plan of Salvation?  God’s plan is to reconcile and restore us to Himself.  We see God putting this plan for redeeming us immediately into play when sin, death, and the devil first enter His Creation in Genesis 3.  God tells Adam that “Satan will strike your heel” but “you will crush his head.”  In other words, God says we will surely suffer the consequences of sin, evil and separation from Him in this now broken and hurting world, but we will, in the end, have victory over Satan and freedom from the power that sin has over our lives. 
    And power over our lives it surely has!  And this is exactly how Pentecost fits in.  You and I know ourselves all too well to believe that we can, on our own, resist, even much less have victory over, the darkness and evil of this world.   What folly it would be for us to take on the world, the flesh and the devil on your own strength?  The whole of Old Testament is a testimony to this.  We know our interior selves where sin, self-absorption, and willful disobedience to God’s Law have taken root.  As Paul laments in Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  We know the answer; it is the power of God working in us that is our strength and salvation- The Blessed Holy Spirit! 
     The truth is that without Christ and His indwelling Spirit, we will all perish.  There is no exception to this in this room today.  Christ is the source of our salvation, and His Holy Spirit is our hope for living into this great gift and finding new, holy and sin-free life in Christ
     As As Ezekiel tells us this morning in his vision of dry bones, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.”  Taking on bones, sinews, flesh and skin is not enough.  God wants us to take on His Spirit, the Ruach of God, in Hebrew meaning breath, spirit, or wind.  It is only in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that we can have life in the full, the abundant life Jesus talks about in John 10.  Ezekiel tells us that God will breathe new life into us.   The Day of Pentecost, is a fulfilment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
    St. Paul writes an amazing passage about this in the 8th Chapter to his letter to the Romans: 
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  8Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.   9You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. … 13For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.  14For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
    So, where is the Holy Spirit leading you right now, this morning?  Do you want God to breathe new life into your old, dry bones?  Do you want Him to fill you afresh, once again, or maybe for the first time, with His life-giving Spirit?  Then I invite you to pray the following prayer with me, and, as you are led, come forward and either kneel or stand at the altar rail.  I will anoint you with the Oil of Chrism, the Church’s age-old symbol of being anointed with the Holy Spirit, and I will lay hands upon you and pray for you.  
    So, let us pray this prayer together:
O God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, who desires to place boundaries around our lives in goodly places [Psalm 16], breathe your Spirit into us that we may truly live.  By the power of your Holy Spirit working in us, set us apart from the world, make us different.  Sanctify us in body, souls and spirit, such that, when we join you in heaven, you will know us by our likeness to your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
     May God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, empower you for living, really living. Amen.

                                      Father Rob