…with the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:36-42

Over the past few weeks we’ve talked about how we are called to be in ministry.

  • All: We are *all* called – made worthy to serve through Jesus Christ.
  • Differently: We are all made different to compliment each other, like a body made of different parts.
  • Together: We are designed to work together, to be united.

We are ALL called, as DIFFERENT as we are, to be in ministry TOGETHER.

Once we understand that, it might take some prayer and thought to figure out exactly what we’re called to do.  We used three surveys to help with that, centered around three questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you good at?
  • What are your spiritual gifts?

Once you’ve reflected on those questions, you may start to hear God’s call.  Maybe it’s to some logical next step:  “I’ve been thinking about volunteering with the youth for a long time.  I think it’s time to admit it.”  Or maybe it’s to some grand idea that scares you:  “I keep worrying about the drug problem, and I think God might be calling me to help provide an after-school middle-school program that supervises kids at a vulnerable age.”  Whether it’s a small thing or a gimongous thing, your next good question might be:

How?  How can I answer this call?  How can we answer this call?

Today gives you the answer.  You’ve heard it read in the Scripture.  You’ve seen it in the red clothes reminding us of the red flames.  You’ve felt it in the wind blowing.  It’s the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit that showed up on Pentecost shows up for us today.  It’s our “how.”

I can testify out of recent experience, because the Holy Spirit is how I received a Doctor of Ministry.  Not because of desperate prayers said to help me pass the classes and write the thesis (although those happened, too).  No – it’s because of something more specific.

My thesis was about Peter’s first four speeches in Acts.  Some have called them the first Christian sermons, which is pretty cool to me as a preacher.  So I studied them, wondering what Peter’s model might teach us about how we’re supposed to preach today.  I noticed some interesting common traits among them, but first among them was this:

 

st-peter-preaching-at-pentecost

St. Peter Preaching at Pentecost, Benjamin West

The Holy Spirit was explicitly involved.  Always.  At Pentecost, when many languages were understood… After Peter heals a crippled beggar… When Peter defends himself to the Jewish Council, twice…  Every time, the Holy Spirit is what enables Peter to speak.  Preaching is a Spirit-dependent activity.

 

This was not shocking news to me – my preaching has been dependent on the Holy Spirit since day 1.  But I think I had distanced myself from that knowledge, especially in practice.  I prayed a little for God’s help in preaching – mostly in the nerve-wracking early hours of Sunday morning.  Studying Peter’s sermons, I realized just how much I needed the Spirit.  I realized that I ought to be to praying a lot more for the Spirit’s help.

As part of my thesis, my advisers wanted me to put my observations into practice and see if they worked.  I set Christmas Eve as the experimental petrie dish – what better day for an especially good sermon, right?  Our worship committee helped me do several things that followed Peter’s example, including praying for the Spirit’s involvement.  I prayed while I wrote my sermon; we prayed in committee meetings; we prayed before the service; I asked my pastor friends to pray…  Anytime we could think of to pray for the Spirit, we did.

And do you know what?  The Holy Spirit showed up.

Maybe the Spirit always shows up on Christmas Eve.  Maybe I was especially looking for that Godly Presence, and just noticed it more.  But I can tell you, I wasn’t the only one who felt it.  There was an exceptional peace, a bigger space for God to speak, a raw space in my soul that hadn’t been there before.  It was amazing.

Christmas Eve is special, but it’s not the only time we need the Holy Spirit – right?  And Pentecost was a miraculous appearance of the Holy Spirit – but at the end, after Peter’s speech, all who chose to follow Christ received that same Spirit.  It’s for all of us, every day… and especially when we choose to answer God’s call.

As for me – studying Peter’s speeches has gotten me saying more prayers for my preaching, all the time.  And as for you – whatever it is you’re called to do, this kind of prayer is your first step.  Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help.  Find a quiet space like the disciples did, when they gathered together in an upstairs room to pray and wait.  You might say simply, “Come, Holy Spirit.”

But, a warning:  You should be prepared to wait.

The disciples sat waiting and praying for about a week and a half.  Which may not seem long – but if the risen Jesus has just told you you’ve got work to do, but you’ll need the Holy Spirit to come first, I imagine with every day that passes the waiting feels longer.

We can’t make the Holy Spirit show up.  If we decide to do something that God doesn’t want, then the Spirit will never show up.  And even when God calls us, often there is a waiting intentionally involved, a waiting that God can use to sharpen our understanding of what we’re called to do.  So we pray.  And we wait.

God is calling you – I don’t know what God’s calling you to do, but I know God is calling.

So why not start praying for the Holy Spirit right now?

Take a deep breath.  Be still.  Close your eyes.  Pray:  “Come, Holy Spirit.”

Now wait.

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