Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit at Work within You

Pentecost

Sunday, May 15, 2005

 

 

 Acts 2: 1-21

  

 

 Rev. Dean Snyder

Dean Snyder, Senior Minister, is a preacher, writer and activist who coordinates a talented ministerial and lay staff. He has previously served congregations in Philadelphia as well as a director of communications, editor, specialist in congregational development and new church starts, campus minister and college instructor. A graduate of Boston University School of Theology and Albright College, his articles have appeared in dozens of publications.

 

This morning, other clergy, family and friends, and I will lay our hands on nine Confirmands. This is a particularly poignant aspect of the ministry for me because I really do get a sense when we confirm these young people that the faith is moving through history.

 

I sense that the faith that I have adopted is being passed on. I sense that this faith will be transformed, just as it has been transformed in my life, by these young people who will figure out for a new time and a new place what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ. I have a sense of the faith’s movement, the Spirit’s movement, through time and across generation after generation. I pray that the faith that this new generation lives will not be the same faith that I live, but that it will be a bolder, truer, more just and more powerful faith because the Spirit is ever at work, and change is God’s middle name.

 

So I have been trying to figure out how to talk to our Confirmands this morning about the Holy Spirit. When we confirm young people, we put our hands on their heads and say: “The Holy Spirit be at work in you.”  I am thinking about how to explain, in a way that junior high youth will understand, what it means to talk about the Holy Spirit being at work within us.

 

I want to try to say that the Holy Spirit is more real than things that we can see or hear or grab. The Holy Spirit was present when reality as we know it began. When the big bang began to expand, the Holy Spirit was there, moving and guiding the stars and the planets and the galaxies into their places. That same Holy Spirit has been with us through the long struggle of evolution to the place where creation is today. That same Spirit is with us in our world and in our hearts, trying to guide and influence and direct us toward a better world.

 

The Holy Spirit is known by other names. The Holy Spirit is also known as the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of righteousness (which is a word the Bible uses for justice), the Spirit of love. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of love and compassion in our world and in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of beauty. This is what the Holy Spirit is about in our world, trying to make our world truthful, just, loving and bringing beauty into the world.

 

Whenever we experience any of these things, whenever we discover or discern truth in our life, whenever we are part of making our world a more just place, whenever we are able to experience love that values another as much as our own self, whenever we are part of beauty, whenever we receive or help make beauty, the Holy Spirit is at work in our world and at work through us. I want to say to the young people this morning being confirmed that the Holy Spirit is at work in them, not just at work in the world globally, not just at work around them, but is at work in their very being, in their hearts and their minds and their wills. I think the Holy Spirit is at work in them and in us in three important ways.

 

First, the Holy Spirit makes us dissatisfied. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make us dissatisfied. The Holy Spirit sometimes makes us unhappy. This is not a popular part of the gospel to talk about. The Holy Spirit makes us unhappy with the world around us when we are aware of untruth and injustice, when we are aware of that which is unloving and that which is not beautiful. The Holy Spirit makes us unhappy and makes us dissatisfied when we participate in those things or those things are going on inside of our own lives.

 

My mother used to talk about the Holy Spirit convicting us. It was a concept in early Methodism about being under conviction when you are unhappy with aspects of the world and aspects of our own being. There are times that I need to disappear and sit in the columbarium over here because it is a place in church during the week that no one ever bothers people who are there. I need to disappear and sit to figure out why I am dissatisfied and unhappy with my world and with my own self. Inevitably, I will discover it is because I am participating in something that is not truthful or something that is not just or something that is not compassionate or loving or something that does not increase the beauty in the world, but instead diminishes us by a lack of beauty.

 

We know that the Holy Spirit is at work in us because we are sometimes uncomfortable. If we ever stop experiencing dissatisfaction with the world and with our own selves, if we ever stop being uncomfortable, then we should be worried because it is part of the work of the Holy Spirit within us to make us dissatisfied and uncomfortable.

 

Second, the Holy Spirit is at work within us by giving us power. The newer translation of the Bible, the Revised Standard Version, talks about the Holy Spirit coming upon the people. The older versions used to say that it gave them “power,” but the new version says it gave them “ability,” which is perhaps a better translation of the Greek word. On the day of Pentecost, the first Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit and ability came upon them. The Holy Spirit gives us the power or the ability to do what we need to do to make our world and our lives more truthful, more just, more loving and more beautiful.

 

The Holy Spirit does not guide or direct us to do what the Holy Spirit does not give us the power and the ability to do. Most of us have more power and ability than we ever risk having in our lives to make this world more truthful, more just, more loving and more beautiful.

 

One of the stories that is an absolute favorite for me is a story that came out of Korea at the end of the Korean War. There was a newspaper reporter who went over to do stories about the impact of the Korean War on ordinary people. In one of the villages in Korea, he came across a nun who, as a nurse, was treating the wounds of people who had not been able to get treatment during the time of the war. Now that the war was over, she was able to treat the wounds, but by this time the wounds had become infected and gangrenous and very, very severe. She was cleaning out these wounds and medicating people. The reporter watched her for a while and, under his breath, he said: “I couldn’t do that for all the money in the world.” The nun heard him, paused for a second in her work, looked at him, and said: “Neither could I.”

 

The Holy Spirit works within us to give us the ability to do that which God is trying to get done in our world and in our lives that we don’t imagine we could ever do on our own – for all the money in the world. The Holy Spirit is at work within us giving us the ability to do that which God is trying to get done in our world.

 

The third thing I want to tell the young people this morning, and you, is that the Holy Spirit is at work in us seeking to give us confidence. I think this is something that we don’t talk about as the work of the Holy Spirit as much as we should, especially since we are Methodists. John Wesley, when he founded the movement in England that became Methodism around the world, had a key teaching – that of assurance. He believed that we could know confidently and with assurance that God loves us. We could have the confidence and the assurance of God’s love for us as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

 

One of the key things the Holy Spirit does within us is to communicate God’s love so that we could trust it with confidence. No matter what anybody says about you or no matter how anyone treats you, or even no matter how you are tempted to feel about your own self, you and I can know with confidence and assurance that we are God’s beloved children – each and every one of us.

 

The Holy Spirit makes us uncomfortable with that which is untrue, unjust, unloving, and not beautiful. The Holy Spirit gives us ability to do in our world and in our lives what God wants to do through us. The Holy Spirit will give us confidence that we are God’s beloved children.

 

Now, each of us has the capacity to resist the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul used to warn the church not to quench the Spirit. If the biblical precedent is true, most of us spend more time resisting the Holy Spirit than opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit. The whole biblical history is the story of God’s people resisting the Holy Spirit, and I suspect it hasn’t changed overnight in our lifetime.

 

The Holy Spirit is at work throughout the world in creation and nature. The Holy Spirit is at work in people. Yet, we have the capacity to resist the Holy Spirit. But, even when we do, the Holy Spirit is still at work in us. The more we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction, the more we open ourselves to the nudging, to the encouragement, to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives; the more we will become part of what the Holy Spirit is seeking to do to make our world more truthful, more just, more loving, and more beautiful.

 

Today, symbolically and really, we pass on the faith to a new generation, these young people that we have baptized and carried up and down the aisles of this church. We pass on the faith to these young people who have been taught in our Sunday school, who have been mentored by people in this congregation over the past months. There are mentors who have spent time with these young people every week, sharing their own experience of the faith.

 

Thank God, the Holy Spirit, who has been at work within us, will be at work within them. They will take the faith to new places and new understandings. After them will come generation after generation who will take the faith and, in their lifetimes, will seek to open themselves up to the new things the Holy Spirit is always seeking to do.

 

Among these young people that we confirm this morning, the faith will become more complete than it has been for us until someday we will all, in God’s presence, know it fully. We will all have played a part in the completion of this faith on that day when all of God’s children gather – children of all languages, nations, races, circumstance and conditions of life. We all will sit together at God’s table. We will finally know the truth fully. We will live in a community of true righteousness and justice. We will love one another without reservation. We will celebrate together and sing hymns of great beauty for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

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