All Saints April 25th 2021.
John 10:9-18 and 14:15-20, 25-27; Acts 4:5-31, 1 John 3:7-end.
Holy Spirit, come, teach us.
‘Then Peter filled with the Spirit said to them…
After they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’’
At the Last Supper as we heard in our Gospel – ‘I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.’’ Another Counsellor is with Peter and the rest of the early Church.
The past 100 years have seen a much greater focus upon the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. While across the centuries denominations taught his presence within our lives and our need for his help – for example see the different traditional Anglican collect prayers how they regularly take us to the Spirit for his work within us – excluding certain moments in church history, he, the Spirit, was still very unknown.
But it was in 1906, that a new movement within the worldwide church was born – at Azusa Street Los Angeles, where the first Pentecostal church was born. With that birth, there was a fresh experience and a growing understanding of the Holy Spirit and the availability of spiritual gifts – natural and supernatural – and with it, a realisation that the Christian life, truly was to be lived in confidence that ‘another counsellor’ had truly been given to us, that truly we could be ‘clothed with power from on high’ as the Lord Jesus promised before his ascension. And this awareness, and this hunger for a great working and openness to the Spirit, spread across many countries.
Then in 1960s, this new openness to the Spirit had a significant impact upon and became part of the historical churches such as Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist and Methodist. This was era when the term of a person being called a ‘charismatic’ grew out. In the 1970s, as the Messianic Jewish movement grew it was noticeably also charismatic .
Then in the 1980s, what was later termed, ‘the third wave’, occurred, among Christians and churches, another fresh experience and also fresh hunger for the Spirit to be present, to allow this ‘Counsellor’ to have room to speak, to work, to minister. Out of this period came the Vineyard church movement in the USA, which helped establish the New Wine movement in the UK (which now exists in the Netherlands), their teachings impacted many other churches, and also greatly shaped the Alpha Course which is used across the globe, and which we offer here at All Saints. On Alpha there is among the many topics covered, a teaching weekend or teaching day focused upon the Holy Spirit, who is he, what does he actually do, and what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit, as Peter and the others are so deliberately described in Acts.
This brief history overview reminds us of the growth in the understanding surrounding this amazing gift, this amazing third Person of the Trinity who has come to live in each one of us as believers.
Jesus had said ”it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you.” (John 16:7).
Last Summer I listened on audio book Red Sea Spies by Raffi Berg. An incredible true story. In the 1980s, posing as dive instructors and wind surf teachers, Mossad agents rented a site in Arous on the Red Sea in Sudan for four years as part of a humanitarian mission to rescue Ethiopian Jews inside Sudanese refugee camps and bring them to Israel.
No one could know, as Sudan was an enemy of Israel. It happened because of an Ethopian Jew called Ferede Alkum, who had himself had fled the civil war in Ethiopia. He sent letters to relief agencies, pleading for help, and one found its way to the Mossad. For the then Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin – himself a refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe – Israel existed as a safe haven for Jews in peril. He instructed the Mossad intelligence agency to act. Over the coming years by various means 14 000 were brought to Israel.
They would not be left alone, PM Begin decided. Help would come.
Jesus says help is to come, to his followers – on Pentecost, later he inspires Peter as he preaches to a hostile group, and later again, as they pray, the whole church is filled afresh and share and preach the good news. Help is being given regularly daily to the new church.
And who is the Helper? The Greek word used: Parakletos. Para – means alongside – Kletos – from the verb ‘to call’. The Spirit is ‘the one called along side us.’
Today Jake Boneschanscher will be baptised at Kosmik in our physical service. One of the tasks of godparents and parents, to remind Jake as he grows older, that this Christian life is yes beautiful but at times it can be hard, and costly to follow Christ, to put him first, to live out his teachings and to follow his example, and it is a role of parents and godparents to prepare Jake for that and also, to walk alongside him in those difficult times.
The Lord Jesus promises the Spirit to walk alongside us as we seek to follow, trust and live. We are assured of his presence – beside us, within us. It is deeply encouraging. Peter as he stood in that place of danger, the Spirit was alongside him. As the believers – some who perhaps were only weeks old and yet already faced threats – they experienced and knew the Spirit alongside them. Jesus promised, to borrow the Liverpool FC Anthem – you will never walk alone.
In Luke 24, Jesus said: ‘’I am going to send you what the Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’’ Jesus said they are to be clothed. Until the person of the Holy Spirit would come to each of them, in a manner of speaking, he was suggesting, they were spiritually naked, until they were clothed, or perhaps you could say they were in rags until they were clothed in riches? This summer we will celebrate Pieter Jan and Tiana, and Louise and Reinier getting married. There will be choice and discussions over what colours and what clothes are to be worn. It will matter to each couple. For you to attend, you will, in July be thinking, what will you wear… maybe something old, some new, something borrowed, something blue…
What you are clothed with, Jesus tells his followers, matters. They know he is raised. But he says, that is not enough. They and we are to be clothed with the Spirit.
So what could they have understand from the promise of the Spirit to them. What could it mean for them to receive the gift of the Spirit.
The first idea may have been Creation. ”In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1). The Spirit was involved in creation. What we read in the rest of Genesis 1, we see his powerful creative work. The Spirit who brings life out of nothing. Nothing situations, where nothing is going on, the Spirit can bring life…
The disciples knew of the conversation with Nicodemus (John 3) – and there Jesus says: ”Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The Spirit brings new life. To be born again needs the Spirit’s work. Peter preaches his message, and later the believers speak the word boldly but it is the Spirit that brings life.
Paul later calls this – if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). The Spirit who brings creation, he brings new creation in people, the One who brings eternal life from spiritual darkness.
The Spirit who brings life out of nothing. This thought is further developed by Paul later I’d say. Galatians 5:22-23. ”The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.” There is a wonderful promise. Paul talks about the fruit the Spirit desires to grow in us.
Promise of what he will grow.
But also that he will grow. He doesn’t say – for some of you, love joy. No, the fruit of the Spirit for all. It means hope. That for those whom life has been harmful, they have been damaged, broken, abused, where their emotions and brains have been rewired by events done to them or words said to them. There is hope that the Spirit can grow love there, joy there, gentleness there… it may be soon, in a dramatic moment, or it may take a long time.
Spirit poured out, whom they would be clothed with, another counsellor, whom would bring creation, new creation, re-creation, healing, new life in all sorts of ways.
And this fits when Jesus said. ‘give you another counsellor’ –
What did he mean? Who was the other counsellor? Of course, it is the Lord Jesus. He says deliberately ’another, teaching that the ministry and working of the Spirit will be like his ministry has been. As we think – how was he an advocate or helper, or encourager or counsellor – then so in a similar way the Spirit seeks to be within us, through us and around us. It is why, when Luke begins Acts he says: I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up.’ (1:1-2a).
Jesus described his ministry in John 10 – to bring salvation, (whoever enters through me will be saved), find pasture (what we need to restore and nourish and sustain us), I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. Creation, re-recreation, healing, new life in all sorts of ways is what Jesus declared and showed in his ministry – the Holy Spirit – another counsellor – will seek to do too. In people, through his followers.
Equipping others for the work of God
When the apostles heard the words ofJesus in that upper room, and later over the 40 days before ascension, they were well aware of the varied of ways the Spirit worked and suggests how he would or could work when he is poured out on them. They knew how God had equipped individuals for the work of God. For example, for leadership, strength and to bring good news.
In the OT, The Spirit given to Gideon, as a judge, and David as a king, for leadership. David is often seen as the men of men. The man you’d expect. But Gideon, a man hiding in a winepress for fear of his enemies, who asks a number of times, not just for the fleece, to be sure. A man lacking great confidence. Not the war time leader you’d expect. Yet the Spirit is given to him. The disciples on Easter Sunday were hiding. They met the resurrected Jesus. They had doubts, some of them. Yet on Pentecost they are preaching, filled with the Spirit; and when facing threats from the same body who plotted against Jesus and planned his death, not only peter but they all continue to preach boldly. The Spirit given to these people who originally were hiding on Easter Sunday.
Spirit given for strength – Samson – perhaps we could say that has not happened again. Yet when we read of the apostles in the first months after Pentecost when there is a mix of great things happening and threats from religious leadership. Was that strength to carry on, to keep on, despite the demands and pressures.
Finally, prophets like Isaiah who say the Spirit of the Lord is upon him. Maybe this idea was the closest of what the Lord was asking of his apostles – to preach good news, to proclaim the Lord’s favour. The Spirit equips Peter to declare ‘’Salvation is found in no one else!’’
The Spirit poured out, even if people lacked confidence, strength for the tasks asked of them, the skills needed for what the Lord called upon them, the spiritual tools and help to do what the Lord had commanded.
But it was particular people, that man or woman in that time, for that task.
Jesus said. He will give you another counsellor. Who is you? In the last supper. The 11. Yet before ascension, they are all told to wait – not, the just 11, or the three Peter, James, John.
All are to wait, all are to be clothed. And all did wait, those 10 days, men and women, in prayer – it is suggested 120 in total, waited. All to be clothed. And the Spirit came on Pentecost. But it was not a one off event. Peter promises, to each person listening, when preaching – repent, be baptised, you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When the church is growing, with many new believers – we don’t know who was there or how many – but Acts 4 says, after praying – the place is shaken and all of them are filled. Not just the apostles or the first group of disciples. All are freshly filled again. Help is not just sent once. They are not clothed with power once. It isn’t like the OT where the Spirit comes and goes.
This gift, this third person of the Trinity, he is with us, Jesus said ‘’to be with you forever’’.
He is not a gift that will ever be taken away: so until the Lord’s return, or we fall sleep awaiting the resurrection, the Spirit will be with each us as believers. And so, the days of high school and university, he is there, the days without a job, he is there, the days of courtship, love, marriage, babies, he is there, the days of grief and sadness he is there, the days of mid-life questions, and beautiful retirement he is and will be there…
The Holy Spirit is promised – another counsellor, you will be clothed – and he comes. On Pentecost. But he is a gift to all. So Peter is an example – filled on Pentecost, inspired and equipped before the Jewish Council, later freshly filled so he and others can do the works of God.The early church would see how the Spirit brought new life, how he enabled leadership, gave strength, helped them proclaim the good news. And in that room, as they prayed after the threats, they learned afresh, the Spirit wasn’t just given once, or to some, but to all, and he would be with them forever.
Shall we pray.
Risen, ascended Lord,
as we rejoice at your triumph,
fill us and your Church across this land with power and compassion,
that all who are estranged and wounded by sin
may find forgiveness, healing and know your peace,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.