‘Receive the Holy Spirit’
Second Sunday of Easter, April 8th, 2018.
Ron Westerbeek preached and used the below images to form his sermon. There is no full text.
Thomas one the twelve apostles, who is believed to have brought the Christian gospel to India, after he did missionary work in Persia. He was later martyred in India. A man who had doubted, and yet who became a bold brave apostle proclaiming the gospel and planting new churches hundreds and thousands of miles away from where he been born and bred.
The bottom right photo is place where they believe Thomas was buried.
There will Jewish community in India. From the time of the exile in Babylon. Then after the destruction of the temple in AD70.
The Mar Thoma Church sees itself as descended from the churches planted by Thomas. In this church you can see a well known scene from John 20, on the front of the Communion Table.
What do we know about these early churches? They cared for the poor – the existing caste system did not stop them or restrict them. They ministered to the sick – both in prayer for healing and in practical service. They did justice. Including the purchase of slaves in the market, and setting those slaves free.
A closer look at our Acts passage.
Deep communion means an openness, a vulnerability to one another. In our society, public appearance can be important – even in churches, the pressure or need to be seen to be doing fine. Yet is that an idol – something that shapes us, moulds us, the need to present the correct image to others? Instead of being vulnerable and without a mask?
In our Western world, where possessions are so important. Here in Acts, possessions are less important, a tool which can be used to help others… Yet again, in the West, can possessions – to have things, or to keep things – can be an idol in life, something which moulds us? There was deep community. There was giving and help. And the power of the Spirit was at work. Luke shares a holistic view of a community – not just signs and wonders, but he shares what a Spirit filled and Spirit formed community looks like.
As they went out, they proclaimed the message and signs in different forms were seen in their ministry and mission. These signs helped the proclamation. The power of the Spirit. Yet in John 20, who receives the promise of the Spirit. We have seen it suggested in John 14-16 that it is a promise for all believers. Were the Eleven the only ones present, or others? Luke 24:33-43, the equivalent account, notes others including the two from the Emmaus Road journey. Jesus breathes out, promising the Spirit to all, not just the original apostles.
Peace be with you. More than a greeting. Peace – connects us to the Jewish idea of Shalom – of wholeness. Peace comes through the sacrifice of Jesus. The link – he says Peace be with you and shows them his hands and side. Not just to prove he is alive. But also to make the link – shalom / peace is with them because of his hands and side, because of the cross. As Isaiah 53 promised –
‘the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed.’
Jesus says – ‘Peace be with you’ – and it is connected to his crucifixion. He again says – ‘Peace be with you’ – and says he sends them. They – the followers of Jesus – are to bring that peace into the world, which God created and loves.
How do we bring peace / shalom into our world? Through the Holy Spirit. We are given the Spirit to do this task, this commission. But we need the Spirit to do the task and commission to bring shalom into the corners of Amersfoort, and the Netherlands. Easter Season is not only about celebrating the resurrection and the victory of Christ over sin, satan and death. It is about looking forward to Pentecost, the promised gift of the Spirit.
Different denominations will hold different views on the Spirit. Do what we read in Acts or early church history, still have relevance for the western, present day church? Theologian Gerald Hawthorne writes…
Hawthorne is clear that there is no indication that God intended things to be different in 21st century than they were in the early church. Reformed theologian John Calvin – surprisingly to some – took a similar view. His commentary on John 7:37-39, when Jesus promises that streams of living water – meaning the Spirit – will flow from within each believer.
The Holy Spirit transformed a community of fearful, anxious believers, into something very different. Proclaiming the word. Signs and wonders. Boldness. Sacrificial giving. Deep Community. There is such a change from what we read in John 20 to what we see in Acts 2 onwards…
Ron visited this church. A church connected, in the past, to the work of Compassion International, the child sponsorship charity, whose wife, Nienke, works for here in the Netherlands. He was able to pray with them. They also prayed for him and for All Saints that we would be a church proclaiming the gospel, the shalom that God seeks to bring, to be open and involved in all God seeks to do in us, through us, and around us by his Spirit, as we see in the chapters of Acts.
What is Pentecost for you? What is the Gift of the Spirit? What do we anticipate? Are we like Thomas – doubts, questions? This Sunday and each Sunday we have a prayer ministry team who can pray with you and for you in whatever place you find you want and need prayer.
What do we anticipate when Pentecost comes?