The disciples have been left abandoned by their charismatic leader – their whole lives for the past 3 impressionable years as young men, mostly in their late teens and 20s (which if we stop to think about it is the age when young men typically join their peer groups doing things they share in common e.g. Sport, Boy Bands even the Armed forces) have been absorbed in being part of his ‘gang’. They had heard and watched as he spoke to large crowds and individuals of every sort, heal many who were physically or mentally ill or disabled and often were social outcasts in the culture of the day because of this.
In addition they had also had the benefit, which other people hadn’t, of much personal and informative teaching about the meaning of the parables, the nature of the Kingdom of God, what was going to happen to him and importantly what would happen after he had gone.
So they had been told WHAT was going to happen next- but like all human beings, until we actually experience in practice what we have been told don’t we completely understand/believe exactly what is involved. This was true for the disciples then as it is true for us still today.
Twice in our married life my wife Pat and I have had the experience of the death of my employer. In farming the employer/employee relationship is some what different to many jobs – both have a 24/7 life style involvement in the care of living crops and animals for food production and as in our case the accommodation went with the job the first time this happened. The elderly employer, having consideration for myself and young family had reassured us by saying that when he died there would be no need for the farm to be sold – however in the event, the executors thought differently with consideration for the widow and her future.
Some years before I had been given a book as a gift signed by my peers when we moved away from them and one had given us the Bible reference Proverbs 3 v5-6 which up until then I had had little cause to ‘put into practice’. Also in the years before this happened I had repeatedly had a dream of being involved in the farm sale which of course came true. To cut a long story short within 12months of being told we were to be jobless and homeless we owned our own home and I had a better job working for an employer who I had been at Agricultural College with in our student days.
16 years later he was fatally injured in a fall, a huge traumatic shock to every one. But as before, I had had a recurring dream which by implication meant that ‘Tony’ was no longer around – so what was going on? Having by now become a lay preacher the family asked me to lead prayers at the funeral, an awesome experience for such a large event with 500 or so folk in a state of emotional shock. It soon became apparent that there were plans already in place for the company to continue and it is still prospering to this day.
So for the disciples – with Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, resurrection appearances and finally his ascension into heaven, their ‘experiences’ had been stretched far beyond anything they could ever have believed possible SO WHAT ELSE WAS POSSIBLE – all they had been told was to ‘wait’ in Jerusalem ( Acts 4 v4) so they ‘waited’…… for 10 days. And then IT happened – on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2 as we read)…… the coming of the Holy Spirit – on who? – Not just the favoured few but everyone in Jerusalem at the Pentecost Feast. At this point they began to discover the way in which the things Jesus had told them about translated into Reality.
Old Testament prophecies came true and Peter quickly picked up on this – it was all there in the Joel Prophecy and God’s plan unfolded in perfect timing in many ways. The city was full of people from all around the Mediterranean Basin, ALL meant what it said! 15 territories are listed by Luke which meant 15 different languages or dialects. This of course in effect prepared the way for St Paul a decade or two later as he toured these same territories.
People there would have been in Jerusalem or at least heard about it, the embryonic seeds of the Gospel were in place ready to be ‘brought to life’ by Paul. This also happened in the time of the Roman Empire, the largest and most powerful in the world up to that time. With it’s efficient transport and communications systems – well before Paul had completed his Missionary Ministry as recorded in the New Testament- the Romans had invaded Britain – and we can realistically assume some of those Roman Army personnel would also have brought with them the embryonic ‘seeds of the Gospel’.
This is what happens when the Holy Spirit breaks through into humanity on a Global scale God reveals his nature/character in Jesus first – and has in place at the same time HIS plan to continue his Presence amongst us in the form of his Holy Spirit – which is ‘Out of THIS WORLD‘ in the secular sense .
When Jesus was questioned by Pilate just before his execution – he asked ‘Are you a King then?’ to which Jesus replied, ‘My Kingdom is not of ‘THIS WORLD’. It is important that we remember that. The Holy Spirit is a Spiritual Being who influences both the Spiritual and the Physical in equal proportions – as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John chapter 3 ‘like the wind we cannot see him but we do see what he does’.
Peter is and example of how the Holy Spirit changes a person, for him it was pretty well instantaneous – for many people it is a longer process which happens in the way which God knows is right for us individually.
Peter’s natural impulsive character didn’t change – but instead of being an IMPULSIVE DESERTER – he became a PERSUASIVE leader of the newly birthed Church – he was given insight into Gods WORD and Gods WORLD – an understanding of Gods PLAN, phenomenal courage, power and effectiveness in Ministry.
St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, having, like Peter been filled with the Holy Spirit and given insights into the workings of life’s spiritual dimensions – points out that life is not simply a battle/struggle with HUMAN influences – there are SPIRITUAL influences which can and DO effect us from any ‘direction’ metaphorically speaking. These influences will ‘work’ on US, the Church and whole communities even, from time to time – giving us feelings of loss, frustration, despair, lack of identity, low self esteem or self worth and a whole lot more.
There are currently two TV programs which illustrate some of our deeper human emotions ‘Who do you think you are?’ takes well known people and helps them investigate the history of some of their ancestors with ‘interesting’ life stories which goes to make good TV programs. Often some of these revelations bring tears of emotion to the eyes of the celebrity. . ‘Long Lost Families’ goes deeper into the Human personality as it reunites people who were adopted at birth and have been unable to find their birth families and have deep, deep feelings of inner emptiness/incompleteness as a result. The TV resources are used to find these long lost relatives and invariably there is a very emotional reunion and later the individuals concerned express feelings of a sense of wholeness, completeness within their inner self which wasn’t there before.
One of Jesus teaching passages with the disciples just before he was arrested mentions one of the consequences of Holy Spirit’s coming like this, ‘I won’t leave you as orphans’ (John 14: 18a) and this phrase really seemed to jump out at me as I prepared for tonight.
With this in mind in the context of the Bridge – you have been experiencing a period of change, perhaps even some loss of identity either individually or as a group – you are now at a time of taking new steps forward – new youth worker, new superintendent with the possibility perhaps of going to take a more proactive lead. It would seem to me that on the eve of the new Connexional year it would be good to ask the Holy Spirit to come again.
There is ONE thing we have ALL done here tonight which if we hadn’t done we literally wouldn’t be here – that was to take our first breath as a new born baby –AND if we hadn’t continued to breath we wouldn’t be here either.
It is a bit the same with the Holy Spirit and spiritual birth – although the birth process is different for each one of us (depending on our spiritual DNA if you like) we all at some point take that first breath AND it has to be repeated from time to time (Leaking bucket syndrome). So we are going to give the Holy Spirit an invitation this afternoon to COME and do just that. For the first time for you perhaps or to be Reunited not left feeling orphaned in any way – to breath into us.
We’ll have some quiet music – not ‘out of this world’ but from a very different part of ‘this world’ composed on the edge of the Pacific Rim – just allow your self to ‘washed over’ by the Spirit as you hear the sound of the waves as the music starts’. As we wait, the one thing that won’t happen is that nothing will happen.