Pastor Sherry’s Message for May 31, 2020
Scriptures: Acts 2:1-21; Ps 104:24-35b; 1 Cor:12:3b-13; John 7:37-39
In 2016, this true story of Charlotte Heffelmire of Vienna, Virginia took place: Charlotte was home from the Air Force Academy visiting her family for Thanksgiving break. Her dad, Eric, was working on his GMC truck in the family’s garage. He later recalled, “I was on my back, face up, and I was trying to get at some corroded brake lines when apparently the jack slipped and the truck fell down on me. The minute the jack slipped, there was an almost instantaneous, real strong smell of gasoline, and then I heard, Whoosh!” Afterward, he would say he was sure someone would be pulling a dead body out from under the vehicle. Instead, his 19YO daughter heard the noise and came flying into the garage, barefoot. She was about 5’4” and weighed 120#. She says she cannot explain what happened next, but…She lifted that truck off her dad and got him out; then she jumped into the vehicle—which was on fire—threw it into 4 wheel drive, backed it out of the garage on three wheels and closed the garage door to contain the fire.
Then she ran into the house to get the family out, starting with her sister’s baby.
The news reported her saying, “I just did what I had to do. So I don’t feel like a big hero or anything.” She was later recognized with a Citizen Lifesaving Award by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, and given a check for $10,000 on a TV talk show.
Every once in a while we hear of some similar feat of superhuman strength after which folks say they had no idea how they accomplished it. You and I know that no smallish young woman would have the upper body strength to lift a truck off her dad. That kind of empowerment had to have come from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our power source for those times when God wants to do something impossible thru us.
We have looked the last few Sundays at the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives: We have noted that Jesus promised the HS would…
1.) Remind us of everything Jesus said;
2.) Help us to rightly discern people, spirits, & situations;
3.) Empower us for service to Jesus and His Church;
4.) He also convicts us—like our conscience–of our sins.
This story of Charlotte Heffelmire is an example of HS empowerment. It is
Superhuman and miraculous.
Today we celebrate Pentecost, the birth of the Christian Church (of all denominations) & the impartation of the HS to each of us believers. Our Scriptures include the narrative from Acts 2, in which the Holy Spirit dramatically materializes. The context is that the 120 disciples, men & women, are praying in the Temple. Jesus had told them (Acts 1:4) Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So they are being obedient, waiting, praying.
Finally, on the day of Pentecost, the HS shows up! This is a theophany, an appearance or manifestation (signs & wonders) of God!
1st sign Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind [Ruach—wind, breath, spirit]. This was no gentle breeze! It came with the sound of a freight train, like a tornado. Now, God had done this beforeàEze 37:9 God sends the wind to raise the dry bones of Israel to life.
2nd sign They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Imagine if you had been there! Fire over your head, fire over the heads of your friends, but no one burning up! Wow! God had done this before tooàEx 3:2-5àMoses & the
burning bush. The bush was on fire, but Moses saw that it did not burn up; instead, God used the bush to light a fire in Moses. Also, in Isaiah 6àIsaiah’s call to be a prophet, àGod had an angel bring a burning coal to cleanse the prophet’s tongue. Isaiah did not get burned; but he did get fired up to serve the Lord!
3rd sign All of them were filled with the HS and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. They were all supernaturally empowered—like Charlotte– to do something they had never done before, in this case, speak in languages they had never been taught. Parthians, Medes, and other folks visiting Jerusalem heard them praising God in their native tongues. These foreign visitors realized something extraordinary was happening as these were simple folk from Galilee, or we might say from some small town in Florida.
Now God had done this before tooàIsa 50:4 The Sovereign Lord gave me an instructed tongue; this means inspired speech. Similarly, the Lord, (2:28), speaking thru the prophet Joel, promises, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I can truthfully testify of times when I have preached and known the words I spoke were not my own—I had prepared something else–but God had other ideas about what He wanted me to say to His people. What came out of my mouth was truly Holy Spirit inspired speech.
So, back to our passage. The Holy Spirit showed up, big time! But why would God go to this trouble? (using wind, fire, inspired speech?) I think He did for two reasons:
- Empowerment to tell others about Jesus.
Some denominations call this witnessing ( a word makes some of us uncomfortable). Witnessing, or sharing your testimony—your experience with Jesus—is actually how we go about living out the Great Commission, Matt 28:18àGo and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. The disciples flowed out from where they had been teaching and praying in the Temple and began praising God and telling anyone who would listen about Jesus. Witnessing means sharing with others what God has done in our lives and in the lives of our friends. We do not do this in our own strength, but—like the disciples–thru the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to stand on street corners and wave our Bibles at people. On the contrary. Ask God to show you both who to share with and what to sayàask for an instructed tongue.
- Empowerment to do miraculous things for the building up of
God’s Kingdom: a.) Praying for healing (and watching it happen); b.) Supernatural strength like Charlotte had; c.) Abilities to teach or preach, paint, make music, write, grow orchids, or to help those in need. Paul describes 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit in our New Testament lesson today, 1 Cor12:3-13à
2.) Words of knowledge;
5.) Miraculous powers (Charlotte);
7.) Discernment of spirits;
9.) Interpretation of tongues.
As our Gospel (John 7:37-39) describes it, the Holy Spirit is the source of the streams of living water Jesus promises to believers.
I want to share with you this humorous story of a miraculous dog (please know, in advance, that I mean no disrespect to either Baptists or Pentecostals). A Baptist preacher and his wife decided they wanted a dog. Given the scrutiny/oversight from their congregation, they knew it needed to be a well-behaved Baptist dog. So they went to an exclusive kennel and expressed their needs and reservations to the owner. He assured them he had just the right dog for them. When the dog was produced, the kennel owner began giving it commands: Fetch the Bible. The dog bounced over to the bookshelves, looked them over, located the Bible, and obediently brought it to the man. Then he said, Find the 23rd Psalm. The dog, demonstrating amazing dexterity with his paws, leafed thru the Bible, found the correct passage, and pointed to it with his nose.
The preacher and his wife were so impressed that they immediately purchased the dog. Later, they began to show off to members of their congregation what the dog could do, having him locate several Bible verses. Folks were amazed, but one skeptic asked, Can he do any normal dog tricks? “Let’s see,” said the preacher and commanded him to “heel!”
The dog immediately jumped up on a chair, laid his paw on a parishioner’s head and began to howl! The preacher was shocked and turned to his wife and complained, “Honey, we’ve been swindled! The kennel owner sold us a Pentecostal dog!”
This Pentecostal dog had the Holy Spirit gift of healing!
As we were reminded last week, just before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave us all a job: Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to go and do. We are to go witness to those God places before us…
Tell people who are interested the difference knowing God has made in your life; tell them of the wonderful ways that God has blessed you and might bless them. Then use the gifts with which the Holy Spirit has entrusted you to build up God’s Kingdom here on earth. Come, Holy Spirit! Empower us to witness and to serve, we pray in Jesus’ name!
©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams