Day Drinking

Day Drinking

Human beings are creatures of habit.
It’s cliche but no less true.
Another word for habit is ritual,
so it is, that we are creatures of ritual.

We have a certain way of doing things,
of moving in the world that, if we skip,
we feel out of sorts,
like something is wrong
that we just can’t put our finger on.

These rituals can be spiritual
like making sure you pray
before your feet hit the floor in the morning.
In my early 20’s I had the ritual of
“No bible, no breakfast.”
Meaning that, until I spent some time in God’s Word
each day I wasn’t going to eat.

Rituals can also be regular, ordinary,
common sense things,
like “don’t talk to me until I have had my coffee”.
My family is well acquainted with that ritual
and I know some of us would argue
that coffee is a spiritual ritual as well.

Rituals come in all shapes and sizes.
Some are more rigid than others, but we all have them.

When we get to studying history
however we begin to see
just how strict some of those rituals could be.
For instance.
The ancient Hebrew Scribes,
the ones who made copies
of The Law and the Prophets.
Had very exacting rules and rituals
for copying the scriptures.

Like, before they wrote the word for God
the scribes would have to completely clean the pen
and bathe themselves
before they could write a single letter of the name.
And they had to do that every, single time.

When copying the holy scriptures,
everything had to be perfect.
The lines and letters
were counted and checked constantly.
Frontward and back.

If the lines and paragraphs didn’t line up
with the original they were deemed unfit.
If letters touched each other at all
they were scrapped.
The scribes also had to verbalize each word
as they wrote it.

It was exacting but it was the ritual
that was decided upon in order
to faithfully transmit God’s Word to future generations.

Thankfully, my sermon writing rituals
are not nearly so rigorous,
and they have changed quite a bit over years.

When I first began preaching
I was what you would call an extemporaneous preacher. If I walked into the pulpit
with anything more than a bible
and a notecard it was a miracle.

I believed that I needed to study and know my text.
I needed to have an outline or a strategy
that I had prayed over for preaching the passage
but largely,
I didn’t know what I was going to say
until I got in the pulpit and said it.

I believed that if I did anything more,
if I tried to write out the whole thing,
that I wasn’t leaving any room for the Holy Spirit to work.

When Bri and I met, we were very different preachers.

Bri wrote down every word she was going to preach.
She stepped into the pulpit
with pages and pages of manuscript.
And she was good. She is good.
And for the life of me I didn’t understand
how it could be that she was writing all of this stuff down
prior to the service and yet have it hit home so well.

One week we both were preaching on the same Sunday
at different churches
and we decided to preach on the same passage.

I wound up asking her how it was
that she could write stuff down on Wednesday
or Thursday and still expect them to land on Sunday.
I told her about how I only brought in a rough outline
and a bible and let the Holy Spirit work.

Bri, in her brilliance, looked at me and asked
“So, do you think that the Holy Spirit
only works on Sunday?”
Burn! Facepalm! Slouchy shoulders. Sad emoticon. 🙁

Today is Pentecost,
and Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit.

Of the three persons of the Trinity,
the Holy Spirit is probably the most mysterious:

Jesus is fairly straightforward –
the eternal yet historical person,
who is most clearly revealed to us.

The Father refers to the transcendent God,
God the perfect judge and loving creator
who is in heaven and yet loves us enough
to make a way for us to draw near to God there.

And then there’s the Holy Spirit, the holy ghost,
the breath and wind blowing through our lives.

And we all have our own ideas
of how we relate to the Holy Spirit.

Some ignore the Spirit all together,
choosing to focus on Jesus and the Father instead. Others view the Spirit
as the comforter the seal of our redemption.
Some view the Holy Spirit
as the presence of the divine in our lives.
Still others as a helper and guide.
And in truth,
the Holy Spirit is all of those things,
and probably a whole lot more.

In the Old Testament
we see the Holy Spirit
resting upon kings and judges and prophets.
Helping to guide them.
Helping them to know that God is there
and there is a bigger reality
than what can merely be seen.

The very first people we read of
in the Old Testament being gifted the Holy Spirit
weren’t priests or prophets or judges or kings,
but they were the builders and craftsman
who made the vessels and other materials
for the tabernacle.

When the Ark of the Covenant was built
it was by builders
who had the Holy Spirit of God within them.
When the weavers
were making the walls for the tent of meeting
it was by weavers upon whom the Holy Spirit rested.

In all of these cases,
be it builders or weavers,
or kings or prophets or judges,
the Holy Spirit was a temporary gift.
A power or guide or connection to the divine
that came for a specific purpose or season and then left.

That is why we read in Psalm 51:11
King David pleading with God
“Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me”.

At this moment in his life,
David is coming to realize
just how terribly he’s messed up;
he’s sinned against God
and against the people he was entrusted to lead.

And he remembered that the previous king, King Saul,
had done what was evil in the sight of God
and the Holy Spirit was removed
and Saul was plagued by that missing connection
for the rest of his life.
“Do not take your Holy Spirit from me”
was a legitimate concern for David.

It isn’t until the New Testament, until Jesus,
that we start to get an idea
that something different is about to happen.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is about to change.
And in some dramatic and fantastic ways.

Today is Pentecost.
And for many of you
that word probably doesn’t mean a whole lot.
The most direct meaning of the word is 50 days.
For the ancient Hebrews it marked 50 days
from the second day of the passover feast
and the beginning of another feast
celebrating the giving of the law.

For Christians it marks 50 days from the resurrection.
But it isn’t really about marking out 50 days.
50 days from the resurrection
marks the gifting of the Holy Spirit
to all who believe in Jesus.

The best equivalent we have for Pentecost
would be to say, today, Pentecost,
is the birthday of the Church.

Today is the day we celebrate the promise of Christ,
the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit,
who will stay with us, never leave us,
and empower us to do the work for which we are called.

So, Happy Birthday Church!
Today we are 1,985 years old,
truthfully though, we don’t look a day over 900.

Our scripture for today captures that moment.
The moment that everything changed.
The moment that a rag tag group
of fisherman and tax collectors,
became something more
than the sum of their parts. They became the Church.

And the very first thing they did
was call a committee meeting. No. No they didn’t.

The first thing they did
was probably some sort of attempt
to re-orient their minds to this new reality.

This reality where, for the first time,
the Holy Spirit had taken up residence in them,
and wasn’t going to leave.
And then as they opened their mouths to speak,
the realized they were each
speaking a different language.
Languages that were not their native tongues.
Languages that until moments before
they had no clue how to speak.

And then, without a single preaching class,
they went out into the city
and began to preach to a linguistically diverse crowd.

Now the disciples were preaching
about the greatness of God
and all that God had done through Jesus.
But of course, as any preacher will tell you,
that isn’t really what the crowd was paying attention to.
No the crowd began to debate.
Some just wondering
how it was that these uneducated,
untraveled, people
were all speaking these different languages,
and others, others looked as this band
of Holy Spirit filled preachers
and said “Go home boys. You’re drunk!.”

And that comment kind of got stuck in Peter’s craw.
It was only 9 in the morning
and apparently day drinking hadn’t been invented yet.

So Peter got up and preached his first sermon.
No manuscript. No note cards,
no sleek, leather-bound bible
with the words of Christ in red letters.

He stood up,
and with the knowledge and power given to him
by the Holy Spirit, he preached a sermon.
And you can read the whole thing
in the rest of chapter two,
but the short version is this:
Believe in Jesus, repent of your sin, and be baptized.
There were no clever stories
about rituals and different sermon writing techniques.
No screens with visual representations of data.
No loud speakers or praise bands.

Just Peter telling it like it is.
Quoting the prophets and the psalms.
And in the end, over 3,000 people believed in Jesus
and were baptized that day.

These disciples, Peter and the rest,
were just people.
Not highly educated.
In that day and age their value to society was minimal.

People couldn’t believe what they were hearing
from the lips of these Galilean peasants
so much so that all they could think
was that they must have been drunk.

The truth we find
is far more mysterious and exciting.

These normal, average,
everyday working Janes and Joes
received a gift from Jesus.

A gift that allowed them
to be more than what they ever believed they could be.

There is an old saying
that goes something like this
“God never calls the qualified,
but rather God qualifies the called.”

That is, God isn’t looking at our resumes
to decide whether or not God can use us.
Rather God has decided that God will use us and,
through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, qualifies us for that work, for that ministry.

My biggest fear
when I started bible college was public speaking.
I hated the very idea of it.

I did everything I could
to stay away from any place
where I might have to speak into a microphone.
To the extent that I became proficient
in setting up and operating sound systems
so that I would be at the back
of whatever room speaking of that nature
was going on in.

Try as I might though,
part of that education
was a class called Homiletics,
in which we all had to preach sermons,
rather public ones.

Writing a manuscript and turning in a paper wouldn’t do.
I dreaded that class.

I was great at talking to people.
Sitting down and leading bible studies.
I could practically do that in my sleep.
But nothing in my life prepared me for
or lead me to believe
that I could get up in front of a room
full of theology students and professors
and preach a sermon.

I had no training in it.
I only got a passing grade
on the speeches I made in high school
because I was able to get up to the front of the room,
open my mouth,
and have something that sounded
vaguely like words come out.

This was not my jam.
I believed in my heart of hearts
that this was never going to be a part
of the ministry that God was calling me to
because I was not qualified for it.

But I got up in front of my peers.
I preached the four sermons
I had to preach that semester.
And what’s more, I aced the class.
Not because the books in the class
prepared me for public speaking, they didn’t.

They were all about how to study for preaching,
not preaching itself.

And it wasn’t because the teachers spent
a ton of time going over how to write outlines
or how to make sure the words
you are choosing will fit into your mouth properly. Because they didn’t, not until seminary anyway.

I aced the class
because despite my reticence,
despite my perceived inability,
God had called me to this ministry,
and therefore God qualified me for this ministry
through the gift of the Holy Spirit in my life.

In twenty years I have gotten over a lot of the fear.
God has been very faithful to me.
But I would be lying if I told you
that there wasn’t a little voice
deep in the recesses of my mind
trying to make me doubt
wether I can get up and open my mouth each week.

This is just not a natural position for me to be in.
Even after taking preaching classes
that dealt with all of the requisite qualifications
in seminary I still do not feel I have the ability
to do it on my own
with out the help of the Holy Spirit.
And that is something for which I am very thankful.

As you delve into the mystery
of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the New Testament
you will discover that this gift
is not something that came only to the disciples
or the preachers.
It came to everyone who believes in Jesus.
Everyone who is a Christian has, living within them,
the Holy Spirit of God.

And that gift is there for a reason.
Not just to help you pray
when you don’t have the words.
Not just to sit as a seal of redemption on your life.
Nor is the Spirit there simply to comfort you.

It is there to empower you.
To qualify you to do the work
that God is calling you to do.

And sometimes,
that means causing a holy discomfort in your life,
pushing you beyond your comfort zone,
to where you have to trust in God’s power
to get you through.
For some of us, that’s being a pastor,
that’s preaching and teaching
and devoting your life to the study of scripture
and ministry to the people of God.
For others that’s helping in youth ministry or in hospitality.

For some it is leading bible studies
and Sunday School classes.
For others it is organizing the Body of Christ
to do something about homelessness or hunger.

For others it is visiting the sick or the imprisoned.

There really is no limit
to what God is calling us to do
and to the reality that God has qualified you
for whatever that may be, even if,
in your heart, that particular thing is
the hardest thing you will ever have to do.

So Saints of the Living God,
there is no question
about whether or not you have been called.
And there is no question
about whether or not you are qualified.
Those are a given.
All that remains is for you to figure out
what it is that YOU are specifically called to.

Your church needs help.
Your church needs you to be doing
the ministry of the church.

Is that in hospitality or outreach?
Is it working with the youth?
Is it in working behind the scenes
to make sure our building is ready
to receive guests and host events?

Is it in inviting friends and neighbors
and strangers to come and join
in our community of faith?
That one’s a trick question.
Because that one is for all of us to be doing.

Being a Christian,
one who is born of the Spirit of God,
is not like joining a club,
it is joining a family where we all share in the labor.

We all have specific areas
in which we are called and qualified by God to work. And when we don’t do that,
when we try to convince ourselves
that its not “me” that is supposed to be doing it,
we create greater burdens
on other members of the family.
And things begin to fall through the cracks,
and eventually the family has to close the doors.

In I Corinthians
the apostle Paul tells us that the Body of Christ,
the Church, is given all that is needed
by the Spirit of God, to function properly.

We have all that we need,
even as we realize we may be smaller in number
than anytime in the past,
we must believe, that if we are here,
God is gifting us with all we need
to do what God has called this body to do.
And that should give us great hope.

But it also means that each of us needs to look deep,
and keep looking,
to make sure we are doing the work
that God has given us to do.

We have to trust
that where God is leading us,
God’s Spirit will sustain us.

That where God has called us to work
God has also qualified us to work
through the Holy Spirit.

We have to have faith.
We have to be able to step out onto the path,
even if we cannot see the next step,
trusting in God’s Spirit to guide us.

Then we will be able to say,
with Peter and the prophet Joel,
God’s Spirit is for everyone,
and by God’s grace,
“everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved.” Amen? Amen.

Acts 2:1-21

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