pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Fill Us, Holy Spirit

Reading: Acts 2: 1-4

Verses 3-4: “… tongues of fire… came and rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost Sunday in many of our churches. It is thought of as the birthday of the church. Two different groups were gathered in Jerusalem for two different reasons. The disciples of Jesus were gathered, waiting for the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit. Jews were also gathered, there to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. This annual festival fifty days after Passover was known as “Pentecost” in Greek. These two groups would be gathered under one roof as the loud noise, sounding like a “violent wind”, draws them together.

For the disciples who were gathered, they experienced something extraordinary. In verses 3-4 we read, “… tongues of fire… came and rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”. With a tangible and very visible sign, that which Jesus promised arrived. The gift that will teach and remind also gives the gift of speaking in many different languages. This remains one gift that the Spirit gives to those who follow Jesus.

I am currently at Annual Conference – the yearly gathering of United Methodist churches. My Annual Conference consists of the UM churches in South and North Dakota. Last night we had our “Celebration of Life in Ministry” service. In worship we celebrate the ministry of those no longer with us. We celebrate those who have graduated and those becoming provisional members and those being ordained as elders or deacons. It is a wonderful night of celebrating ministry. It begins with a welcome from a clergy from another denomination. Last night it was an Episcopal priest that our Bishop met while visiting the Standing Rock Reservation. This special guest represents our ties as the larger body of Christ, together under “one roof” as the Bishop put it in his message. Near the end of worship our Bishop always invites those whose hearts have been warmed, those perhaps feeling a call to ministry, to come forward.

As the Bishop prepared to give the benediction, the Episcopal priest asked to speak. He spoke of how our two denominations are close – Methodism was “birthed” by the Episcopals. And he spoke of how his heart was full and was warmed by this movement of the Holy Spirit among us and in our hearts. He spoke of how we are under one big roof – drawn together by God. Yes, God was once again at work in a very tangible and powerful way, speaking once again into our hearts. This day I look forward to having the Holy Spirit speak in my heart once again. May it be so for you as well.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for filling my heart as well last night. Thank you so much for loving us so much that you work on being in relationship with each of us. Fill me up again today, Lord. Amen.

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Holy Spirit Speaking

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verse Six: “When they heard the sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language”.

Jesus had been out there in the public eye during His ministry. Yes, He was a regular in the temple and synagogues, but most of His ministry was spent out in the world. In the days since Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the disciples have gotten a bit bolder but they are still relatively quiet about spreading the good news. And then Pentecost happens.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday. More properly named “Shavuot”, it occurs fifty days after Passover and celebrates the end of harvest season. Also known as the “Feast of Weeks”, this holy event drew pilgrims to Jerusalem from all over the world. This is why the list of places in verses nine through eleven is so long.

The Holy Spirit, the gift that Jesus has promised, arrives large and loud. No more quietly spreading the good news. With a “sound like the blowing of a violent wind”, the Holy Spirit enters the house where the believers have gathered. We assume that the group numbered about 120 or so. Tongues of fire fall on each one and they begin speaking in many languages. The noise of the Holy Spirit’s arrival drew a large crowd of Jews and these people from all over the world hear the Word of God proclaimed in their own native tongues. The Holy Spirit allowed ministry to happen. Peter goes on to preach to the crowd and about 3,000 are added to their number that day. The church grows by leaps and bounds as the Holy Spirit moves the church out into the wider world.

This same Holy Spirit wants to be at work in our lives as well. This same Holy Spirit wants to speak through you and me to draw others to Jesus Christ. This same Holy Spirit will give us the “language” we need to use to share the story of Jesus, the good news, with all we meet. Holy Spirit, pour out upon all of us today, allowing each of us to be used to speak the hope and love of Jesus into the lives of the unsaved and the hurting. Use us today, O Lord.


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Pentecost Ripples

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

On the day of Pentecost the Spirit came and began to fill the hearts of the believers.  Like a stone that is thrown in a lake, the ripples spread slowly but steadily out from the center, out from Jesus, out from Jerusalem.  The power of the Holy Spirit is shown in how far those ripples went: to the ends of the earth.  As His followers today we continue to be a part of this motion; we continue to go out and faithfully follow the Holy Spirit, bringing good news to all the corners of our world.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit entered in a new way.  With this new entrance, God began a new creation.  God is all around us.  Jesus the man came and lived among us.  The Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of each of us.  This is a different relationship, a different dynamic.  Like the ripple in the water, the Spirit is inside of us, seeking to radiate out in all directions.  The infinite love of God dwells in the heart of each believer, making them a new creation.

On the day of Pentecost, those first disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to change the world almost immediately.  The Word of God was spoken and many were baptized and came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  On this day of Pentecost, the Spirit continues to fill the hearts of all believers, old and new, eager to move in and through them.  On this day of Pentecost, may we too be filled with the breath of God, allowing the Holy Spirit of God to move in and through us.


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May It Blow Strong

Nicodemus visits Jesus with a purpose.  Yet he never gets to ask his question.  Jesus decides the topic and tenor of the conversation before his “guest” can initiate it.  Like so many other times in the Gospels, it seems that Jesus knows just what this person standing in front of him needs to hear.  We do not know for sure which Jesus speaks of – baptism of being reborn spiritually.  Maybe it is both.  In Jewish tradition baptism was for proselytes.  We too view baptism as an initiation into the faith.  For some churches it is akin to confirmation or in others to a believer’s baptism.  In both cases it is roughly equal to a confession of faith.

The “pnuema” or wind that Jesus speaks of is fascinating.  Also challenging!  We cannot see when or where or why the wind begins.  Scientifically we can explain ‘how’ the wind is created.

In our faith we cannot explain when or where or why the Holy Spirit enters into our lives. We do have Biblical explanations and examples of how the Holy Spirit came to enter the world and how it functions in our lives.  But for most of us, just like the wind, the Spirit comes and goes from our lives.  There is no question in our minds, hearts, or souls, that the presence is with us.  The Holy Spirit is there as surely as the wind rustling the leaves outside.  The strong power guides us and leads us.  It calls us to action at times and to repentance at others.  It draws us closer to God.  And like the wind that blows away the dust and the leaves, the Holy Spirit clears away the chaff so that we are left standing on the rock, on Jesus Christ.  May the Spirit blow strongly in your life this day!!