Drowned in the Spirit
May 20, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
In 2013 our church decided we wanted to get in the action of the Damboree, the 4th of July, daylong celebration that begins with the Boulder City Rotary’s free pancake breakfast followed by the Damboree parade and splash zone, then continues into Broadbent park where there are food vendors, live music and games for the whole family. I had been with the church about a year and we were working very hard at that time to put ourselves on the map. We wanted to get the word out in the community that the Boulder City United Methodist Church was here, and we wanted to meet our neighbors.
The first year we rented a splash tank, you know the type that has a bucket of water way up top, and a bullseye in the middle that you throw balls at. When the target is hit, the bucket of water splashes down on the innocent (or not so innocent) victim in the chair below. Sitting in the chair anticipating the bucket to drop is one of the most tantalizing places you can find yourself. The anticipation of what is going to happen makes your whole-body tingle in fear and trepidation!
Then, the moment happens, the bullseye is hit and down comes a cold bucket of water. It takes your breath away, at least it did mine. I sat there frozen for a few seconds, hardly believing how cold the water was and that I had just been nearly drowned with a bucket of water. The indignity of it all, at least until the sun warmed me up again and I felt nice and cool in the 110-degree heat.
Thinking back to that experience, I have to wonder if it was anything like that first coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish celebration, a holiday known as the Festival of Weeks, where the people came together, 50 days following Passover, to celebrate the harvest and it eventually evolved into a day to commemorate the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.
The literal translation of Pentecost is “fifty days” which was especially significant for the Christians because “seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Christ’s first followers, empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.” Many consider Pentecost as the birthday of the church. It was the first time that a gathering of people, praised Jesus and decided to follow Christ. Scripture tells us that more than 3000 people repented were baptized that day, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine our church gaining 3000 new believers in one afternoon?! WOW is all I can say about that!
The story goes like this…a huge crowd of Jews were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Weeks. While they were there they heard the sound of violent wind, and it filled the house they were staying. Help me make the sound of violent wind.
“3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
They began speaking in a language that was universal, God’s dialect. What the huge variety of people gathered together heard, was all in their native tongue. Peter was preaching this good news of Jesus Christ and explaining what was happening and everyone present could understand. Bewildered, some of the crowd were amazed at the miracle happening before their eyes, others said that they were drunk – maybe they thought themselves to be drunk to believe what they were seeing, or the speakers were drunk because they were doing something that was beyond comprehension. But they weren’t drunk!
Turn to the person next to you and say, “they weren’t drunk!”
They were experiencing the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit. In that moment they became one, they became part of the Body of Christ, they became community. And the Church was born.
“At some point, Peter, Christ’s disciple, the rock Jesus said he would build his church upon, stood up and preached his first sermon. He interpreted the events of that morning in light of a prophecy of the Hebrew prophet Joel. In that text, that Fred read, God promised to pour out his Spirit on all flesh, empowering diverse people to exercise divine power. This would be a sign of the coming “day of the Lord” (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32).
“Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised and had poured out the Spirit in fulfillment of God’s promise through Joel (2:32-33). When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. And then, he said, they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:37-39). Acts reports that about 3,000 people were added to the church that day (2:41). Not a bad response to Peter’s first sermon!”
I have to ask, was this the first time God’s Spirit was seen or felt? What do you think?
“This was a momentous, watershed event. For the first time in history, God began to do what he had promised through Joel, empowering all different sorts of people for ministry. You see, in the era of the Old Testament, the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings, in the age of the New Testament, the Spirit would be given to “all people.” All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.”
This was monumental. This was a huge change in how things were done. I can just hear those early church people saying, “gee, we’ve never done it this way!” What an exciting time to be part of the newly founded church. No Virginia, we haven’t always done it this way and what a great new way we have found to experience God!
Pentecost is not just a holiday we celebrate today of some long-ago tradition or miracle that took place. Pentecost happens every time we gather as community and celebrate the Risen Christ. It may not look the same, it’s not often we get a heavenly wind or see flames on top of people’s heads; but it happens none the less.
As “Christians we are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3), empowers us to serve God with supernatural power (1 Cor 12:4-11), binds us together as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13), the Spirit helps us to pray (Rom 8:26), and even intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom 8:27). The Spirit guides us (Gal 5:25), helping us to live like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23).
“Pentecost presents us with an opportunity to consider how we are living each day. Are we relying on the power of God’s Spirit? Are we an open channel for the Spirit’s gifts? Are we attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Is the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), are they growing in our lives? Most Christians I know, including me, live in the presence and power of the Spirit, but only to an extent. You see, we become limited by our fear, our sin, our low expectations, not to mention our tendency to be distracted from God’s work within us. Pentecost offers a chance to confess our failure to live by the Spirit and to ask the Lord to fill us afresh with his power.”
The only question becomes will we take the chance? Will we confess our failures and accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and choose to live a life, filled to overflowing with God’s Holy Spirit, allowing the Spirit to flow through us and into our world. All we have to do is decide and it is so. Now, that doesn’t mean that you will be instantly changed, although that has been known to happen.
Some of us, like the founder of Methodism, John Wesley was a priest for years before he felt the Holy Spirit within him. Let me read a bit of his journal entry from May 24, 1738:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading [Martin] Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Sometimes it takes time to feel our own Pentecost moment. Regardless if we have already felt it, or if it is the near future, God’s Holy Spirit desires to reveal themselves to you, to let you know them as your constant companion, the advocate that Jesus promised us. Once we are open to the leading of the Spirit, you will find that daily you will be guided by the Spirit to step forward in faith and follow God’s lead. And that is where being drowned in the Holy Spirit leads to a life fulfilled. Amen.
 Acts 2:3-4