Pentecost 2019 (Night Church)

Pentecost 2019 (Night Church)

6:30pm worship – Sunday 9th June
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Acts 2:1-5, 14-21


What has been your experience of the Holy Spirit?

When I was about 19 or 20, I noticed something about the way my church approached the Holy Spirit – and I think that this would be probably true for many churches, especially Uniting Churches. 

I noticed that we talked a lot about the Holy Spirit:

  • how it was part of the Trinity
  • That the Spirit was there in creation moving over the waters
  • That the Holy Spirit is present all throughout the Old Testament – anointing kings, speaking to the prophets, guiding the people, even blessing the craft workers with special skills to make the items for the temple.
  • The prophets then talked about a time when the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all people.
  • John the Baptist said that he baptises with water but the one who comes after him – Jesus – with baptise with fire and the spirit!
  • And in our reading for today, we held the fulfilment of that promise, the Holy Spirit came.

I even heard growing up about the supernatural gifts that the Holy Spirit blessed us with, things like healing, and prophecy and speaking in tongues.   By the time I was 20, I KNEW a lot about the Holy Spirit … but I was not sure if I had EXPERIENCED the Holy Spirit.   I wanted to feel the Holy Spirit in my life.

My father, who was my minister at the time, encouraged me in my desire to experience the Holy Spirit … but admitted that he was not sure how to help me.  So, I went on a quest … to talk to people who might know how I could not just know more about the Holy Spirit but EXPERIENCE the Holy Spirit, to go to places where the Holy Spirit was flowing.

I don’t have time to tell the whole story as it went for the next couple of years of my life … but I can tell you the three things that I concluded at the end of this journey.

  1. The Holy Spirit is more than a theory, the Holy Spirit is real and is something that CAN experience
  • We can’t control the Holy Spirit.  We can’t make the Spirit move or flow … but we be more open to the Holy Spirit moving in our lives

  • The Holy Spirit wants to bless us.  Jesus said that the Holy Spirit can be our guide, our teacher, our strength, our empower-er, our helper … and the Holy Spirit wants to bless us with all those things.

And it is this last point that I want to focus on today. 

If the Holy Spirit was going to come to you today, to bless you today – what would you like the Holy Spirit to help you with?  In your life, the things that you are dealing with or wrestling with or worrying about … what blessing from the Holy Spirit would be particularly helpful to you?

To help us ponder this question, I am going to read a short passage from the prophet Isaiah.  The Holy Spirit can bless us in so many ways, but in this passage Isaiah highlights seven different ways that the Holy Spirit can work in our lives.

I am reading from Isaiah 11:1-3.  This is a prophecy of the way that the Holy Spirit will come on Jesus…

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah is saying that the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Jesus and bring …

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding or revelation
  • Counsel or guidance or discernment
  • Might or strength or courage
  • Knowledge
  • Fear or reverence or respect
  • Delight or wonder

Now of course the spirit can bless us in more ways that these seven, but today – I am going to give you a quick explanation of these seven blessings of the Holy Spirit and what I want you to do is to think about if any of these seven blessings would be helpful in your life today.  What one would be most helpful?

The spirit of Wisdom

Do you have a difficult decision to make at the moment?  Are you struggling to work out the right path to take in life?  Then maybe you need the blessing of the spirit of Wisdom.

Wisdom is not just about making the right decision but about making the best decision.  It is about making decision that not only are helpful for you but helpful to others around you.

God’s Wisdom is so helpful in those really hard situations where human logic runs out … when you say, “I have tried everything and nothing seems to work” … then asks for the Holy Spirit for the Spirit of wisdom.

See how this works?  Next one…

The Spirit of Understanding or Revelation

The Apostle Paul writes a lot about this in his letters where he prays that people who have an insight or understanding into the nature of God or the extent of God’s love and grace.

Like in Ephesians 1:17-19 Paul writes

“I keep asking that the God … may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Or in chapter 3 when he prays that they will “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”

One commentary I read this week said that this blessing of spiritual understanding the Holy Spirit is so important because when we see the things of God more clearly, it makes our daily following so much easier.

Would you like to see God more clearly or have a revelation into God’s love or grace or holiness?  Pray for a blessing of the Spirit of Understanding.

The Spirit of counsel/guidance/right judgement/discernment

This is similar to the spirit of wisdom but where the spirit of wisdom was more for our own personal decision making, the blessing of the spirit of counsel or discernment is more about how we can share that wisdom with each other in a way which is helpful and not judgemental.

A person who is blessed with the spirit of discernment not only has insight into what is right and wrong but also lives that out in their actions and interactions with other people. It involves the giving as well as the receiving of council and the ability to discern which advice is from God and which is not.

It is that last bit that is really important.  Advice is good but how do we have the discernment of working out how to best share that advice in a helpful way, or whether the advice we think is from God?  We ask for a blessing of the spirit of counsel and discernment.

The Spirit of courage/strength

Sometimes life is wonderful and lifegiving … other times is can he hard and lifedraining.  When it is the later – sometimes we need some divine strength or courage to keep going.

Also … as a follower of Jesus Christ, sometimes we are called to take risks, to be willing to stand up for what is right and just, even if it means people rejecting us or criticising us.

Are you feeling tired or overwhelmed at the moment?  Ask the Holy Spirit for a blessing of strength or courage.  Isaiah reminds us that those who put who hope in the Lord, God will renew their strength.  they will soar on wings like eagles…

The Spirit of knowledge

One way of understanding this blessing of the Holy Spirit is that we are given insight or knowledge about this we cannot we understand the meaning of God.  A glimpse into the mystery of God or into a person or situation that we only know because the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.  It is not unlike the blessing of understanding, but it is more when we have a sudden thought or idea come to us.

Have you ever had the experience when you have been doing something else and you just felt this strong sense that you should stop and give someone a call, or go and visit them … and when you do they say, “How did you know that I needed someone right now”.  That this the blessing of the spirit of Knowledge, and maybe this might be helpful to you today.

The Spirit of reverence/respect/fear

Some of these blessings are outward and to do with the way we relate to other people, where are some – like the spirit or reverence – help us in our relationship with God.  A person who has been blessed by the spirit of reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love.

When it is about “fear” it is not a fear of judgement or punishment from God, but rather an awesome fear … a recognition that God is holy, wonderful, and powerful and deserves all our honour and glory and praise.

Do you need to experience more of this reverence or respect of God in your life?  Maybe you can ask for a blessing of the Spirit of Reverence?

The Spirit of wonder/delight

This last one really spoke to me.  This blessing of the spirit is simply finding the wonder and delight it is to be with God.  To experience the Joy of being in the lord’s presence, to see wonder in the world and people around us, to delight in the moment.

Malachi 4:2 gives us this image that when we are in the presence of the Lord we will “frolic like well-fed calves”.  Do you need a special touch from God today?  Would you like to experience more of the joy, the wonder, the delight of being near God?  Would you like to be carefree and frolic like well-fed calves?  Ask for the blessing of the Spirit of wonder and delight.

As I said at the beginning, I am sure that the Holy Spirit can blessing us in many more ways … but today, here are seven different blessings that we can receive from the Spirit:

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding or revelation
  • Counsel or guidance or discernment
  • Might or strength or courage
  • Knowledge
  • Fear or reverence or respect
  • Delight or wonder

I now ask you to take a moment to reflect on which of these we would like to particularly ask the Holy Spirit to bless us with today.

UP the front here we have seven candles with cards representing these seven blessings of the Holy Spirit  – and as a way of symbolically asking for a blessing this morning, I encourage you at the end of the service to take one or two of the cards to remind you of this blessing. So, lets pray … Come Holy Spirit.  Bless us this morning.