An Explosion of Faith
June 3, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I want to talk with you today about the scripture. This is part two of the sermon we began last week. It’s “An Explosion of Faith,” because I want to talk with you about Pentecost. Pentecost is one of the most joyous times in the life of our church. Let’s talk about why that is for a moment.
A little recap – as you remember from last week’s scripture reading, the disciples had witnessed the death of Jesus. They were there when He rose from the dead. He visited with them after Easter, and He stayed with them for forty days. Then He took them up to the Mount of Transfiguration, and He blessed them, and He promised that He’d be with them always. Then God raised Him into heaven, and the disciples watched as Jesus was raised.
Then they looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?” They got together in the Upper Room, and they all basically continued to look at each other and say, “What now? Jesus is not physically among us.” They got scared. They were frightened and confused. It was sort of the equivalent of wanting to go into your room and pull all the shades down and pull the covers over your head and stay there. Maybe some of us can relate to that. That’s where the disciples were “at.”
And in the midst of that fearful feeling, God said, “I’m not done! Jesus’s promises will come true!” And on that Pentecost day, there was a sound like the rush of a mighty wind or perhaps the sound of all the disciples saying “Ah ha!” at the same time. And each one was filled with a glow. The Bible says it was like tongues of fire resting over their heads, which is where we get the Pentecost color red. Each one of them was filled with a new enthusiasm and a new kind of spirit for living. And so they metaphorically threw the covers off, opened up the windows and doors, and went outside. They proclaimed, “This is the day which the Lord has made, and we are not afraid of it! This is the day to share God’s love with all people, and we are confident. This is the day to go out and proclaim God’s love fearlessly, because we are protected by the Holy Spirit of God.”
A radical transformation took place within the life of each disciple individually, and within the lives of the disciples corporately. That’s what Pentecost was all about. It was the birthday of confidence; it was the birthday of the church. Everyone had known reverence for God and respect for God, but on Pentecost God said, “I have respect for you! You are my beloved child. You are the one in whom I am well-pleased.” And they took confidence and they took power. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit puts wings on our spirit. That’s why we celebrate; that’s why Pentecost is such a happy day.
I’d like to talk today about three things the Holy Spirit does for you. And as you pray to God and as you are open to Pentecost power, I pray these things for you as well. The first thing that the Holy Spirit does for us is promotion. Think of a crown, won’t you? Think of a beautiful crown that is just right for your head, one that you can wear with dignity and honor. Think of God placing that crown upon your head. We have a Bible verse about that; we read it this morning, Psalm 8, verse 5. “Thou hast crowned us with honor and glory.” You are promoted, my friend! You are promoted from the low places of doubt and faithlessness and self-doubt to the rank of child of God. You are a son, a daughter of the Most High. You have promotion through Him. You are God’s beloved child. He loves you, and you are invited to live like it.
The second thing that the Holy Spirit does for us is protection. First promotion, next, protection. I invite you to think of a shield, the kind of shield that warriors have in battle. Picture a shield and say, “I am protected by God’s Holy Spirit.” God wants to protect you from the slings and the arrows of negative thoughts. Sometimes they come from the outside. The most difficult ones are those that come from within ourselves. But God wants to protect you from the slings and arrows of negative thoughts. Remember in the Pentecost story the first thing that happened when the disciples were encouraged and empowered and went out into the world and proclaimed God – they were criticized. Some of the people living in Jerusalem at the time, the Bible says, looked at them and their enthusiasm and said, “Hah! These men are drunk.” And Peter put up his shield of protection and said, “No! These men are not drunk. After all, it’s only 9 in the morning.” And they probably laughed at that line. He used a little humor to deflect the situation. He said, “No, these men are inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has put the wisdom and the energy of God into these people. They are Spirit-filled, not spirits-filled.”
Do you need to deal with slings and arrows? Do you need to deal with stones of criticism? Do you need to deal with your own negative thoughts that put you down saying “I’m not this enough or I’m too much that”? Praise God, my friend, and put up your shield. Put up the shield of the Holy Spirit and let those slings bounce off, because you’ve got great work to do. The second gift of the Holy Spirit is protection. I have to do this all the time. The toughest slings for me are the internal doubts and negative thoughts. Sometimes I have to say, “Dear God, send your angels to work now, please. Put your protective angels around me, and surround me so that no negative thoughts come near so that I can do my work.” You do it, too – invite God’s protective angels to hold up the shield and say, “Nothing near God’s beloved child! No negativity! Stop! Deflect! Let only the thoughts of peace and power and enthusiasm and God’s Holy energy come near my beloved one.” That’s you.
Promotion and protection and…provision. You are provided for. I invite you to think of a horn of plenty, the conical horn with the grapes and bananas and pineapples and all the fruit spilling from it. Picture that. Or maybe picture your holiday table all set up, the food ready for company. Picture the abundance there. God is providing for you and for me. The negative thoughts of “not enough” are protected away, and God provides for my every need, now and always. Say that out loud – God provides for my every need, now and always. Promoted, protected, and provided. That’s you. And that’s what the Holy Spirit brings to us.
I’ve always wondered why the season of Pentecost was so long. We’ve got the second Sunday and the 22nd Sunday and the 23rd Sunday. Maybe it’s because God needs that kind of time to convince us of our own worth, to convince us of God’s power within us. So let’s enjoy that together.
There is one more point that I’d like to share with you today. Yes, you are promoted. Yes, you are protected. Yes, you are provided for. But there is one more. You are projected. You are sent out into the world. God has something special for you to do. God is going to need you this week to be somebody’s angel. So take those tools, those wonderful things the Holy Spirit is giving you, and now you can be God’s angel to someone this week. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I bet it will.
I’ll tell you something that happened at Annual Conference this past week. I was sitting at a table at breakfast with a colleague, a former parishioner who was just ordained to ministry. The hostess who was also waitressing came over. She was a bubbly, European woman. She had been talking and joking and laughing with us. And then she said, “Oh, Reverend Tony, you’re a pastor. You can do something for me. How about sometime you say a prayer for my husband? He’s on chemotherapy, and I’m working three jobs because he can’t work anymore. Sometime, you say a prayer.”
And I said to her, “Leah, how about we have a prayer right now? You just lean in a bit and we’ll have a prayer for your husband.” Well, she had a bunch of plates in her hand. She went over to another table, put the plates down, and came back over. She was wearing a little gold cross. She took the cross and kissed it. She knelt down in the middle of the dining room at the table. She held out her hands to me and Deborah, who was being ordained, and bowed her head and said, “We will join hands now. Thank you for offering to pray.” We had a prayer for her husband and for her. I asked Deborah to please join in the prayer, too. Then Leah got up and said, “I thank you so very much, more than words can say.”
You never know when God will put you in that kind of situation. It may be something very simple. It could be a smile to someone who needs a smile. God is going to use you as somebody’s angel this week, my friend. And so I invite you to rejoice in that and know that God is blessing the world through you.
Please, one more point. God bless the Sunday School teachers of this church. God bless the parents who are bringing children to this church. I salute you, because I saw something this week that shocked me. Before I went to sleep one night, I turned on the TV just to relax a little bit, and there was a movie on, “Supersize Me,” about a man who decided to find out what it would be like to eat only McDonald’s food for a period of time. Have you seen that movie? There was one moment in that movie I have to tell you about, my friends. They were interviewing children, about second grade age, and the interviewer’s back was to the camera so we could see the children’s faces. The interviewer was showing them pictures. Some of the children struggled with the first picture but most knew, “Oh, that’s George Washington.” They looked at another picture, didn’t have quite so much success with it, but some knew, “I think that’s George Bush.”
They showed them a third picture. Every child knew who it was, immediately. Do you know who it was? It was Ronald McDonald. “What do you think about Ronald McDonald?” “Oh, he always does good things.” “We get happy meals, and we get toys and we play when we see Ronald McDonald.” Every child knew who Ronald McDonald was, because that’s exactly where the advertisers want us to be.
They showed a fourth picture. Not a single child knew who it was. They just looked and shrugged. One after another answered, “No idea.” And without a word, the interviewer turned the picture to the camera. Do you know who it was? It was Jesus. It was a picture of Jesus.
Praise God in heaven, that would never happen to a child in our church! But my friends, the task is before us and clear. If that is representative of our nation, we’ve got our work cut out for us. We need to let folks know what the face of Jesus looks like, by tradition and from our own faces. Yes? Yes!
So, may the Holy Spirit be with you and bless you. Know that you are promoted. Know that you are protected. Know that you are provided for. And know that you are projected into the world to do the work of God. He needs us. You know why? Because He loves us. I love you, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski