May 28, 2023
“Different Parts, One Party” Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C./Welsh
Acts 2:(1-8)12-17, 21; 1 Cor 12:3b-13; John 7:37-39 May 28, 2023 – Pentecost Sun.
This story of Pentecost offers to me one of my more favorite interactions between ‘disciples and doubters’… between ‘heroes and haters’… in the New Testament. You might recall what was read at the beginning of the service… and if you don’t, it’s OK… it just means your short-term memory is as bad as MINE ). They told us that those who witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit as the ‘master translator,’ and were “amazed and astonished,” would ask “how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” (Acts 2:8)
And while some had open, inquiring minds who really wanted to know, there were those other detractors who “sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.” (v. 13) ‘These ‘Jesus freaks’ are DRUNK from having PARTIED too much at this ‘Pentecost party’ of theirs.’ To which Peter took issue, and declared that “they are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only 9 o’clock in the morning.” (v. 15) Obviously they had gathered in southern Israel, and NOT ‘southern LA’… for we know that here the clock can have little bearing on the consumption of ‘adult beverages’… He would, of course, go on to tell them about a different type of ‘intoxicating spirit’… the HOLY Spirit variety… whose power would be both prophetic and formative. Bringing different followers from varied backgrounds and languages closer to God and closer to one another.
As this passage from Acts deals with how the power of God’s Holy Spirit would BRING believers together in the first place, Paul’s words to the Corinthians would speak to how that same Spirit would USE those believers. The Spirit got ‘em TO church… NOW WHAT? Paul would identify some of the gifts of the Spirit which would be given to Jesus’ disciples: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7)
Every follower of God is given abilities, talents, ‘manifestations’ of the Spirit for a purpose: “for the common good.” NOT to boast about how ‘gifted’ one might be… not like some proud grandparent who loves to brag on their talented grandchildren… but to use those ‘manifestations’ to serve others. That the same Spirit which worked through blowing winds and tongues of fire would also work in more subtle ways… Bringing different followers from varied backgrounds and languages closer to God and closer to one another.
These stories are both related to our own experiences as followers of Christ. Some cynical onlookers might accuse us ‘Spirit-filled disciples’ of being filled with a different kind of ‘spirit’. But, like the ones at Pentecost, we ARE to be involved in a type of ‘party’… a celebration of our oneness with other believers in Christ. AND that we all bring different ‘gifts’ to this ‘party’ with which to more fully celebrate the JOY we are to have in His Presence. We all play different roles as we work together for God’s glory…“Different Parts, One Party.”
All FOUR of today’s passages… which includes the Psalm reading in addition to the other three… relate to how the Holy Spirit of God works in our lives. But before we consider those various ways, one thing must be made clear: If you truly believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of sinners… of which you and I most certainly are one… then the Spirit IS at work within you. If you do NOT… Then PLEASE talk to me or another believer. TODAY!
But for those who believe, the Scriptures are pretty clear about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Starting with that very confession of faith: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3b) A vital tenet of our Reformed Faith is that it is NOT by our own power, not by our own will, not by our own strength, that we can confess Christ as Savior. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
And it is that same Spirit that is at work in the life and ministry of EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. In quoting the O.T. prophet Joel (yes, we still have much to learn from the ‘Old’ Testament… just like ‘old’ people ), Peter tells us that “In the last days it WILL be, God declares, that I WILL pour out my Spirit upon ALL flesh…” (Acts 2:17) Are these the ‘last days?’ No one knows. Maybe not. Maybe so…
The ‘inclusivity’ of God’s empowering Spirit is also no respecter of age. How many times have you heard an older Christian say (you know, MUCH older than you all… ), ‘Oh, that’s for those young folks to do. I’ve done my share. I’ve paid my dues.’ I don’t think that ‘jibes’ too well with the rest of Peter’s quote from Joel… you know, from the ‘Old’ Tstament: “…Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17) (I think we can include ‘women’ in on that whole ‘visionary’ process as well…)
The point is, no matter the ‘age or stage,’ we ALL have ‘part’ to play in the proclamation of the Gospel. Until our last breath before God takes us home. In the words… or, more accurately, the ‘letters’… of a license plate owned by one of the church members (in Welsh), “NVR2L8.” It’s ‘Never Too Late’… to speak the name of ‘J-E-S-U-S.’ In fact, there will likely be those who would need to hear it as our final breath. Often the last words spoken can be the most powerful, and memorable…
Jesus Himself says that “Out of the believer’s heart SHALL flow rivers (NIV- “streams”) of living waters.” (Jn 7:38) To which the Apostle John added, “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him WERE to receive.” (v. 39) I read one commentary on that NIV translation concerning ‘streams’ that said the word had a connotation of a source of water that would “benefit both believers AND those around them.”
I reminded you all in the letter I had sent out this weekend, these coming months… years?… represent an opportunity for each one of you to consider just how to GROW in your service to God through the life of FPC. How? Not on your own! No matter how ‘young at heart’ you may be. We must never forget Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, as well as in Welsh/LC: “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” (1 Cor 12:7, CEV) It’s up to us to USE those ‘special ways’…
Which is what the Great Apostle does in the following verses. He reminds us of just a few of the spiritual gifts bestowed upon us by God’s Holy Spirit.
Wisdom. Knowledge. Faith. Healing. Miracles. Prophecy. Discernment of spirits. Tongues. Interpretation of tongues.
As I look around this very room, I see those who readily exhibit many of these. Wisdom. Knowledge. Faith. Now, there’s some that many of you might have raised your eyebrows at. ‘Healing.’ And ‘Miracles.’ These, of course, can include physical healing. Which is why we PRAY ever Sunday… and I hope, every DAY… for the healing of those whom we love. And we know that God, through us, can bring physical healing. But there is also the gift of bringing emotional, and spiritual, healing. Which, in truth, is just as important as physical healing. It is a gift of the Spirit that is within many of you here today. To bring healing to the hurting… hurting in mind, body, and soul.
There were a couple that you would likely never associate with us ‘frozen chosen’ Presbyterians: ‘Discernment of spirits’ and ‘interpretation of tongues.’
Yes, these are more readily associated with our Pentecostal brethren. But when you think of ‘discernment’ as relating to ‘perception,’ or ‘comprehension’ of that which is hard to understand, do not some of you here ‘perceive’ or ‘comprehend’ when someone’s ‘spirit’ is unhealthy… broken… perhaps even evil? And when we speak of ‘interpretation of tongues,’ could it not relate to ‘clarifying’ or ‘explaining’ the ‘language’ of another? When someone says ‘do you feel me?’ and you do… when we are told, ‘you get me’… could it not be because of the Spirit’s ‘interpreting’ them for us?
The bottom line is this: “Pentecost is about the power of the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit to change lives.” It could be directly through our personal actions, one-on-one with someone who is hurting. It might also be indirectly… through prayer, or asking help from another Christian to intervene. OR through our GIVING. Like… today’s Pentecost OFFERING. Over a third of which stays right here with the congregation to use for children’s/youth programs in church or community. Or nationally through the YAV program and Youth ministries. Or for child advocacy through Public Education… a subject near and dear to many hearts, especially in this congregation. These are all ways in which your ‘gifts’ … of financial generosity… as guided by the Holy Spirit… can truly ‘change lives.’ Particularly the lives of young people…
In closing, I would lift up the life of a young person I am particularly proud of: Gabrielle Rene Willis. AKA “Gabby.” Quite simply, our 3rd born grandchild. (Tho’ I’m quite proud of them ALL. I just am gonna ‘pick’ on her today…) Gabby turned 15 on the 15th of this month, and asked if we would host a swimming party for a few of her friends. Which, of course, we were happy to do.
There was, of course, much preparation to do. It did involve some extensive cleaning of the pool and power-washing of the pool deck the day before, which Catie and her (now) fiancé did most of. But when they had to leave town, both our son Chandler and I helped to finish up the next day, with the party taking place later in the afternoon. Barrie did a lot to get the house ready for our guests, particularly for the serving of food and drinks, which were brought in by the younger Willis family.
And Gabby was a very willing participant in the preparation as well, quite joyfully cleaning the outside bathroom (yes, I used ‘joyfully’ and ‘bathroom cleaning’ in the same sentence), as well as to help both inside and out in whatever ways she could. I couldn’t have been more pleased with all of our efforts, but especially hers… and we were all rewarded with not only a wonderful time had by all, but the appreciation of all her school friends, who all agreed that they had a new destination to come to after school next year…
But perhaps the most gratifying part of being with Gabby came when I apologized to her for not actually being able to be present for her celebration, as I had to travel to beautiful suburban Ball LA (outside Alec) for a wedding. She looked at me and smiled, and said, ‘That’s OK Pops. Its important for you to be joining those two families together.’ She showed such a good ‘spirit’ that day… which is not always the case… with most all teenagers…
As I reflected on how all these different peoples used different skills to put together a gratifying celebration of a birthday, I was reminded of how the Spirit enables us all to use our different abilities to celebrate the new ‘birth’ we have in Christ. A Spirit that ‘joins our human families together’ with the Holy Family… Father, Son, and Spirit.
As we look forward to that ‘Wedding feast of the Lamb’… that ‘party that awaits us in heaven… may we never forget that our earthly life in Christ is also to be a ‘celebration.’ To celebrate our highest purpose: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” As we work together for God’s glory, may we joyfully remember that though we may play ‘Different Parts,’ we are yet Jesus’ guests at ‘One Party.’ A ‘party’ of ‘praise and promise’ that is simply ‘Divine’…
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
CHARGE: As one commentary put it,
If the message of Christmas is “God is with us!”
the message of Pentecost is “God is still with us—and always will be!”
By power of HS within us, Jesus that walks with us,
And the love of God that surrounds us… esp. in our church family…
We can trust in the promise, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
As we go forth to be that ‘presence’ of God for those who feel ‘forsaken,’
We KNOW that we do not go alone…
Questions for Reflection: What prophetic word for the community has God given to you? In what ways do you struggle with conflicts between your way of life and the prophetic word God would have you proclaim to others? How are the acts of God manifest in your life and witness?
April 30, 2023 (PDF)
May 7, 2023 (PDF)
May 14, 2023 (PDF)
May 21, 2023 (PDF)
May 28, 2023 (PDF)
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