When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’
To whom should we listen?
That’s the question that runs through today’s Scripture. When someone ran to Moses complaining about two men he had not chosen to preach and pray in the inner circle with him, but were doing that work among the people, and were more effective than those appointed for that ministry, Moses’ answer was,
‘Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets,
and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’
It took a long time for Moses’ longing to become a reality. It had to wait until that year, when, in Jerusalem, fifty days after Passover, Jews from everywhere were packing the city for the gala festival called Pentecost (“pente” for fifty).
They had come to commemorate that pivotal moment when Moses returned with the Law that would bring God’s blessing to those who kept what God commanded, and in keeping the Law would speak and act like God’s children. In that year which was also marked as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus at Passover, Moses’ plea
‘Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets,
and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’
was answered fifty days later, and Pentecost took on a new reason to be put on a calendar. The flames that had belched from Sinai and the winds that whipped down from the mountain as Moses descended with the Law,
suddenly happened where Jesus’ follower had come together for Pentecost. Wind swept through the room and the mountain’s fire descended to crown their heads and took the shape of a tongue and their speech gave evidence to God’s spirit – within them, making everyone a chosen child of God and a person through whom God was speaking, and in turn, speak of God.
There, in that room, the Old Testament prophet could be quoted:
“In the last days it will be,” God declares,
“that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.”
“Prophesy” – to be a channel through whom God speaks.
Then, and there God was forming a new community that would later take the name “church,” God’s Spirit, God’s presence, that was in Jesus, would be in all who confess Jesus as Lord and Head of the church, a spirit-filled person, commissioned to a God-appointed service.
We must, however, confess that in time the old complaint brought to Moses surfaced and continues when the question, “Who’s in charge?” is answered by a human voice that says, “I am!” when is should be, “God is. God’s spirit is at work in me and through me.”
That answer was evident last Sunday when an Appreciation lunch was filled with delicious food and a festive atmosphere. If someone had raised the question, “Who is in charge in this congregation?” the answer would have been, “God is!”
Last Sunday those who were present, and those who could not attend, were honored for all that is being done and is the evidence to say what the Apostle Paul said to his favorite church in Philippi: (2:13) “for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Here we can celebrate that the “s” in volunteers is “spirit,” “spirit” that says, “Amen” to the plea of Moses.
And, today, as we honor our graduates, we confess that this is a world where the “s” stands for being successful as an athlete or a performer or a top-of-the-list billionaire, thus “success” has three, not one “s.”
But our prayer for our grads is that they see the “s” means “spirit” (one “s”) for the Spirit of God in their life,
the Spirit that is personalized to show the unique ways God is at work in and through them…along with the assignment of helping to encourage and honor that “s” in others.
Years ago when a group home for men was up the street, they often walked here to worship, and we had a humbling introduction to seeing and honoring that “s” in a man named Francis, who intellectually may have tested for placement in an advanced level of kindergarten, but spiritually he was a scholar in the school of Christ where he earned a degree in Christ-like living!
Whenever we had Coffee and Conversation, he would stuff the pockets in his maroon, polyester suit coat with snacks for the men in his home; “for the boys,” he would say. He was always thinking of them.
In Church School, when someone was asked to look up verses in the Bible, Francis was the first to raise his hand, and with a glow on his face, say, “I have it; I have it!” Francis asked for a new paperback Bible after a year, having worn out a copy from daily reading! Francis was filled with as much of God’s spirit as he could take in.
The prayer for our graduates is that each may be filled with all the fullness of God which is not earned by human effort or another’s approval, but given as a gift from God to last for life-time and into eternity – where the Giver will be the One who welcomes each of us with fill honors, earned by Jesus, but given to us.
Together, we all heard the Gospel’s announcement Jesus made in the upper room, where in a simple Meal, He gave Himself to His followers in the signs of bread and cup, and then
He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’
A capital “S” for that breathed in gift that activates the fullness of Christ in each of us through the simple, yet beyond- words-meal we call “Holy Communion,” for such it is!
Let this be Pentecost on the calendar and at the Table! AMEN.