Acts 5:27-32 Psalm 118:24-29 Revelation 1:4-8 John 20:19-31
Holy Spirit Power
Pam turned the key in her vehicle’s ignition, but instead of the normal sound produced by spark and combustion all she heard was “click”. A dead battery. She slowly leaned forward and rested her head on the steering wheel. This was not going to be her day.
Have you ever such an experience? Batteries need recharging if they are going to provide power to the many things we have come to rely on in our modern day and age…not just vehicles, but cell phones and computers too. If the battery is not sufficiently charged the device will not function.
This is, of course true of us as well. We actually use the term “recharge” to describe what we need when our proverbial batteries have run down…whether our mental or emotion or physical batteries…or spiritual. As spiritual beings, we tend to run out of steam if we do not recharge our batteries often…and when we are run down spiritually, and then try to reach into ourselves to tap the necessary sustaining energy to cope with life’s ups and downs, all we ever hear on every front is a sad “click”.
So how do we get recharged?
Jesus’ last words to His followers tell us how. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses…” If we are to bear witness to Jesus on any level, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has received a bad rap for various reasons ranging from innocent misunderstanding to plain full on abuse. Perhaps this is Satan’s tactic to prevent us from accessing the great gift the Father desires to give to us. If God wants to give us something, or in this case, Someone, we ought to say, ‘yes, please’ and receive Him…don’t you think? Because if God wants to give us the Holy Spirit, there must be a good reason…because He is the giver of good gifts…
But who is this Holy Spirit and why do we need Him? Well, in order to understand that we need to go back to Creation. When the Lord created Adam, He formed him from dirt…yup, chaps, that’s all we are…dirt…but then He did something. The Scripture says that He breathed into Adam and Adam became a living being. This word translated “breath” here is the same Hebrew word for “Spirit” – nephesh. Without God’s breath or Spirit Adam would not have become a living being.
What is interesting is that shortly after their creation, God told them to do something…He gave them the command to care for His earth…tuck that into one of the many folds in your grey matter for the time being…but God also told our ancestors not to do something…they were to eat of every tree in the garden except from the one in the middle of the garden.
I really do think there is more to this than what first meets the eye…if Adam and Eve were out there in the world doing what they were supposed to do (caring for the creation as God’s vice regents) and not back at base camp, as it were, in the middle of the Garden, they would never have been tempted to eat the fruit. Does that make sense? So, the disobedience did not necessarily start with the first bite…
Be that as it may, the consequence of their disobedience resulted in death…not immediate death, but like a battery death…slowly over time, the life ran out and the returned to dirt…yes, sorry ladies, while you may have come from Adam’s flank, you too return to dirt.
Let this percolate for a bit…if God’s Spirit gave us life, what was this thing called death?
It is interesting to note that when King David sinned with Bathsheba, he begged God not to take His Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51)…clearly he had his predecessor in mind. When God removed His Holy Spirit from Saul all chaos broke loose. Is death, in this sense, then not simply an absence of “the Lord, the Giver of Life” to use the words of the Creed? Sin separates us from our Creator and Sustainer…and when we are removed from our life source, then we are dead…and like a dead battery we can only give a pathetic “click”…
Now, it is time to retrieve the matter I asked you to tuck away in the folds of your grey matter. When God breathed His Spirit into our ancestors they became living beings – then He gave them the task to care for His creation.
Remember our Gospel lesson for today? When Jesus appeared to His disciples in the Upper room He said, “Peace be with you all.” This was a traditional greeting at the time, Shalom Aleichem, but it also conveyed a greater meaning given the context. Because of His sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus made peace between us and God…and because the separating wall of sin was now removed because of the cross and resurrection, Jesus could breathe His Holy Spirit into them like at creation. Look at the text. “Then He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” What is interesting is that after this gift of the Spirit Jesus gave them the task to spread the Good News of forgiveness of sins…as the Father had sent Him, He now sent His disciples to continue to do what He had begun.
The Holy Spirit…the Lord, the Giver of Life…is the one who not only gives life as a result of the removal of the barrier of sin by Jesus, He is also the one who gives us the ability or the power to live that life to the fullest. In this sense He imparts life in abundance…in its complete sense…life as it was meant to be at Creation.
But, you may object…if I have received the Holy Spirit when I put my faith and trust in Jesus, why then do you seem to think I need to be filled again? You know, the founder of Operation Mobilization International always used to say that he needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day because he had a tendency to leak.
Think on this: when Jesus appeared to His disciples in the Upper Room He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Then, just before He ascended into Heaven He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Wait. But they had the Holy Spirit, didn’t they? Is this what the liberals call a discrepancy in the text or a contradiction perhaps? Luke didn’t know what John had written or vice versa? No, the Holy Spirit gives us life AND power…we have life in Him, but like a battery, we need to be recharged…we need to be tanked up with power from time to time.
Remember in Acts 4 what happened after Peter and John had been arrested for preaching about Jesus – for obediently doing as they had been told, to spread the Good News about forgiveness of sins to all who receive Him – do you remember? After they had been released, they went back to the other believers and told them what had happened as a result of their being witnesses to Jesus. What did they do then? They prayed for more boldness…more power…and as they prayed, the meeting place shook and…guess what? They were filled with the Holy Spirit…again. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.”
They needed a refilling…they needed to be recharged, as it were…and that recharging emboldened them to brush off the very real threat of the council and continue with the task they had been given…to care for God’s earth, even to the very ends of it.
This is why I am so adamant about a weekly Eucharist. It is the blood of Christ that freed us from our sins and it is the sevenfold Spirit (John’s use of biblical numerology has often given rise to a puzzled scratch on many a head, but seven simply represents the Divine fullness or completeness) who makes us a kingdom of priests – a group of people who take the message of atonement, of forgiveness of sins, of reconciliation between us and God into the world. Here – if we receive the Eucharist rightly, prayerfully, with faith and trust in Jesus’ finished work on the cross - then we can be recharged by plugging into Christ once more…the bread and the wine represent His life…His body given for us, His blood shed for us…and as we by faith partake of the reality of what the elements symbolise, we are refilled with His Holy Spirit…with His Life and His Power.
So, come…come and be filled…come and be recharged, so that when you turn the key of your life, there is the spark and the combustion to help you move forward.
© Johannes W H van der Bijl 2019-04-23