Sermon May 9
1 John 5:1-6
The excitement is gathering! Last week we heard about the Ethiopian eunuch, who was so moved to hear the Gospel explained that he asked to be baptised there and then! Today another group who were outside the Jewish worship structure received the Holy Spirit, and were baptised. You can see the spread of the good news of Christ, beyond the borders of the old faith that it grew from, to outsiders, those who had never been Jewish believers. There is a sense of excitement bubbling up in our readings – how far will it go? Will this new faith spread throughout the whole world?
There is power behind the belief – the power of the Holy Spirit. This same spirit is the one that hovered over the face of the waters, back in the very first chapter of Genesis, ready to bring life to all creation. It brings life to us in the same way, making being Christian more than attending church, more than fellowshipping with others, more than receiving sacraments, – the Holy Spirit switches all these things on into a technicolour, many-dimensioned, connected-up life, that starts to make a lot more sense!
How can this Holy Spirit fall on those who have never known it exists?
In our reading from Acts, it fell on all who heard the word. Whether this is the word that Peter read from scriptures, or the word that Peter used to explain the
scriptures, it doesn’t matter. What it tells us is that Peter was active, preaching the word, not remaining silent and wishing and hoping that his family, friends and acquaintances would come to faith, but actively telling them about it.
Maybe this passage is a nudge for us, to keep on the great tradition of St Peter, telling people about God, about Jesus, about the great love that every person is held in.
It’s not easy talking about faith when you expect a rebuff, but it’s a bit like teaching someone. If you have a new skill that you are trying to consolidate, it works to teach it to someone else. In the same way, as we share the life we now have in Christ, it helps us strengthen in our faith, and it gets easier to share it next time.
Our reading from John’s first letter explains how it works –‘For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments.’
John also tells us that if we love a person, we love their child. That’s natural isn’t it? Our best friend’ child is special to us too. That means if we love God, we will also love God’s children.
Obeying all God’s commandments is not too hard to do, mostly – but sometimes we need to have a refresher course about the details. The big sins are not too hard to avoid, but how about covetousness? How about loving everyone?
There are no conditions attached to that love that Jesus urges us to have for one another. There are no people who we get a free pass from loving. Yes, even the annoying ones. Even the ones who are really horrible. If we love the parent – God – we love the child.
It’s a bit of a challenge isn’t it?
John talks about our faith being the victory that conquers the world. It doesn’t mean military conquest, though misreading the scripture by taking each word literally can lead to that conclusion. Wars have been fought in the name of faith, but whenever we seek to apply scripture, we need to put it against the person and character of Jesus. Would Jesus take the passage this way? Would Jesus pick up arms and weapons and kill people in the name of faith? Obviously not. It’s always a good benchmark if we are
at all unsure about the best way to proceed, and whenever we think we have a nudge from the Holy Spirit it is good to test the spirit, to check that we are really hearing from God.
Let’s have a look at our Gospel reading, also from John. ‘You did not chose me, I chose you.’ How does that make you feel? I get all warm and smiley, knowing I was chosen. I must be special, precious, worthy, for God to chose me. In the same way, God chose you. You are special, worthy, beloved. Each of us has been individually chosen by God to do God’s work, to abide in God, to enjoy the surrounding love of our creator.
Some people don’t know they have been chosen by God, singled out as special. They don’t know because no-one has told them.
Again, we need to tell people, or how will they know?
Going back to Peter talking to the Gentiles, he did not need persuasive arguments to convince them of the reality of Jesus. We know Peter was an ordinary guy, a fisherman, not greatly educated in creating arguments. He probably never wrote a four-point essay with a good conclusion to try and pass a course at Uni!
If Peter could open his mouth and speak sincerely of what he knew, then we can too.
Quite a few groups in our community have a speaker come and address them. The Men’s Breakfast, AAW, my garden club- someone is invited to come and share their story, their passion.
If you are invited in any way, if there is a chink of an opening for you to share a bit of your story, your passion, this is how you can tell everyone about the wonderful news of Jesus. Be sensitive to the invitation, and let the Holy Spirit give you the words to say.
Did you notice the bit in the reading from Acts where the listeners were speaking in
tongues? The Holy Spirit was giving them words to speak, to use to extol, to praise God, to declare God’s greatness. The same Holy Spirit will give you the words you need too – praying in tongues can be a good way of letting the Spirit take over, disengaging your thinky part of your brain and letting worship flow from you. In the same way, the Holy spirit will help you when there is a difficult conversation you need to have, or when there is a confronting situation.
It doesn’t take much power to engage with the spirit, a quick ‘help me now Lord’ is enough of an arrow prayer. The more you do it the easier it gets.
Jesus tells us that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in his name -trust these words to give you the words.
This week, have a think about times when you have had that nudge from the Holy Spirit, times when you didn’t know what to say, and the words came to you. May your words be a blessing to everyone, and open doors for the fruit of the kingdom.