A God Head, a Strong Heart and Lots of Puff equals Power
Ezekiel 36:22-28 & Acts 2:1-21
Today celebrates a wonderful ‘living’ anniversary – the day of Pentecost where the church and its people were first equipped for the ongoing task of being missionaries and witnesses to the Christian faith.
We have been talking about the parts of the body that make up Christ’s church – hands, feet, eyes and knees. But today we focus on the head of the Church – who is Christ, the Spirit who brings breath and life to the body and changes our hearts in the process.
I remember seeing the movie – Jason and the Argonauts- as a young boy – now there’s this scene where these skeletons come up out of the ground and fight the fully fleshed Greek soldiers [show clip from the movie].
It reminds me of the Ezekiel reading in Chapter 37 where the bones come together – it is not until breath is given to the bones in Ezekiel’s passage that they are returned to life. In our reading from Chapter 26, it is not until the Israelites have a heart of flesh instead of heart of stone will they be called Children of God.
Then I think of that Classic old movie with Boris Karloff about Dr Frankenstein’s monster [show slide]
The monster is dead – although complete in every way with an amalgam of body parts stitched together – until power is given from on high – he has no breath.
We too are Christians, who have to have the power from on high to really be Christians or we are merely Church goers.
For we live not only on the Easter story [which informs our faith] but our witness is powered through the Pentecost story – we need to be Pentecost Christians if we are going to work for God’s kingdom. Chris is our head – but the flames at Pentecost landed on the heads of the disciples also – commissioning them to be leaders. It is the same Spirit that commissions us today – all of us to be leaders, in some way, for Christ – we are called to lead by our strengths and our God given gifts.
In the Old Testament the Spirit is referred to as ‘Ruarch’ which is the Hebrew word for ‘wind’ or ‘breath’. It is the same in the New Testament Greek where the word becomes ‘pneuma’.
In order to be empowered – filled with life giving breath – we need first to be cleansed. In Ezekiel we see the only time in the Old Testament where we are told we will be sprinkled with clean water [alluding to Baptism]. Water as a cleansing agent is also alluded to in our Acts reading where the words like ‘poured’ and ‘filled’ are used.
Three other agents of cleansing are also spoken about – ‘the wind’ itself blows away the stale and re-oxygenates the old. Fire cleanses impurities as it refines metals, it cauterises infected wounds and burns away the chaff. And finally blood cleanses – but only one blood – the blood of the Lamb of God who was slain on our behalf – the blood and water that sprang from the side of Jesus on the cross.
Once we are cleansed by realising the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice, and have our hearts warmed [as Wesley once said] by the Spirit, then we can understand the significance of why it is tongues of fire that sat above the disciples’ heads. They are there to remind us that we are given the power to speak clearly of the gospel – the Good News – no more ‘babbling’ but a full understanding of what Christ has done – translated into any language and across all cultural and geographical boundaries.
Unless breath keeps filling our lungs – our hearts stop, unless we receive that refilling of the Spirit – our faith falters.
How do we get a refilling of the Spirit – from time to time we renew our baptismal vows, we come to gather as the body of Christ, we pray, we read the Bible, we celebrate Holy Communion, we commission each other in Christ’s name, we trust in God’s provision and believe in his healing power. We become Monday to Sunday Christians in our worship, witness and service and we remember that Christ has no hands but our hands.
You see, Pentecost can be everyday – a time of newness every morning, a time of renewal, a time of transformation as the Spirit works in us and we work in the Spirit.
May this reading from Luke 4:18-19 become our Pentecost creed:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon us,
because he has anointed us to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent us to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Let us pray:
Lord, life is a mystery –
far too deep for us to fathom, too large for us to grasp.
We are just ordinary people,
seeking to make each day something special,
and hoping that in some way our lives might have meaning, might count.
We pray that Your Spirit
would whisper through every heart and every place
where the voice of Your Presence is silent.
We ask that Your Spirit
would challenge and empower
all who are weak, broken, diseased or weeping.
Bless us, O Lord,
that we may become the building-blocks of Your Kingdom among us.
In Jesus’ Name.