A few weeks ago, at our mid-week healing service I reminded the folks I reminded the folks present that God not only abides with us, as the famous hymn articulates, but that God resides in us in the form of the Holy Spirit.
In the most well-known Pentecost reading from Acts 2, we hear how tongues of fire came upon each of the disciples present but then – more importantly – filled them.
In the Lectionary Gospel reading that we have just heard, Jesus tells his disciples that he is the Father and the Father is ‘in’ him [dwells or lives as it says in the NRSV] but then reminds them that the works that he does, he does because God lives in him and because that is the case, they will do even greater works than ‘he’.
As we read in verse 17 – ‘You know him [the Spirit] because he abides with you and he will be in you’ – the Greek word ‘en’ can only be translated as ‘in’. Wow! Now that’s a big call for all of us.
Because the Spirit’s power is within us, we all have the potential for a supernatural gifting to shine forth from us. And as Jesus says, the ‘works’ that we do with these gifts – healing, preaching, hospitality, prophecy and the ones spoken of in Isaiah – courage, knowledge wonder, reverence, wisdom, understanding and right judgement will even bring others to faith.
Think about what we do with the Spirit’s tongue of fire. The Greek word for tongue ‘glossolia’ is also the word for language.
Do we speak up for the Gospel?
The Greek work for fire is ‘puros’ – fire can indeed purify and refine, cauterise and heal and consume the dross in our lives and provides us with warmth.
Do we fan the flame within to enlarge its spread?
Flame is fed by fuel, oxygen and heat.
The Spirit’s flame is fed by a positive response to these questions.
- Do we obey the words we hear in Acts 2:21 and ‘call upon the name of the Lord and be saved’?
- Do we gather as often as the disciples to worship God?
- Do we follow Jesus’ instructions as they did and wait upon him?
- Do we take the message [in our own tongue or language] to others we meet?
- Do we use our God-given gifts to build his kingdom?
- Do we, like Peter, think about the old scriptures [like the passage in Joel that Peter quoted] and reflect on how it might be relevant in our life today?
- Or, if we know that the Spirit resides without Spirit, do we just starve it of oxygen, or lock it up or put up a sign within that says: ‘To Let’, ‘Vacant Possession’ or ‘For Sale’?
The challenge is there for you and me today.
Yes, Pentecost is about the birth of the church [the Body of Christ – that is, you and me], but it is also very much about our rebirth.
I leave you with the wisdom of the story of the Spirit within and the battle that continues within, as well as around us, as Christians. This story is old in the Cherokee American Indian tradition.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”