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Date: June 4, 2017 (Pentecost) 1. Texts: Acts 2:1-21; Ps. 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23. 2. Subject: Pentecost. 3. Topic: Pentecost is always missional. 4. Aim: guide, encourage. 5. Proposition: “The Holy Spirit is the power behind the Great Commission.”

 

THE POWER TO GO

 

Usually on Pentecost preachers preach passionately about pneumatology, the theology behind the Holy Spirit. The more charismatic amongst them will emphasize those dramatic gifts of the Spirit and encourage genuine believers to practice all of them. Yes, Pentecost pumps up the pneumatology amongst passionate preachers. But not today. Today Pentecost is primed to take on missiology. Let’s try it. Look at what happened to the disciples who ended up at the centre of Pentecost. While staying with [the disciples after the resurrection], [Jesus] ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’1 Now, that’s important. Jesus told the disciples to stay put, even though he had also just ordered them to go out. And Jesus came and said to [the disciples], ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’2 1 Acts 1:4-5. 2 Matthew 28:18-20. Page 2 of 4 -The Holy Spirit and the Great CommissionSo, Jesus said both, “Go out,” and “Stay put.” But that’s not really contradictory. You see, “Go out” is an imperative command—a universal expression of his will—and “Stay put” is a conditional command. The disciples are supposed to stay put until they receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Once armed with the Holy Spirit, they are to go out. Simple and clear. So, Pentecost doesn’t represent only the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it actually marks the beginning of the Great Commission. That’s the go out part: it starts with the outpouring of the Spirit. As the disciples receive the outpouring of the Spirit, they are to go out—outpouring means they go out. This is a bigger issue than you might first think. It strikes at the identity of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ, the family of God. The Church reflects Jesus. His words, actions and character are the words, actions and character of the Church. As Jesus was inside time, space and human experience, so is the Church. We are the mirror of Christ in which our world can see him. As Jesus is, so is the Church supposed to be. An essential part of that is Spirit-filled. And just as [Jesus] was coming up out of the water [after his baptism], he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 3 Jesus was Spirit-filled and his ministries were guided by the Spirit: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, 3 Mark 1:10. Page 3 of 4 -The Holy Spirit and the Great Commission- to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’4 By divine definition and example, the Church is the Body of Christ and that Body is Spirit-filled. The disciples were told to await the outpouring of the Spirit so that the Church could be the Church. But that Church is also a sent Church, as Jesus made clear in the Great Commission and in these remarkable statements: As you [the Father] have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… Peace be with you [disciples]. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 5 Being sent out into the world to embody the love of God is essential to the identity of the Body of Christ. Just as clear is this: the Church can only fulfill that essential task when it is Spirit-filled. The Great Commission is not achievable through our own work and effort, but only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The changes required in our characters to fulfill the Great Commission, to be the reflection of Jesus in this world, can only be achieved through the transforming work of the Spirit. Sure, we can use those dramatic and visible gifts of the Spirit to do the work of the Great Commission. But the foundation upon which they rest is the infilling by the Spirit who then sends us out into the world to fulfill the mission of Christ. Let’s tie this all up into one neat package. Our word mission comes from the Latin word missio, which means mission, sending or dispatching. It is the Latin translation of a Greek word, apostello from which we get our word, apostolic. Since we are the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”, we are by Christ’s definition a Church that is 4 Luke 4:18-19. 5 John 17:18 and John 20:21. Extraordinarily, see also Luke 10:16 and these other passages from John, 4:34, 5:24, 5:30-37, 6:38-39; 7:16-29; 8:16-42; 12:44-49. Page 4 of 4 -The Holy Spirit and the Great Commissionsent. We are sent out into the world to complete Christ’s mission. We do this by embodying the life of Jesus in our own lives in such ways as others are empowered to take on that same divine life. In order to fulfill this Great Commission, we must be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led so that we can carry out Christ’s command in our own unique contexts. Ta-dah! With this we have effectively outlined our missiology, our theology about God’s mission which now defines the Church as Spirit-filled, Spirit-led and apostolic. But here’s what might be an inescapable and uncomfortable conclusion. As God is, so is Jesus—because he is God inside time, space and human experience. As Jesus is, so is the Church to be—that is, Spirit-filled and sent. But as the Church is, so are the disciples to be—in this case, Spirit-filled and sent. As Jesus’ apprentices we are to learn his content and life his life in our own circumstances. He sends us out into our world, just as he was sent by God and as he sent out the disciples in the New Testament. The Church is not someone else—it is us. The Church is not our parish or congregation—it is us. As the Church is, so are the individual disciples to be. Jesus sends us out in the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill his mission in our world. That’s really what the Day of Pentecost is all about. Let’s not get distracted by the visible gifts of the Spirit, however thrilling they might be. Rather, let’s learn to rely on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit so that we might be Christ’s disciples in the midst of his Church. Let’s receive the Spirit so that we might be both empowered and sent, as congregations and as disciples of Jesus. Once we do that, then we’ll really be celebrating Pentecost, won’t we. AMEN.