Today is Pentecost, the promised coming of the Holy Spirit on the church.
We don’t tend to think of ourselves as baptized with the Holy Spirit. We’re not “Holy Rollers” and for the most part we don’t speak in tongues.
But in our baptisms we are baptized not only with water but with the Holy Spirit. Each newly baptized is told -
“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
We are sealed the Holy Spirit. That is what we commemorate today. Our baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Many churches believe that speaking tongues shows that someone has been baptized with the Holy Spirit.
After all, in our reading from Acts today we hear about the apostles speaking to many different people, each in their own language.
I want to stop for a side note here on the difference between being gifted in other languages and the glossolalia that is considered “speaking in tongues”.
What happened to the apostles was truly a miracle because none of them spoke all those languages. But they spoke in languages people could understand. There were those persons there that they were talking to who spoke the languages as native speakers.
“Speaking in tongues” is different from that. It is a personal prayer language between an individual and God and it is a very individual spiritual gift. It is used to talk to God, not other people.
Two different spiritual gifts that are sometimes confused with each other.
The coming of the Holy Spirit, whether then or now, is accompanied by spiritual gifts. Speaking in tongues, we are told elsewhere is the least of all the gifts.
Since we are all baptized, it follows that we all have spiritual gifts. We may not know what they are or we may not be using them, but everyone has spiritual gifts.
There are a lot of surveys and workshops out there to help congregations and individuals discover their spiritual gifts. It’s what happens afterwards that’s important.
Gifts need to be nurtured and trained to be effective, and they need to be used. I’ve seen a lot of places that have a gift discernment workshop, discover who has what gift, pat each other on the back, and nothing in the congregation changes.
What’s the use in having spiritual gifts and finding out what they if no one is going to train them and use them?
A congregation grows spiritually when its spiritual gifts are nurtured. And congregational growth is what we are about.
Not numbers of new people but spiritual growth we can see. Numbers can come later – people want to join a spiritually active church.
Finding and training our spiritual gifts takes time. That is time we must be willing to spend is we want to grow.
And we should want to grow. Jesus didn’t send the Holy Spirit on Pentecost so that nothing would happen. The Holy Spirt came and set the disciples on fire. We are to be set on fire as well.
Unlike the congregations that learn what their spiritual gifts are and then do nothing about it, we are to find our gifts and used them.
The apostle Paul talks about his theology of spiritual gifts three different times in his letters. In Romans, 1st Corinthians, and Ephesians he has lists of gifts that help out the individual churches. Interestingly enough, with the exception of prophecy, none of the lists are the same. Each church needs a different mix of spiritual gifts for it to grow.
For us to grow into the fullness God intends us to, our list of spiritual gifts will be different too. They will be gifts we need to be the church here in Lakeport. They will help us run the church.
One good thing about spiritual gifts is that they don’t burn you out. In small churches there are a certain number of jobs that need to be done. Often we end up by saying “whose turn is it to be…” fill in the blank. Senior Warden, treasurer, usher, you name it. And that person gets a job because it’s their ‘turn” to do it, not because it’s their gift.
While using gifts can make you tired, it doesn’t burn you out. Instead, it feeds you and enriches your life in Christ. There was a woman in a congregation who started an after-school program. It’s been running for years now. Once a week for three hours, she and a group of volunteers help a bunch of 4th graders with homework, crafts, play and snacks. She goes home exhausted every week. But she loves what she’s doing and would never trade it for the world. That’s a spiritual gift.
Pentecost is a time to think about our spiritual gifts and everything else the Holy Spirit has done for us. It is a time to remember that we are baptized by the Holy Spirit at our baptisms and given these gifts.
The disciples had their lives turned upside down by Pentecost. We are not looking for anything quite so drastic, but we should be open to change.
Finding and nurturing our spiritual gifts will change us, and we need to accept that possibility. The Holy Spirit comes in and changes things in our lives, the church’s life, the congregation’s life.
That’s what Pentecost is and that’s what we commemorate today: the day the church changed.
The disciples did it. So can we if we are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.