Sermon delivered on Pentecost (Whit) Sunday, June 8, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.
If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, click here.
Lectionary texts: Acts 2.1-21; Canticle based on Ezekiel 36.24-26, 28b; 1 Corinthians 12.3b-13; John 20.19-23.
In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We belong to the Anglican Church of North America, a church committed to being a church in which three streams of religious practice come together and enrich the people of God and enable the working of God to become present to the world. Today we celebrate the Sacrament of Eucharist, which draws from that stream we call sacramental, leaving here we are called to share our faith with others in that stream we call evangelical and today, on this feast of Pentecost, I want to share about that stream we call the charismatic stream.
First let me tell you a little of my life history and how I became immersed in that stream. I grew from Infancy to my teenage years in a proper Roman Catholic family. My mother was Roman Catholic from birth and my father a convert from the Reform Church (though I always suspected that he held on to some of his Protestant beliefs.) I went to Catholic Grade School where spiritual speculation was discouraged and doubts of faith quickly discounted. None-the-less by the time I reached my later high school years, I was going though a real crisis in faith. I never gave up the externals of the faith, but I did not really believe in them whole heartily. Going to college, I became active in the Newman Center, not because it was Catholic, but because it was, I felt, a safe place. Little did I realize that I would find in the Pastor there a person who would lead me into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
After college, I came to Westerville, where I became very active at St. Paul’s. I was very active in the folk mass choir and became good friends with its director. One Sunday, he invited me over to his house for a dinner party with some friends, at lease that was how I understood his invitation. That night I arrived early and as the other guests arrived, they greeted each other with hugs, not just the women mind you, but the men as well. I have never seen this before and was becoming quite concerned. Then a priest arrived and he also joined in the hugging. Must be all right I thought. The dinner went well and afterwards, all gathered for a time of prayer and praises. I had never seen people so eager to pray. The group really got serious about praising the Lord, but in what I must admit, was a fun way. The praising went on for over an hour and there was praying in languages that I did not understand. As the evening came to an end my friend gave me a little book about something called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Leaving the party, I went home – figured I watch a little TV. I started to but just could not get into the shows. I also could not resist reading that book. I felt drawn to it. Once I started I did not want to stop. It spoke of the wonderful out pouring of the Spirit available to the believer. That night, I got down on my knees and told God that I really would like to experience such an out pouring in my life.
Almost instantly a felt a real peace, a personal problem that had bothered me for years was suddenly gone from my life, and then I felt a strange urge to pray with sounds rather than words, a practice I would learn is called praying in Tongues. Several days latter as I was driving back from a downtown meeting, I began to question if this experience had been real and if in deed tongues was real. I asked the Lord for a sign. I said to the Lord if this is real when I turn on my radio – tuned to the local soft rock station, that I would hear Christian music.
Obviously when I challenged the Lord, I went big time. I turned on the radio and there was the song Amazing Grace by Joan Baez. The Scripture says ask and you shall receive – I did and he delivered. Shortly after this I attended my first Charismatic Prayer Group Meeting. It was at this meeting that I witnessed not only the praying in Tongues and some of the most joyful praise, but also some of those gifts that we heard about in today’s Scriptures. There was prophecy, words of knowledge, discernment of spirits. The praying for and expectation of healing with some giving testimony of healings granted. There were, however, no tongues of fire. Can’t have everything
Since that first meeting, I have been blessed in seeing the work of the Holy Spirit not only in Prayer Groups, but in many churches, sometimes even during the liturgy. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, these gifts that were poured out on the Disciples at Pentecost are also called charismatic in the Greek with means “gifts of grace” Some churches and communities prefer to call this steam of church life charismatic as we do and others as Pentecostal. It may be interesting to note that there are more Pentecostal or charismatic believers in the family of churches that are called Catholic than in all of the Pentecostal Churches put together.
The pentecostal or charismatic renewal of the mainline churches can be traced to a major revival in 1909 and then again in 1950. While this renewal or reawakening is relatively current, the charisms, these gifts of the Holy Spirit have always been present in God’s church. They are referred to through the Scriptures and were expected in the early Church. From time to time, the leadership of the Church has attempted to limit them or to discourage the use of these gifts because they felt insecure in that they could not control them, but even in the most restrictive periods of church history, these gifts keep appearing. There is hardly a story about any one of those individuals we call saints, where there is not an acknowledgement that they experienced the Holy Spirit’s special gifts or charisms in their life.
Individuals that have experienced these special gifts, often describe the first experience as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is not to be confused with Sacramental Baptism through which a person normally enters into the Community of the Church and becomes part of the Body of Christ. But it can and is often an experience that is so powerful and dramatic to the person that they feel washed over by the Spirit not unlike being dunked into a river or having cold water pour upon them.
Now the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are without limit and are of infinite variety. We do not and cannot limit the gifting of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit moves in persons and churches as the Spirit wills. Some of these Gifts are the talents and skills needed for the every day operation of the Church. We do not normally think of these as charismatic gifts, but as they are “ gifts of grace”. I will share some of these as listed in Ephesians the 4th Chapter.
The gifts of apostleship, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers and those with special service ministry. While some or most of these gifts are recognized by the Church through Ordination, but there are may non-ordained who also are gifted in these ways and serve the Church by responding to the Spirit. I would like to reflect on some other charisms or gifts that are found from time to time within the community of faith. Some of these Gifts deal with what I would describe as revelation. Words of Knowledge are words spoken by someone that share some small portion of God’s knowledge in order to meet a human need. Some of the purposes of such a Word of Knowledge are to reveal a person’s true identity, help overcome some doubt in a prejudice mind, reveal a person’s need for Christ or to reveal a lost item.
Words of Wisdom are words spoken that give a revelation of Devine purpose it may concern a person or thing. It often makes known God’s purpose to those he is going to use and brings an assurance. Discernment of spirits is the gift of knowing or recognizing the kind of spirit involved with a person or even. It is a sensing whether the spirit is Devine, Satanic or Human in nature. It is not a discernment of attitude and does not involve the finding of faults in others or of knowing their thoughts.
Prophesy, in the Holy Spirit sense, is not fortune telling or the fore telling of the future. It is God’s way of speaking though a person in a particular situation. In some cases the person will say something like, I feel “God would say:” other times the person will simply say “ I the Lord say” or something similar. This may seem strange at first, but it is really not much different than the hymn or songwriter who speaks for God through the lyrics. Later we will sing the song “Here I Am Lord” in which the composer first talks about directly hearing God and then voices God’s word of direction and encouragement,
Tongues – a strange name for a spiritual gift if you ask me. It is the praying of praises to God in languages (usually very rare) or in sounds (most common) that are not understandable to the person who is praying. It is manifested in a several forms. First is in private or individual prayer. It is not unusual for individuals on healing teams to pray a portion of their appeal to the Lord in such a way. It can also be found when a group of believers are praising the Lord in a group and the sounds become musical in nature. The third way if for one individual to pray in such sounds out-loud so as to encourage another person who has a prophesy, Word of Knowledge or Word of Wisdom to speak. This responding is called the Interpretation of Tongues which should not be confused with interpreting a foreign language.
Some Gifts manifest God’s power in awesome ways. First among these are the gift of Healing of Diseases and Injuries. The Church has always been encouraged to pray for healing and the elders of the Church are even commanded to anoint the sick and to pray for the forgiveness of any sin. In the Gift of Healing, an individual or group, are blessed to make present God’s healing touch in very powerful and effective ways. I have been part of a community where such healing was quite normal. People experienced cures from serious diseases, broken bones were mended, and some were freed from long time addictions. This Gift has the effect of bringing deliverance to the sick and oppressed, causing people to see that Jesus still has the power to forgive sin and to heal and to establish the fact that Jesus is still alive. This ministry must always be done in connection with the health providers that are caring for the sick person and in respect for the human gifts God has given to them.
Some have the Gift of Miracles. While this gift is rare, when exercised it has can have a powerful effect on the lives of many. Some have the Gift of Faith that is the ability to demonstrate in their lives faith that exceeds any human expectation. There are two Gifts that I have experience in my life, which I would like to share with you. The first is the Gift ofTears. It happens when the felt presence of God is so strong that it almost overwhelms. It is not emotional. There need be no happy or sad event only the feeling that God is in some way touching our heart.
The other is likewise a Gift of God’s Presence. It is a feeling of Joy that leads to prolonged laughter or in my case giggling. It can go on for hours without any since of pain or discomfort.Sometimes individuals who are being prayed with will receive the Gift of being Slain in the Spirit. Like the above Gifts, it seems to happen, because the person feels in some tangible way the presence of God. The person will collapse but is not unconscious or in pain and afterward feels very refreshed. It is important to reaffirm that the Gifts of the Spirit are not with limitation and these Gifts are not available to just a select few or for just those who have a Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
All of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit should be exercised in proper order. In a church such as ours that before any Gift is exercised in the church that guidance should be sought from the clergy. All Gifts need to be tested by faithfulness to the Scripture; this is especially true of Gifts of Prophecy, Words of Knowledge and Words of Wisdom. If you feel lead to exercise one of these Gifts or are wanting a richer relationship with the Holy Spirit please feel free to share this with your clergy that we might affirm and encourage you. Anyone seeking to experience this gifting, should think seriously about receiving some spiritual direction and guidance.
The Gifts of the Spirit are given has we heard in our reading from I Corinthians for the good of the whole body of the Church. While there are a variety of Gifts there is but one Holy Spirit who has given them for the common good and that is that the Fruit of Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control will be found in God’s people.
In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.