Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

05/27/12 Sermon

Romans 8: 22-27
 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 
 

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday in the life of the church. It’s the day we remember the coming of the promised Holy Spirit to the early Christians in Jerusalem.

In the 2nd chapter of Acts the story is told of a blowing violent wind that came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 

And each was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a]…..and they all understood each other.
 

What an amazing event that must have been to witness and to experience. Can you imagine such an event?

Well I have to be honest that it’s hard for me to imagine such an event. I mean we don’t see such occurrences like that happen in our churches today.
 
The appearance of the Holy Spirit in a visible way is only talked about in extremely rare occasions.
 
In some remote place we might hear of a missionary who can communicate in the people’s native tongue or there might be a miracle of some sort in a far away place.

But for many of us we will never witness such a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

So the question is---where is the Holy Spirit in the world today?
 
          Is the Holy Spirit still present?...............
 

There was a Sunday school teacher had taught her class to recite the Apostles Creed by giving each child one phrase to learn.

At the Sunday school presentations the class was asked to give their recitation. They began beautifully.

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” said Sarah.

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,” added in Rachael.

Everything went perfect one after the other and then there was a long pause.

Finally a little girl spoke up and said, “Uh, the little boy who believes in the Holy Spirit is absent today!”
 
2000 years removed from the first Pentecost of rushing, violent winds and tongues of fire we can ask what ever happened to the Holy Spirit?
 
Where is the Spirit’s presence---how do we experience the Spirit?

Well these questions wouldn’t have been too different for the early Christians in Rome to ask.

They had heard of the story at Pentecost but probably none had witnessed it in person.
 
They must have wondered how the Holy Spirit was manifest in their own lives; in their own struggles of persecution in following Christ.
 
But Paul gives them an illustration in their own circumstances of how the Spirit’s presence was with them.
 
He begins in our scripture today by talking about how the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth.
 
He makes the point that they too as individuals groan in living the present suffering of this world.
 
But in this groaning and struggle to live in this world there was evidence of the Spirit in their lives because the fact that they groaned proved that the Spirit was dwelling in them.
 
Paul makes the point that their longing for something better points to a characteristic of the living Spirit who dwells within them.
 

          And that characteristic is the presence of hope.

 

Hope was what pointed to the Spirit’s presence.

And that’s also what points to the Spirit’s presence in our own lives today.

You see, we still live in a world where creation cries out in labor pains.
 
We see earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. We see pollution, overpopulation and the greediness and rape of the earth’s resources.
 

Creation cries out for something more, for something better.

And of course, we as individuals, part of God’s creation also experience our own labor pains and struggles in this present world.

There is war and terrorism. Disease and grief, drug and alcohol abuse, marital and family distress, pornography, sexual slave trade.
 

Deep in our hearts we long for something better.

And it’s out of this groaning of our present suffering that the Spirit comes to us and gives us hope.

Paul sees suffering and groaning in the Christian as a prerequisite for hope.

It’s a cause and effect sequence. We suffer the harsh realities of this world and in our weakness the Spirit comes to us instilling or infusing us with hope.
 
      By the power of the Holy Spirit we don’t live in despair with a fatalistic outlook in life.
 
But this hope is not some eternal optimistic Pollyanna mentality that sticks our heads in the sand to our present sufferings.
 

Hope is more than being positive and optimistic.

 

When you have hope you have something more. You have an assurance and trust that in the end there is something better.

 

          I’ve always liked the illustration of the terminally ill woman who asked her pastor to make sure she had a fork in her hand at the showing of her visitation when she died.

          When the pastor asked her why she wanted a fork in her hand, she said “in all my years of attending church functions where food was involved; my favorite part was when whoever was clearing away the dishes would lean over and say ‘you can keep your fork’.

That reminded that something great was coming. It was a cake or some pie.
 
So she said, if anyone asks you why I have a fork in my hand you tell them I am simply getting ready for something better.”

          The hope that the Spirit gives us is that kind of hope. It’s a knowing that something better is coming.

Just as there are pains in birthing a child, at the end there is the great joy of holding your new baby--a new life.
 
As Christians we are recipients of the resurrection and so we live in the hope; the knowing that not even our worst enemy, death, has no power over us.
 

That assurance is a powerful gift that the Spirit gives us and reminds of the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

Still the Holy Spirit’s presence in giving us hope in our own individual present sufferings is not the complete way that we experience the Spirit in our lives.
 
In this scripture today Paul makes it clear that the hope we receive also has broader implications.
 

Paul in the 22nd and 23rd verse is making the point that creation (not just we as individuals) is awaiting redemption.

God is working to make His creation renewed and redeemed.
 
So often we take the Spirit’s gift of hope for our own personal desire and forget about the hope of redemption for ALL of creation.
 
We’ve personalized the gospel so much that our main concern is about us and our eternal dwelling place.
 
We gladly take the gift of hope from the Holy Spirit to help us in our own present sufferings as we look toward the future when we will be whisked away. (last week from this God forsaken place)
 

Many of our hymns and contemporary songs bear out this theology.

A few years ago Carrie Underwood wrote a popular song call Temporary Home:
 
Old man, hospital bed
The room is filled with people he loves
And he whispers
"Don't cry for me, I'll see you all someday"
He looks up and says
"I can see God's face"

This is my temporary home, it's not where I belong.

Windows and rooms that I'm passing through.

This was just a stop on the way to where I'm going I'm not afraid because I know

This was my temporary home…………
 
The hymn How Great Thou Art is a good example. The 4th verse says
 
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

The problem with this theology is that it omits the hope of the Holy Spirit who is about the redemption of all of creation of which we are a part.

(When we die, while we do go to heaven, that is our temporary home until heaven and earth come together and we live in the New Jerusalem (Rev, 21:1-2)
 

But when we focus simply on the hope that we receive for our own personal benefit, (the hope that when we die we will be taken away from this place) it’s difficult for us to then be bearers of hope in God’s plan of redeeming His creation.

And as a result, we miss out on a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit, we don’t see the Spirit’s presence in our lives because we shut off his manifestation in us that wants to work thru us.
 
You and I are being redeemed thru hope so that we might be instruments or bearers of that hope in the world we live.
 

The evidence of hope within us causes hope to touch the world around us.

Joyce Hollyday tells the story of a school teacher who was assigned to visit children in a large city hospital. One day the teacher received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. 
 

The teacher took the boy's name and room number from the teacher on the other end of the line who said, "We're studying nouns and adverbs in this class now. I'd be grateful if you could help him with his homework, so he doesn't fall behind the others." 

It wasn't until the visiting teacher got outside the boy's room that she realized that it was located in the hospital's burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. 

The teacher felt that she couldn't just turn around and walk out. And so she stammered awkwardly, "I'm the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs."

This boy was in so much pain that he barely responded. The young teacher stumbled through his English lesson, ashamed at putting him through such a senseless exercise. 

The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, "What did you do to that boy?"
 
But before the teacher could finish her outburst of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: "You don't understand. We've been very worried about him.
 

But ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back; he's responding to treatment. It's as if he has decided to live." 

The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw the teacher.

 

It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, the boy said: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a boy who was dying, would they?" 

 

You and I are called to be bearers of hope, witnessing to the Holy Spirit who has given us the gift of hope.

 

Thru the hope we’ve been given, we begin implementing and anticipating Jesus' new creation.

 

We manifest the Spirit’s hope as we offer words of encouragement, work for justice, offer peace, provide healing, as we take care of this world.  (I love our prayer shawls of hope ministry!)

 

When we bear hope to others we witness to the coming kingdom.

 
N.T. Wright says “This is what living in hope is about. We are anticipating the new birth creation acting as signposts between the resurrection and the new redeemed creation that is coming”.
 

This is how we live in the waiting that Paul speaks about in verse 24 and 25.

Our life in the present is about radiating the hope of the Spirit within us to bring about the redemption that Jesus will bring about fully when he comes again.
 

And an interesting thing happens as we radiate that hope. The more we offer hope, the more we grow in our relationship and our awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our own lives……….

 

Today on this Pentecost Sunday, if you’re asking where the Holy Spirit is we need not look any further than the hope we have in our hearts.

As Christians we have been given this hope as a gift to wait in the in-between time of Jesus’ resurrection and the coming redemption of the new creation.

 
Today if you find yourself suffering in this present time, remember that there is a power available to you. The Spirit is still blowing.
 
Open your hearts in prayer and he will breathe into you the gift of hope.
 
The Spirit desires to live within you; to give you an assurance and confidence that will help you endure the labor pains of this world.
 
Let us receive the gift of hope and let us not forget to bear that hope as willing instruments in God’s plan of bringing forth His new birth creation.
 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen