Monday, June 5, 2017

Sermon: Take Some of the Spirit

"Take Some of the Spirit"
Numbers 11: 24-30; Acts 2: 1-21
by Rev. Carson Overstreet
Van Wyck Presbyterian Church
Pentecost Sunday
June 4, 2017

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent.

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.

And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, ‘My lord Moses, stop them!’

But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’ And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
- Numbers 11: 24-30

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
- Acts 2: 1-21

Marc Haynes clearly remembers the day that he was filled with intense ecstatic joy. He was eight years old and traveling with his grandfather. They were in an airport at Nice, France. Haynes told his grandfather that he spotted James Bond in the airport and asked if they could get his autograph.

“Apparently, Haynes’ grandfather did not know who James Bond or Roger Moore was, saying, ‘My grandson says you’re famous. Can you sign this?’

Roger Moore was nothing less than charming and asked the boy’s name, signing the back of his airplane ticket in a personable way. As Haynes and his grandfather returned to their seats, Haynes panicked when he looked down at the autograph. He had no idea who Roger Moore was. Bond had signed the name wrong!

The two walked back over to talk with Roger Moore and the grandfather explained. Moore simply knelt down beside 8 year old Haynes, looked side to side, and said in a hushed voice, “I have to sign my name as 'Roger Moore' because otherwise... Blofeld might find out I was here.'

Haynes said, “Moore asked me not to tell anyone that I'd just seen James Bond and he thanked me for keeping his secret. I went back to our seats, my nerves absolutely jangling with delight.

My grandad asked me if he'd changed the autograph and signed 'James Bond'. No, I said. I'd got it wrong. I was working with James Bond now."

Eldad and Medad were gathered with the community of God’s people in the middle of nowhere. They were laid over in the caravan travels through the wilderness. The people were complaining in the desert and Moses was wearied by it all.

The word among the people was that the elders were gathering outside of the camp with Moses; God was about to make a big appearance.

The cloud came down close to the people. Divine words reverberated like thunder and then something amazing happened. God took some of the spirit which had been placed on Moses and put it on the seventy elders. This was God’s gift of power to create shared leadership. God was empowering the elders to do specific jobs for God and help lighten Moses’ burden of leadership.[1]

Suddenly a mysterious presence fell outside of the elder gathering and rested on Eldad and Medad. They found themselves filled with intense ecstatic joy. They were marked with a signature of the Spirit (Numbers 11:26). Eldad and Medad were working with God now and they would never be the same!

However, Joshua, Moses’ assistant, was not so charming about this. Joshua wanted to squelch the spirit quickly for Eldad and Medad only members at large of the community. They were the unlikely ones to work directly with God and Moses.

I love Moses’ response. Certainly this was a deep sigh or face-palm moment as Moses wished out loud that the signature of the Spirit would be placed upon all God’s people so that they would all work with God (Numbers 11:30).

Throughout the whole of Scripture God is at work in mysterious and surprising ways. God works undercover in the cloud, in the pillar of fire, and in the early church at Pentecost. God also breaks down boundaries in order for the kingdom of God to break into human history yesterday, today, and always. God makes a way to include even the most unlikely disciples to bring about God’s mission for the world.

Our biblical texts today reveal God’s power was not limited to Moses or the elders. God’s power was not limited to the people of Israel. God’s power was not limited to nationality. God’s power was not limited to men, women, slave or free.

God poured out the power of his Spirit as a sign of God’s faithfulness.[2] For Jesus promised “The Spirit of truth will come and will guide us into all truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to us the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

As we gather together in God’s house on this Pentecost Sunday, many of us may feel like Eldad and Medad, those unlikely disciples. God has been mysteriously at work in our lives and we have certainly felt the joy of it.

However, you and I can think of so many reasons why God should not work with you and me. We hear that voice inside our minds saying, “Lord, my faith is not strong enough. Lord, I don’t have a gift to share. Lord, please don’t make me step out of my comfort zone.”

Our Lord draws near to us and God’s Word delivers a different line to us. God does not pour out his Spirit upon random individuals or a select few to work with God. The truth of Pentecost is that God’s Spirit is poured out upon all to equip us to be the body of Christ.

Our own Jake Clark has shared with us before that God has gifted each of us uniquely to serve God and neighbor. God has called each of us to work with God in a way that no one else can. God has created each of us with a purpose in mind to participate with God in transforming the world.

Today we celebrate that God has uniquely marked communities of faith here and around the world. The signature of the Spirit reveals that we belong to God and are being honed to be God’s kingdom agents in our community and world.

But as kingdom agents we are not called to work in secret like a James Bond agent. We are called to work with God boldly.

God has given us an amazing gift by pouring out the power of God’s Spirit upon us. So by all means, take some of the Spirit and remember you are a beloved child of God. Allow this gift of faith to fill you with ecstatic joy because God sees the gifts of the Spirit in you – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

If we live by the Spirit then we will be guided by the Spirit. We are called to work for the good of all, whenever we have the opportunity, and especially those of the family of faith (Galatians 6:10).

This morning as we gather around the table of God’s abundant grace, allow the bread and the cup to strengthen you for the journey ahead. Take some of the Spirit and let it empower you to see and to dream God’s vision for the church and the coming kingdom.

See the mystery of God at work for us, among us and through us. Dream big with God because the Spirit’s power knows no limits.

For you and I have been marked with the signature of the Spirit to work with God. In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena: 'Be who God meant for us to be and we will set the world on fire.’[3]

In the name of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Sources Referenced:

[1] New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume V (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015), p. 521.
[2] New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary ,Volume IX (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015), p. 43.
[3] Quote from Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380).

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