The Gift of the Spirit
Topic: As A Body of Christ Scripture: Acts 10:44–10:48
This story appeared in the news last week: “A Brazilian smashed the world record for the largest wave ever surfed when he rode a monster wave off Portugal. The World Surf League's judges determined that a wave Rodrigo Koxa surfed at Nazare, Portugal, reached a height of 80 feet. The previous mark was by American, Garrett McNamara, in 2011, which stood at 78 feet. Koxa calls the award "a dream come true." The league announced the record at its Big Wave Awards in Santa Monica on Saturday. The group says it awards the surfer who ‘by any means available, catches the biggest wave of the year’.” If you consider - as one of our tech guys estimates - that our sanctuary ceiling is 70-75 feet high, imagine riding a wave higher than that. I like the description “the surfer who by any means available catches the biggest wave.” When Peter and the others began preaching the good news of Jesus Christ, they unleashed a big wave - the Holy Spirit, and then they had to try to catch that wave and ride it “by any means available.” In today’s passage, it seems that the Spirit suddenly was poured out on people who were never part of the plan. The insiders were astonished at the “wave” sweeping all before it. In the New Testament, we read that there were meetings, and gatherings, and debates, about what should be done. Meanwhile, the wave rolled on, embracing Gentiles, and in fact, many kinds of people formerly considered not part of the community.
One question it raises for us is this: who are the “gentiles” in my life? Who do I discount, judge, or look down on? They might be family members, or total strangers, or somewhere in between. God - the Holy Spirit loves them. Am I with the Spirit, or am I blocking by my attitude? Sometimes I might even treat myself as unworthy of God’s goodness and grace. This week I heard someone say, “I’m trying to be graceful toward myself.” That’s a good thing to do. When we are graceful toward ourselves, we can be more graceful toward others.
This gift of the Spirit is a call to discern what God is doing in the lives of those around me. And not only to discern but to be a part of what God is doing. Someone near to us might be making an effort to change. Maybe it’s just a small step, such as being more on time, or being more grateful, or paying off a debt incrementally, or just cleaning up their act. My task is to encourage the change and to believe in the change, instead of being skeptical or cynical about it. Do I affirm the effort, and hold open the possibility that the Spirit is at work in that person’s life?
This work of the Holy Spirit might not have the drama of a monster wall of water off Portugal, but it’s there in everyday life. Every challenge, every opportunity is part of it. The Spirit is in the wave, even when we don’t recognize it.
For the last week and a half, we had a sick child in our family. We made a total of five visits to various medical facilities, including PrompCare, the ER, the dentist, and Children’s Hospital in Peoria. The problem is now under control with the help of Augmentin. That was a wave we were riding, and in the middle of it was the Holy Spirit. Our Children’s Ministry director, Ann Lamkey, made a visit to our house bearing a big sunflower balloon. That brought a smile to our granddaughter, and not long after, she turned a corner. She is here in church this morning, and we’re thankful.
Whatever wave we are riding at the moment, whether scary, or exhilarating, or challenging, the Spirit is in there. This wave opens us to “outsiders,” and gives us strength, if, by any means available, we will catch the wave.
We believe that Holy Communion is also the Spirit at work in and among us. As we receive it, let us look for Spirit-inspired change in ourselves and others.