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Sunday Message for 5 June 2022: “Spirit Renewal”

Brace yourself! Pentecost is here and we’re diving into Acts 2:1-21. We’re celebrating the core of God’s essence, which is spirit.

Shortly after his departure from earth Jesus sent the spiritual energy he had promised. He did this because he equipped his followers. Jesus didn’t want his faith family to be orphans in a fledgling new religion. Even now, God comforts, guides and empowers believers like you. Realize this great truth as you demonstrate God’s presence through transformed attitudes and behaviors.

Strange things occurred on that original Pentecost almost two-thousand years ago: flames of fire appeared above the assembled disciples as some spoke and understood foreign languages without prior learning. Peter, Jesus’ closest friend, stood up and explained that even greater things would happen, such as prophecies and other signs and wonders.

Are you confused and perplexed about all the spirit talk and miraculous claims? If so, then you’re not alone. Christians are divided as they’ve always been, some arguing that you should expect the same miracles as described during Pentecost in Acts. Such a belief assumes that modern Christians could and should duplicate what happened in ancient times. A challenge with this position is that it assumes God must do now what was done previously. Also, placing too much literal emphasis on the miracles in Acts feeds an appetite for sensational sideshows.

An opposing view about God’s wonder-working spirit suggests that the age of God doing public, fantastic miracles is long over, and that God uses other, more subtle or creative means to equip and empower believers. The idea is that conditions were very different long ago and God doesn’t need glitzy parlor tricks. A limitation of this belief is that it can ignore or diminish possibilities of God doing dramatic spirit manifestations.

There’s no definitive solution, no way to absolutely decide which side of the spirit debate is true. As usual, it’s not an either/or because each has some value. A larger problem concerns how people on either side of the controversy perceive only what they want to see;

contrary evidence is either ignored or dismissed (an increasing problem in American culture). Each person is entitled to his/her opinion but not to their own facts; alternative facts are simply lies dressed in clever language.

Unfortunately, divisive debate is commonplace in Christianity. How does anyone manage theological controversy without becoming either a fascist fundamentalist or an unbelieving skeptic? The key is to focus on God’s love, which is the greatest force in the universe and the central point of Christianity.

It’s worth engaging spiritual issues without becoming hysterical or delusional on one side or skeptical and cynical on the other. Embracing God’s spirit doesn’t mean that you speak in tongues like Acts describes but it does mean that you can embrace love for God and for your neighbor, which is the heart of Jesus’ gospel. All the tongue-speaking in the universe doesn’t equate to the value of even one act of neighborly kindness.

It helps to accept the basic premise that God’s spirit is within you. It’s worth exploring the wondrous life possible when you open yourself to transformed attitudes and actions. How do you accomplish this? Increase your understanding. Help people receive redemption. Be willing to change yourself as facts and experiences provide evidence.

As an awakened person you can choose to let God accomplish compassion through you. The challenge is to advance and keep your faith alive by claiming God’s promises. You are invited to set goals that promote God’s kingdom and that challenge you to become a more loving person. Otherwise, you won’t gain much from just going through the motions of mere religion.

Resolve to do whatever you can to demonstrate that God is alive in you and through you. Don’t feel ashamed if you need help because a spiritual tune-up is something we can all consider. Meanwhile, celebrate Pentecost by yearning for and embracing God’s spirit. Life-fulfilling joy and empowerment await your positive decision.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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