Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Holy Spirit sermon

It's my experience that many of us are confused by the Holy Spirit.  I spent some time this past Sunday in worship explaining the Holy Spirit and then talking about how we can live a Spirit-led life.  Below are the two talks I gave.  They can be viewed by following the links at  

            People have always been confused by the Holy Spirit.  That’s why some people thought that was happening in the story was a drinking party.  Of course we know what really happened.  The Holy Spirit moved in this foundational story in Acts 2 in such a powerful way that 3,000 people were baptized.  The church was born.  It was born because of the movement of the Holy Spirit.
            To be a church we need to have a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit not only started us, it’s at the heart of Jesus.
            Today I’m completing a four week sermon series called “Caring with the heart of Jesus.”  This is a teaching series as I’ve taught you about wisdom, gentleness, compassion and the Holy Spirit—four qualities of the heart of Jesus. 
            We’re doing something a bit different in that I’m starting off by sharing content about each of these qualities.
            Then we’re singing a song.  Then I’m sharing how we can apply each quality into a situation. 
            So I want to encourage you to get out this brochure that is in the bulletin.  This week I’ve written a devotion on the Holy Spirit.  In the middle of the devotion is a place to take notes.  I believe God might say something to you that you’ll want to write down.  On this brochure you have a list of our congregation’s prayer requests. 
            Let me share right away what I’m going to do in this first talk.
What the Holy Spirit is not
What the Bible shares about the Holy Spirit
One place where the Holy Spirit resides
What the Holy Spirit does

When you leave Chain of Lakes today you’ll have answers to these four topics.

            One of the creeds of the church is the Apostles’ Creed.  Around the year 180 the church developed the first form of the Apostles’ Creed. 
SLIDE             I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord who was conceived by the Holy ______. 

            God as a ghost.  This was one of the worst descriptions of God I can imagine.  God is not a ghost.    The Holy Spirit is not the Holy Ghost.
            What is a ghos?  A ghost is this:
SLIDE                        Something covered in a white sheet with two eye holes
A ghost is scary
A ghost is not looking out for our well being. 
            Ninety times the King James Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a ghost.      God is not a ghost.
            It is worth knowing that the definition of the word ghost is different today than it was even 200 years ago.  Then ghost meant the living essence of a person.  It didn’t mean the spirit of a dead person who might appear to us.   
            What the Holy Spirit is not?  The Holy Spirit is not a ghost
            Second part to this.  It’s Memorial Day weekend where we remember those people who have died in service for our country.  As a church we don’t believe in war, but we certainly people who have served in the military.    
            What is the lowest rank of officer in the military                   Private
            What is the highest rank of officer in the military                  General

Where does the Holy Spirit rank in a relationship with God the Father or Creator and Jesus? Is the Holy Spirit a private or general?
            The Holy Spirit is God.  The Holy Spirit is just as divine as God the Father/Creator and Jesus—fully God and fully human.  The Holy Spirit is God.
            It’s appropriate to pray to the Holy Spirit; it’s appropriate to talk about and talk to the Holy Spirit; it’s appropriate to be led by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God
            It’s my experience that many are confused by the Holy Spirit.  We’re confused because at times people respond to the Holy Spirit in a way that seems strange. 
            Holy Spirit—we might think of people speaking in tongues. 
            Holy Spirit—we might think of people waving their hands or praying intensely with their eyes closed and hands out
            Holy Spirit—we might think of a televangelist putting their hand on someone and then the person fainting

            I’m not sure about the fainting, but these are legitimate expressions of the Holy Spirit.  I have many friends who speak in tongues.  Speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift.  It’s a legitimate faith expression to wave hands or pray intently with our eyes closed and hands out.
            That leads us to the question, What is the Holy Spirit?  What does the Bible say?
            One way to think of the Holy Spirit is the wind of God. 
Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters
Genesis 1:1-2

Wind of God.

Wind comes from a Hebrew word, Ruah.  Ruah is translated as wind and it is also translated as the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. 

The New International Version translated the verse in this way
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters  Genesis 1:2

When We see the word “wind” in the Old Testament most of the time the word is ruah or Holy Spirit. 
Let me give some other example. 
            Moses and the Israelites were escaping Pharaoh.  Pharaoh and his chariots were racing to catch up with the Israelites. 
SLIDE            Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.  The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.  Exodus 14:21

            The word wind is Ruah.  Say that with me, Ruah.  Holy Spirit.
            Another story.  Noah was in the ark for 40 days.  What caused the water to start to evaporate and go down so that Noah and his family and the animals in the ark could leave the ark and go on dry land.
SLIDE            But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark.  And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; Genesis 8:1

Ruah is the wind.  Holy Spirit is the wind of God

            A second way to describe the Holy Spirit is the breath of God.  John 20
John 20
            Disciples were scared and had locked the door of their house
            Jesus was able to enter the house despite the door being locked
            First words of Jesus—peace be with you.
            To prove that he was Jesus, he showed them the marks on his body.
            Disciples rejoiced that Jesus was alive—that he was resurrected

SLIDE            Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ John 20:21-22

            The Holy Spirit is literally described as the breath of Jesus or the breath of God.

What the Holy Spirit is not
What the Bible shares about the Holy Spirit
One place where the Holy Spirit resides
What the Holy Spirit does

            One place where the Holy Spirit resides?  The Holy Spirit is everywhere, but in particular we recognize that the Holy Spirit resides within each of us.  Two weeks ago we celebrated the baptism of Miah, an infant.  A baptism is a sacrament.  It was originated by God.  We describe this as a sign and seal of grace.  In a baptism we can practically see grace and the joy that grace creates.  We also recognize that grace is sealed within a person.  A person who is baptized carries this grace with them for all of eternity.  What the person carries with them is the Holy Spirit.    The Holy Spirit is always part of us. 
            This can lead to some fun conversations.  Ever since my daughter Hannah was young my wife, Amy, and I have taught her that God is in her heart.  A very long time ago A was driving Hannah to her day care.  Hannah said that she didn’t want God inside of her anymore.  This seemed a bit strange.  Amy asked Hannah, “why don’t you want God inside of you anymore.”  Hannah said, “because my stomach hurts.” 
            That’s not the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit resides in more places than inside of us, but we believe we carry the Spirit with us.  We don’t have to do anything to bring the Holy Spirit to us.  The Holy Spirit already is present.
            Finally What does the Holy Spirit do?
            The Holy Spirit renews us.  The Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us and encouraging us to go deeper into God.  All the time the Holy Spirit is giving us hints and details about following God.  We go deeper by loving more, we go deeper by forgiving others, we go deeper by the way we share our character and the spirit.  We’re renewed. 
            If we are being held back in some part of our life, the Holy Spirit can help us.  The Holy Spirit can work through our obstacles, our sins, in ways that we can’t do by ourselves.  Say we are suffering from an addiction.  For example, say we are suffering from alcoholism.  The Holy Spirit will prompt us to go get treatment, or to join an AA group, to get help.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t do all of the work for us, but the Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us. 
            Another way to say this is the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins.  Through the Holy Spirit we can come to terms with what holds us back from being complete people.  We’re nudged or encouraged to work through this part of our life.  When we are successful we can look back and say, “I’m a different person.”  We know that we couldn’t have done this without the Holy Spirit.  If you are struggling with some part of your life your recognition is often the work of the Holy Spirit. 
            Then share this pray, “Holy Spirit, help me work through that which holds me back.
            We don’t see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the results of the Holy Spirit.  Just like in a wind storm we can’t see the wind, but we can see the results of the wind.
            Finally, the Holy Spirit leads us to experience God.    Let me share an experience I had from this past week.
            As you know my wife, Amy is the Administrator of St. Joe’s by the Lake Catholic Church.  Ever since she’s had that job both of us have sung in their choir.  We go to Mass on Saturday nights and sing.  We worship here at Chain of Lakes on Sunday.  One church/two cars.
            Last week a woman, Joanne Fishbach passed away from pancreatic cancer.  She was just diagnosed a month ago.  We prayed for her family last week here at Chain of Lakes.  Joanne is a long-time member of the choir at St. Joe’s.  She was the librarian for the choir.  I decided to pay my respects by singing with the choir at her funeral which was this past Monday.
            I wasn’t the only one who came to sing.  I’m guessing that close to sixty people came to sing in the choir at the funeral.  Many—like me—were taking time off from work. 
            The service was very emotional.  It was very emotional for us who were singing in the choir.   Many times while we were singing this wave of emotion came over us.  We would tear up.  We couldn’t help it.  All of us would feel this same thing.  This was an experience of the Holy Spirit.
            We don’t need to be afraid.  The Holy Spirit is always trying to help us.  Encouraging us, nudging us, helping us.  The Holy Spirit is our friend. 
            Let’s review
The Holy Spirit is not a ghost
The Holy Spirit is not a lieutenant—the Holy Spirit is God
The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is
            Ruah—wind of God
            Breath of God
The Holy Spirit resides in each of us
The Holy Spirit renews us
The Holy Spirit helps us work through the worst parts of ourselves—convicts us of our sins
We have experiences of the Holy Spirit    

Talk Number 2
                In this second talk I want to share how we can live a Spirit-led life.  For time reasons I’m just sharing a bit about how this happens. 
            The best way to live a Spirit-led life is to orient ourselves to the Holy Spirit.  It’s like having a red-car focus.  A while ago leaders of Chain of Lakes watched a video about red cars.  The point of the video was when we orient ourselves to something, we see that.  Using red cars as an example, when we look for red cars we suddenly see them.  The same idea applies to the Holy Spirit.  When we orient ourselves towards the Holy Spirit we will find ourselves acknowledging and experiencing the Holy Spirit.
            How do we orient ourselves to the Holy Spirit?  One way we can do this is to pray.    Perhaps you could put a piece of paper in your pocket and every time you touch it you can pray:
SLIDE            “Holy Spirit help me be oriented to you”
            Or if you have a phone you can put an alarm on your phone and when the alarm goes off you can say this prayer.
            I’ve had many times when I’ve put an index card in my pocket.  When I put my hand in my pocket I’ll say a prayer.  Try that this week.  Write a prayer card and put it in your pocket.  When you put your hand in the pocket say a prayer to the Holy Spirit.
            A second way to live a spirit-filled life is to practice our faith.  I gave a talk about this at Starting Point called faith practices for spiritual health.  The practices are worship, prayer, service and being involved in a community (small group or the wider community)
            Let’s take worship, for example.  How does participating in worship lead us to have a Spirit-led life? 
            One of the reasons we come to worship is to have an experience of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that every time you worship you experience the Holy Spirit—God.  This experience might not be an intense experience like I had at this funeral this past week.  But somehow—whether it’s seeing someone, or singing a song that touched us, or hearing a word from a sermon, or a word from a prayer, or just feeling a connection.  We come to worship hoping for an experience of the Holy Spirit.  It’s as if we’re transported even if it’s for a short time to a different place.  When we have these experiences of the Holy Spirit we leave worship in a different place than when we came to worship.   
            Tell Kristel or me about these experiences of God you have during worship.  If you’re not having an experience of God every week, then tell us.  We’ll make changes. 
            We come to worship to experience God.  We don’t come to worship to do our duty.  WE come to worship to experience the Holy Spirit.  I encourage us to worship every week.  If we’re out of town like many people in our congregation are out of town this weekend, find a place to worship. 
            Worship is one faith practice that can help us with a Spirit-led life.  
            Two ways to have a Spirit-led life.  Pray and worship.  Service and community are just as important.
            What ultimately happens when we are led by the Spirit is we operate at a very high level as humans.             
            Think about all the emotions and thoughts that we experience during the day.  Let’s just say we are not orienting ourselves to the Holy Spirit and we’re not practicing our faith. 
            A person wakes up with a lot of thoughts going through their mind.  You don’t pray.  You have a short amount of time to get your kids ready for school or Day Care.  Your daughter spills milk on the carpet.  You erupt in anger right away.  You wonder how your child can be so dumb.  You notice the rage in your face. 
            Traffic is terrible on the way to work.  You beat yourself up for not getting a traffic app on your phone.  When someone cuts in front of you, you honk the horn and give share the longest finger at them. 
            When you get to work someone immediately tells you the most juicy piece of gossip.   You spend twenty minutes talking about this.  You get this “rush” from this gossip.  You don’t know if the gossip is true, but you like the rush.  Your boss walks by the two of you and you immediately move to your desk hoping that he didn’t notice. 
            During a break someone makes a snarky comment about God.  You say nothing.
            You get home mad because of something that has happened at work.  Your spouse does something dumb and you yell again.  Your daughter walks out of the room.  Your feel some pressure in your chest.  Your spouse goes downstairs and you don’t see your spouse for the rest of the night.  You go to bed exhausted and overrun with anxieties.
            Isn’t there a better way?  Yes!  It’s having a Spirit-led life. 
            You wake up with a lot of thoughts going through your mind.  But this day you spend ten minutes reading the Bible and praying.  Your last prayer is “Holy Spirit, help me be oriented to you.”       
            You’re very busy getting your kids off to school and day care.  Your daughter spills mile all over the carpet at the most inopportune time.  Every takes a breath to see how you are going to respond.  “Accidents happen,” you say.  You clean it up. 
            Traffic is bad on the way to work.  You still don’t have that traffic app, but you don’t beat yourself up.  You use the time to pray or listen to KTIS.  In a way you’re grateful for the traffic.
            When you get to work someone shares a juicy bit of gossip.  You smile and say, “that’s nice” and then ignore what they are saying.  You’re filling your Spirit up with something else.    
            At work someone makes a passive aggressive comment about you when you say something about your church.  They call you a goody two shoes.  It doesn’t bother you.  You say a prayer for the person.  In an appropriate way you talk about God and your church at your work site.  You’ll respect the rules of your work site, but you’ll still talk about God.  If someone says something negative about God it doesn’t bother you.  It just bounces off you.
            You come home and your spouse does something dumb.  It doesn’t bother you.  It bounces off your heart because you’re heart is filled with God.  You smile and gently suggest a way that your spouse can do better the next time.  Your spouse walks away feeling encouraged.  You go to bed with a smile on your face.  Nothing really special happened during the day, but you have this lightness that you appreciate.  You look forward to getting up tomorrow and telling God about your day.
            That’s caring with the heart of Jesus—it’s being led by the Spirit. 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fearlessly following--May Presbytery meeting

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area met for their May meeting—the Annual Meeting—this past Tuesday, May 12 at Peace Presbyterian Church in St. Louis Park. 

Important action started early in the meeting as the Presbytery voted on the terms of dismissal for Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina.  This final vote was the culmination of a long story.  Many people have many different opinions on how this departure came to take place.  It is obvious that both sides are ready for it.  David Van Dyke, Teacher Elder at House of Hope Presbyterian and chair of the Administration Commission, shared that 94 percent of the congregation of Christ Church voted to support the terms of the departure.  The Presbytery voted to support the terms of departure in an unanimous vote with no comments from the floor and few comments at the March Presbytery meeting.

Terms of the agreement can be found at in the archived Presbytery packet found at the bottom of the page at this link:  

David Van Dyke shared that Christ will be making one payment later this month of 2.13 million to the Presbytery.

After that vote of departure the Presbytery voted unanimously to approve Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Japinga as our new Transitional Executive Presbyter.  This is a three year position with an opportunity for renewal at the end of three years.

The Search Committee was very excited about calling Dr. Japinga to the position.  Their report and many details about Dr. Japinga can be found at the link I shared above.           

In his presentation it became obvious that Dr. Japinga is going to spend a lot of time listening and building relationships in the Presbytery.  His empathy and compassion stood out.  He shared his passion for the position, but it wasn’t a passion of a person who is going to come into the Presbytery and share the “one new thing.”  As he departs his current position at Mc Cormick seminary he’ll be working part-time for the Presbytery and will be here full-time in a few months.  I am praying for the success of his ministry.

The Presbytery voted to approve grants of $200,000 to Presbyterian Clearwater Forest and up to $300,000 for roof and related structural repairs on the Kwanzaa church.  These grants will be taken from recent funds given by departing churches.  A concern was raised that these requests happened very quickly and a wider and intentional strategy is needed for the funds the Presbytery has received. 

After a terrific salad dinner shared by the folks from Peace Presbyterian Church the Presbytery recognized Newell Krogmann, who is leaving his position with the Presbytery as contract staff for church development.  Newell has poured his heart, blood, sweat and tears into new church development and redevelopment.  The church I serve, Chain of Lakes Church, is the beneficiary of his work.

David Liddle, the chair of the Administrative Commission that is overseeing the court case with Eden Prairie Presbyterian Church, shared a report.  No new developments in the court case are expected until the fall.  He shared that the Presbytery has been billed approximately $100,000 in legal fees for the case. 

The Presbytery had a squabble about expanding the number of people serving on the Presbytery Leadership Team (PLT).  The PLT was expanded by one temporarily, but a motion directing a specific expansion of the team and a review of the composition of the PLT was defeated.   

I then left to go home to go see my family.

It’s exciting to see the new possibilities that exist in the Presbytery.  I’m very glad that we are moving closer to the day when no congregations in the Presbytery will be leaving.  I’m very hopeful that Dr. Japinga and others will help discern a new day for the Presbytery’s ministry.  At different points in the meeting people highlighted the phrase, “we fearlessly follow the Holy Spirit into a changing world.”  The Presbytery certainly did this at this meeting.