Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on Pentecost Sunday, June 12, 2011. The sermon is based on the lessons for the day: Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13 and John 20:19-23.
Dear Friends in Christ,
At Pentecost we think more about the Holy Spirit than usual. The images that are before us are the tongues of fire, wind, the dove, and the vivid color red. But the image of the Holy Spirit that I like best is the one we just heard in today’s gospel reading. On the evening of Easter, Jesus appears to the disciples and lets them know he is alive and they need not fear. And he “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” Just think what that means: The Holy Spirit is the Breath of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus.
On Friday I visited with Iris Yohe. She recently celebrated her 97th birthday. Iris asked me how I felt about Jesus. I confessed to her that Jesus is my favorite part of the Trinity and when I pray I envision that I am praying to Jesus. Iris told me how glad she was to hear that since she does the same thing. We agreed that you can have a personal relationship with Jesus, that’s why God came to earth in the form of Jesus. To receive the breath and spirit of Jesus is a very special thing. Today I hope you’ll take the time to read the faith statements of our confirmands. Each is responding to the question: “Why is Jesus Christ Important in My Life?”
Today in the liturgy for confirmation, I will be doing something that is awesome and humbling. I will be laying my hands on the head of each confirmand and giving them a blessing that begins with the words “Stir up the gift of your Holy Spirit.” The Spirit of Jesus that he passed to the disciples has been passed on through his church these past 2,000 years. The Spirit comes in many and various ways, but we believe that it especially comes at this point in the worship service. I remember vividly the laying on of hands by numerous pastors at my service of ordination. What happens today continues that special practice in the church that was begun by Jesus.
What is the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit? Why is it important for us at Resurrection to know about and receive this Spirit? Paul’s letter to the Corinthians helps us answer those questions. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Here’s God’s plan for the Church: every one of us has gifts, talents and abilities that have been given to us by God. Paul says it this way: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, by it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”
What are the gifts mentioned in scripture that are given to the Church? By my reading, there are at least 28 gifts mentioned, including faith, teaching, healing, hospitality, evangelism, discernment, preaching, administration and being merciful. Today in this congregation we are asked to indicate how we each will use our God-given gifts for the common good, for the building up of ministry. You have the Witness and Service Forms in your bulletins. Please complete them and put them in the offering plate.
I am thinking now of how some of you have offered your gifts this past week for supporting our ministry here at Resurrection. On Monday morning Linda DuVall volunteered in the church office and did her usual ministry of putting into the computer all the information you provide on our “For the Record” inserts. On Tuesday evening we had an Endowment Committee Meeting and Sheldon Edner agreed to create 2 memorial book stands for our narthex. On Wednesday Mike and Amy Stillson participated in Chancel Choir rehearsal as they do every Wednesday evening. On Thursday Jack Morisak used the copy machine to run off our worship bulletins, as he does every Thursday morning. On Friday one of you did lots of grass mowing here at church (and I don’t know who did it!). Yesterday Sam Sigler cleaned the carpets here at church as his gift. Today our confirmands stand here in part because of Eric Carlson who personally wrote the curriculum for this past year’s classes.
Here’s a truth: every gift of the Holy Spirit is present here at Resurrection in our members. I invite you today to share those gifts, as the Lord has asked of us.
Here’s something else for every one of us who love the Lord and love Resurrection Lutheran Church: This summer please be at worship every Sunday! You will be challenged by seemingly good reasons to not be here. I certainly understand if you are out of town. When you are in town, please be here to worship.
Why is this important? A fuller church is more inspiring, both for worshippers and for those of us who lead worship. It is also a sign of commitment and support of the members. Do you know that if just 50% of our members were here at worship on Sundays, we would over 200 here every Sunday? Another good reason for good attendance is for the sake of our Guests and Visitors. Summer is the time when folks visit and shop for a church home. Let’s put our best foot forward by being here personally and by inviting family and friends.
Finally, if those practical reasons aren’t sufficient, let’s become theological. The chief purpose for which we were created is to worship God. God asks us to set aside one day of the week for this purpose. Do you remember that in the 10 commandments, after God declares who he is and how we are to regard him (I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me), God begins his list of expectations of us: Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
Our confirmands have been instructed in the faith and raised in the Church. Previously they attended worship because of their parent’s expectations. Now begins a new day. Your reason for attending worship depend on your relationship with the Lord and your desire to support us your church family.
This day may the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, come into the hearts and minds and souls of every one of us.