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05.15.16 Christ is Nowhere to Be Found Romans 6:2b-11 Sermon Summary

by on May 16, 2016

For fiery evangelists and preachers in the church, the message is often “Repent!” But this will always lead to frustration unless we remember the lesson of Pentecost.

Summary Points

  • The essential but forgotten lesson of Pentecost
  • How we enter the Kingdom of God
  • The three-fold movement of the Spirit
  • Questions for Discussion or Reflection

One of the most often overlooked lessons of Pentecost is that we can respond to God’s Word only because the Spirit has already come and made us able to hear. This means that repentance does not depend on us but on the Spirit. Just as our salvation does not depend on us but on God.

Such dependence upon the Spirit puts the life of the Spirit in us, blowing as God wills. We recognize the Spirit’s presence, but we don’t know its origin or destination. This means we can follow the Spirit even without all the answers.

My six-year-old son Hutson asked me this week why did I want to be a preacher. I told him that I wanted to help people find God in their lives, but mostly because God’s Spirit called me to preach. “What do you mean, ‘Spirit?’” he replied. “It’s when you know God is telling you something, but you can’t see it or hear it.”

God speaks through Spirit, I told him, because Christ is nowhere to be found.

Saying yes to God’s Spirit is how we enter the kingdom with Nicodemus. It’s what Jesus means by being born again, born from above, born anew, or born of the Spirit.

When we answer God’s Spirit we become Christians. If we continue to answer God’s Spirit we become servants in the world. I continued to answer and became a Minister of Word and Sacrament. Others continue to answer and become Elders or Deacons.

In We Make the Road by Walking, Brian McLaren outlines a three-fold movement of the Spirit. The first movement is “letting go.” To enter the new life of the Spirit, we have to let go of some of the old life. This is essentially the definition of “repentance.”

Some of the things we might have to let go include offenses others have committed against us, or those we have committed. We let go by forgiving. Or we may need to let go of our anxious thoughts about the future. We have to let go of outdated hopes and dreams, or childish beliefs, in order to live into the Spirit’s life.

The second movement is “letting be.” Having let go of past we cannot change and a future we cannot control, we can just be present. It’s being open to God on God’s terms. It’s prayer as listening and faith as resting. Letting be means letting the Spirit blow. One of the best ways to do this is to sit in silence, listening to our breathing, feeling the Spirit of God flow into and out of us, becoming aware of God’s eternal presence.

The third movement is “letting come.” When we let go and let be, we discover that Christ comes to us. The most concrete way we experience this is through the Lord’s Supper. Henri Nouwen points out that the word “nowhere” can be divided to become “now here,” and this is what happens at the Lord’s Supper after Pentecost. We discover that even though Christ is nowhere to be found, by the Spirit, Christ is now here to be found.

Through our letting go, letting be, and letting come, we can receive the Spirit’s guidance in our lives, experience Christ’s presence, and respond to God’s Word calling us to faith and service in love.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • What are some things of which you need to let go? What are you holding onto that keeps your hands from being available to grab what God is offering?
  • Have you experienced the frustration of “repentance,” or trying to change your life, without first depending on the Spirit? Where does that lead? How can you increase your dependence on the Spirit?
  • In what ways have you experienced the Spirit through “letting be”? If not silence, maybe nature, music, exercise, pondering? How can you surrender to these experiences more frequently?
  • How has Christ come to you in the Spirit? If not at the Table, perhaps in a poem, through creation, a flash of insight? If you made yourself more open to Christ’s presence, would he come to you more often?

 

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