I wanted to share to my fellow ministers, feel free to use my outline and notes as a starting point for your sermon.  All the words below are free to use, no credit needed, I just want to help my fellow preachers, speakers, ministers, teachers, etc!


What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

Imagine how some of us in our country feel, where some of us are told that America was and is great but then we end up down on our luck, addicted, alone, homeless, voiceless.  Great peoples don’t end up broke, and they don’t get overtaken and crushed by pagan militaries.  Strong men don’t wait for a generation, or two or three generations for God to do something… and yet here they were.  It had been nearly 500 years since the prophet Malachi had written his relatively short book, and it seemed as though God had been silent during that time.  Things had changed so much for the Jews at that time that they had started to speak the language of their conquering neighbors.  Could you imagine being a nation like ours, and then after a while we were so inundated with powerful outsiders that we started to talk like they did?  

The two most important questions, for when you witness a God moment or some kind of supernatural, spiritual event, the two most important questions are What does this mean? And, What should we do?

We as believers are the spiritual descendants of this group, we are part of the same family, and we are the church that was founded on this day.  

If we were to interpret this event through the lens of our nation, then we would see that God has gifted us a great nation that will rule the world.

If we were to interpret this event through our own selves and egos, we would see that God has gifted us to rule over each other.  We finally have the supernatural gifts to climb socially and culturally.  God in us makes me better than others. I’ll just name why sermons about spiritual gifting, spiritual power, Pentecost, tongues is hard – I know that many of you have experienced abuse at the hands of spiritual leaders.  There are people who take the idea that “God is in me” as license for me to tell you to do things for me, to do things that benefit me or what I believe is best.  And if you trusted that person, and believed that they were helping the city, your community, your church, your family, you might  have chased down their words like they were from God themselves.  What’s extra hard is, sometimes those people really do have words from God, and then mixed in, sort of baked into that same cake is their own … their own stuff.  Then you get poisoned by it, and you never want to hear from someone who talks about how God is a part of what they are doing, or how they have some prophetic word for you.  It just makes you go, blech.

The believers witnessed a group of men speaking in their respective native languages, and they recognized that this was not a part of the natural, regular order of things. Something different was happening.  This event was the culmination of a number of strange things happening in their community, for which they had no frame of reference.

Applying meaning to events is what we naturally do.  Having a story to make sense of a great event, a wedding or a birth, can amplify and reinforce the joy of an event.  Or it can do the opposite, it can take something like the death of a politician and magnify it into an act of war.  What Peter did at Pentecost was make it make sense to the Jews around him.  He put it into the context of their history, their ongoing story, and with that meaning they were able to take the right action.  The church was born that day.

The Context

Why was this significant:

The Jews, at this moment in their history, had a lot of reasons to feel that God had abandoned them.  They were in occupied territory, and there was no earthly, worldly way out of it.  They were a shadow of what they once were as a nation, and because of this, the Romans, a major military and economic power in the world at that time, had beaten them into submission.  They paid taxes to a military that then used that money to do all kinds of horrible, oppressive things.  And the little religious disputes that we read about in the Gospels were the pious, super-Jews fighting over the little scraps of power that the Romans threw them.  This was not a fun time to be a Jew, and this was not a nation that had much pride. Imagine if in our community, we had American Christians working together with unbelieving and immoral state authorities to get a little bit of personal power.

In that situation, the Jews had flashes of hope come through military uprisings, like with the Maccabean revolt (which is really interesting to read about by the way) and different would-be Messiahs that popped up here and there and were killed.  Their hopeful leaders kept getting killed.  Again, there were a lot of reasons to feel like God had abandoned them.  

They had similar ideas about greatness that we did.  There were moments in their nation’s history where they had it all.  They had this downgraded, second temple instead of Solomon’s temple, which was this beautiful dwelling place for God.  They remembered the days when they were the center of trade for the world, and they got rich because of it.  Now someone else was getting rich off that trade.  The nation of Israel was in this weird place, trying to figure out how they were both “God’s people” but at the bottom of the food chain in the world.  

The Application

What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

Your identity changes.  Our identity changes.  Those are two different but inter-related new realities.

Our way of relating to one another changes.

  • We are united around something bigger than culture
  • We are able to relate to each other not through our political system, or our politicians, we relate to each other through a specific, and greater person
  • We don’t relate to each other through common ideas
  • We don’t have abstract notions, or “ideas” of enemies, if we are honest with ourselves our enemies have names and faces.  And we reduce them to high intellectual ideas because it’s safer.  And we do the same thing with our God.  We reduce God to an idea, a very lofty and articulately stated one, but still a reduction.  Our enemies are people.  Our God is a person.  Where do we put ourselves in relation to these ideas, when these persons become ideas?  They become objects, that we move around in our minds, and avoid with our feet and we dare not speak their name… we step into dangerous territory when they are persons.  God is a person, in whom we find ourselves.  And our enemies, too.  

What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

Spiritual things happen when spirits show up.
The power in the room is exposed, and changed.

What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

  • Jesus demonstrated with his life how we can relate to each other… look at the list of disciples, and how incredibly different they were politically, socially, and how differently they related to one another.  They really had nothing in common

What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

  • We gain the power, in the spiritual realm, to be who God has created us to be.  
  • We see the way that Jesus used his power, and we see the way that the world uses power.  Those two things could not be any more different!

What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

  • We are compelled to love in a new way.  In a way that is of no practical, or financial, or social benefit to us.  This is true freedom.

What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

  • Sometimes what we expect, and when, and how… sometimes not.  Sometimes totally unexpected.
  • Sometimes one person will be healed, and the person right next to them who also needs healing, won’t be.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know how to make sense of that.
  • God is a person.  If he were an idea then we could control it and understand it, we could find the philosophical or theological lines in which this idea is “true.”  If he were only a way, then we could imitate him to become God ourselves.  If God were a social contract only, then we would only need each other and not him.
  • When people are healed, and others aren’t, it’s quick and easy to misinterpret why.  We sometimes assume that those who are healed have better faith, or less sin, or something.  We assume that the needy are less and the healthy and prosperous are more.  In cases of healing, or not healing, either way, we know that God is with us.  We know that he is real, he is present, he is here.  He is a healer, and he is also a person.  It’s frustrating, isn’t it?  To know a healer who doesn’t always heal when and how you want him to.  It’s hard, but we can trust God.  

What happens when the Holy Spirit shows up?

  • Some people are healed.  There’s this strange notion in our version of Christianity where the spiritual activity is somewhere else, like in an undeveloped country, and we imagine that it’s for uneducated people or for more superstitious people.  As a side note, we have plenty of magical thinking in our higher education institutions, in our economic and political institutions, we aren’t as rational as we imagine ourselves.
  • There’s not “more” spiritual activity “over there.”  Down the street, there’s a weekly Wiccan club that meets in the public high school off SE 26th. 
  • Almost to a student, in my relatively short amount of time doing youth ministry, they all have had spiritual experiences.  Some of them have even had Jesusy spiritual experiences.  There’s no shortage of spirituality outside the church.
  • We can do this in the church, too.  We are actually the best at it, because we have the most powerful name upon who we can call.
  • You know that because of this, because Pentecost, things happen when we pray.  

What happens when the Holy Spirit …

  • How do you know it’s the Holy Spirit, and not some other spirit?
  • That’s one of the scary questions when you start to recognize that all of this spiritual stuff that is all throughout the Bible continues.  I remember when I had my first spiritual experience, hearing a voice, and receiving information that was not naturally available to me, and then… when I read the Bible, that kind of thing was normal.  It is all over the place, God’s voice, God’s presence, God intervening, God influencing, God in the noise and silence sometimes, it was crazy.  I was like, wait a minute, this stuff actually happened.
  • So how do you know it’s the Holy Spirit, and not your own thoughts, or not some other spirit, or not any of another million things.  A good baseline is this:
    • Does this sound like something our God would say? Or do?  (story of Joe and the shoes)
    • Does this fit with scripture?  
    • Does your community support what you’re experiencing?  (and if you don’t have a community, then that’s step 1)
    • Story of dreams, visions, etc.

Sometimes it’s hard to identify who God is to us, because for many of us we were born into a community and family that is in relationship with God.  And sometimes it’s hard to stop and take note of where God has brought us from, or where he is taking us.  And I think that’s especially hard with the Holy Spirit, who is a mystery, isn’t he?  

What would be different if the Holy Spirit left our church?  What is the first thing we would notice?  What is the first feeling, first thought that we would have as a community, if the Holy Spirit left the room?  It’s sort of a backwards way of asking, who is God for us now?  What have you noticed God do among us?

— I’m really asking, I want to open up a little bit of time here for people to share.  In keeping with the scriptures, the Bible tells us that the disciples shared (in a bunch of different languages) the wonders of God.  I think that’d be a fun thing for us to do on Pentecost.  

What have you noticed God do lately?  (In our community, invite people to share 1 min stories in the gathering)

For discussion in smaller groups: In what ways do you want this community to develop?
Under what circumstance does that kind of growth happen?
What do you see God doing among us?
What do you expect God to be for us this coming season?