Rebuking Violence

(2 Kings 1:2-10; Luke 9:51-56) – J G White
11 am, Sunday, June 30, 2019 – UBC Digby

We express our true, patriot love for our nation, this weekend. Our Canadian patriotism expresses itself in many good and positive ways. And, as the years go on, we come to terms with our whole story, and where we are headed now.  

It seems every county has a history of challenges, and plenty of violence and conflict in the past. Sharon has just returned after two weeks in the Middle East, a region that has known conflicts over the land for… forever!  There are also many great stories of victory and of making peace. 

So it is also in our Faith history: the stories of Christianity, and of ancient Judiasm that preceded it. It is time for us to face the facts, and come to terms with the violent tendencies that live on with us.

As witnesses of Jesus and of Christianity, we must face the criticism people would make about our faith, and our Bible. We must answer when someone takes issue with some cruel or violent episode from these chapters we preach. Not only to people ask, “Why does God allow so much suffering in the world today?”, they also ask, “Why did God allow – and even promote – so much suffering in Bible days?”

Let us invite Jesus to Bible study this morning, our Prince of Peace.  Listen to what He has to say. Notice how He uses the Bible, His scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. We have many challenges in using this beloved book. Things get better when we are in touch with the inspiring Author.

First, let us hear a story, one of a couple for the morning. Luke 9:51-56 read by Rob Wilkinson. A story of Jesus and His closest disciples…

Jesus rebukes James and John.  He scolds them, sternly corrects them, we might say. Jesus had not been received well by this particular village, and two disciples wonder if they should call on some divine power to destroy those unappreciative people. Let them get what they deserve! they may have thought.  

No. No, that is not our way, Jesus seems to say. 

But John and James were only thinking about what great heroes of their history had done. As recorded in holy scripture! Like the prophet Elijah. Elijah had performed many miracles, 800 years before them, including calling down fire to destroy his opponents.  

Let us hear a story from 2 Kings 1:2-10… 

Notice that Elijah speaks of being a ‘man of God,’ and to prove it fire will come down from heaven and burn up a captain and his fifty men. And it happens. Actually, Elijah does this again, to the next fifty messengers who come to him. 

Centuries later, Jesus of Nazareth does not use the same method. His disciples are sternly corrected when they come up with the idea of calling down fire from heaven on their enemies. For Christ, the man of God or woman of God, does not burn up His opponents.

We have all learned, and grown up, and changed our ways, since our childhood, and youth, and even young adulthood. So to with our Faith. We grow up, mature, and improve. Our violent attitudes and methods of the past are overtaken my more grace, and goodness, and gentleness.  

We need not look back in history too far to see the days when slavery and race relations were a Bible battle. Even now, today, white supremacists will use Bible quotations to support their attitudes. 

We can read Titus 2:9&10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. We also read Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

All the pieces train us, grow us up in wisdom.  The great love chapter of the New Testament says: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. (1 Cor. 13:11) Our Christian religion also grows up, as God the Spirit leads and teaches us, from century to century.

The challenge to us – as people of The Book – is deciding what scripture stories to embrace and which ones not to embrace so closely. We keep the whole book, but we do not keep every verse and every event as close to our hearts as every other.  

Personally, I have started to come to the Bible looking not just for how to do what they did, back then. We don’t always want to do that! I come at it this way: how does this story, this chapter, this book, influence me? How does the Holy Spirit take these words on the page and do something with me in my life? It is a matter of influence, not just finding some principle to follow or some answers to our questions.  

Our greatest help with the Bible is Divine help. We learn to read the Bible with Jesus, as Jesus does.  We can study how He used the Old Testament, and see what dramatic things He does. He does not throw it out, but He sometimes transforms it.  

This is a big book.  Contrary to popular opinion, the Old Testament is not a single book with one unified view of who God is and how life works. It is a collection of books from multiple authors who articulate a multitude of opposing perspectives. (Flood, p. 35) As a great Old Testament scholar put it (Walter Brueggemann), we read here testimony and counter-testimony. More than one opinion.  More than one perspective. Sometimes it is a real debate. 

And together, holding it all together, there is great wisdom and power. I found it so profound when I read Dallas Willard saying that “only the Bible as a whole can be treated as the written word of God.” (Hearing God, 1984, 1999, p. 167)

So we read of Elijah calling upon divine fire to burn up his enemies. We also read of Jesus rebuking His disciples who wanted to do the same. With these stories together, we find our way forward – how to deal with those we think are our opponents. 

Let us hear again that Jesus story, Luke 9:51-56, read again by Rob.

In Christ, in Jesus, Bible things that are not clear can become clear. This is great news! Christ sends the Holy Spirit to inspire our reading of this inspired Word. But this also suggests that without Him, the word of God can be just a dead letter, a confusing text, a mysterious old book, even nasty weapon. The many wars and the violent attitudes of the people – and God – are still here, in black and white. 

There are hard things about defending our use of the Bible. The best we can do is speak of our experience. The life-changing experience of using this great Book, of being changed for the better. Our testimony is what points others to the Saviour, which is more important than pointing them to the scripture.

Conversations With God

(Psalm 46; 1 Kings 19:1-16) – J G White
11 am, Sunday, June 23, 2019 – UBC Digby

In recent years, a woman named Sarah Young has published a couple books of a similar style. Her book, Jesus Calling, has been a bestseller. I borrowed one of Young’s books from Peter and Bev. The author introduces it, saying: Like Jesus Calling, Jesus Today is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you, the reader. As with all my books, I relied on the help of the Holy Spirit as I worked — seeking to listen to Jesus throughout the creative process. (Sarah Young, Jesus Today, p. xvi)

Here is an example of the daily readings:
LEARN TO LIVE FROM A PLACE OF RESTING in Me. Since I — the Prince of Peace — am both with and within you, you can choose to live from this peaceful place of union with Me. This enables you to stay calm in the midst of stressful situations, by re-centering yourself in Me. We can deal with your problems together — you and I — so there is no need to panic. However, the more difficult your circumstances, the more tempting it is for you to shift into high gear and forget My peaceful Presence.  
(Sarah Young, Jesus Today, p. 12)

Modern Christian people seem to long and look for direct words from Jesus to us. Exact guidance from God. Specific leading of the Spirit. We have been taught – and rightly so – that God communicates.  

So, today we read the classic Bible story of the prophet Elijah, fleeing from danger, alone on a mountain, meeting God in a still, small voice, rather than in the earthquake, wind and fire. And as the psalmist said: Be still, and know that I am God.

Years ago, Dallas Willard suggested there are …six ways in which people are addressed by God within the biblical record:  (Willard, Hearing God, 1984, 1993, p. 91)
– a phenomena plus a voice
– a supernatural messenger or an angel
– dreams and visions
– an audible voice
– the human voice
– the human spirit or the “still small voice”

We see more than one of these in the Elijah story of 1 Kings 19.  Many of us have just a few experiences like these in our whole lives.

Except for the quiet, inner voice. That may be the most common. And that is good.  As Willard wrote in his book, Hearing God:

But a major point of this book is that the still small voice — or the interior or inner voice, as it is called — is the preferred and most valuable form of individualized communication for God’s purposes. (Dallas Willard, p. 89)

Thomas Kelley was a scholar and a deeply spiritual person. His best loved book is his Testament of Devotion. It it he wrote, so beautifully:

Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto itself.  

It is a light within which illumines the face of God and casts new shadows and new glories upon our faces.  It is a seed stirring to life if we do not choke it. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst.  Here is the slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And he is within us all. (as in Richard J. Foster, Devotional Classics, pp.105-6)

It is deep inside us, so to speak, that we may have our deepest conversations with God. The closest connection. The holy relationship.  Look with me at some things the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians.

2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

And 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Conversations with God are simple, and appear in our own inner thoughts. No audible voice is needed. Simply the quietness amid our struggles; to listen and to be centered upon the Master.  Elijah, that day, had been running away from the people he feared. It was a crisis time for him. He was desperate, hopeless, depressed. Was he seeking God particularly?

And then, God was there, in the sound of sheer silence. Elijah we sent back into the game, with his next mission.

How often you and I need this, eh?

Rosalind Rinker relates how after years of service on the mission field and many fruitless efforts at a satisfactory prayer life, she found herself rebellious and spiritually empty.  

Almost by “chance,” as she was praying with a friend for some of their students, she interrupted her friend’s prayer with thanksgiving on a point that was being prayed for. After a moment of awkward silence and after they had sat back and laughed with great relief, they settled down again to prayer but now “with a sense of joy, of lightness, of the Lord’s presence very near.”

Then Rinker stopped praying and said to her friend, “Do you know what? I believe the Lord taught us something just now! Instead of each of us making a prayer-speech to Him, let’s talk things over with Him, including Him in it, as we do when we have a conversation.” (as in Willard, p. 104)

I imagine many of you do this. You simply talk things over in your mind with the Spirit. Prayers don’t have to be speeches. Prayer can be a chat.

Yet it is the hearing, the listening, the Holy Voice we want to know, not just our own. When are our own thoughts from God? When is a good idea a God idea and not just our own best guess?

Again, I have found the teaching of Dallas Willard so helpful. He wrote of Three Factors in the Voice.

The Weight of Authority  The quality of God’s voice is more a matter of the weight or impact an impression makes on our consciousness.  We sense inwardly the immediate power of God’s voice. The unquestionable authority with which Jesus spoke to nature, humans and demons was but a very clear manifestation of this quality of the word of God. (Willard, p. 175)

E. Stanley Jones put it this way. Perhaps the rough distinction is this: The voice of the subconscious argues with you, tries to convince you; but the inner voice of God does not argue, does not try to convince you. It just speaks,and it is self-authenticating. It has the feel of the voice of God within in. (Jones, A Song of Ascents, 1979, p.190)

Then, there is The Spirit of God’s Voice  The Voice of God speaking in our souls also bears within itself a characteristic spirit.  It is a spirit of exalted peacefulness and confidence, of joy, of sweet reasonableness and of goodwill. It is, in short, the voice of Jesus, and by that phrase I refer to the overall tone and internal dynamics of his personal life as a whole. (Willard, p. 177)

Let me tell you about one of my recent conversations with God.  Three weeks ago today, at this very hour, I was in Sherbrooke, NS, at the United Church. I was in the midst of a nature weekend, with field trips and talks about many environmental subjects: forestry, whales, lichens, and so on. After all the distressing conversations with people about clear cutting and environmental destruction, I sat in a pew.  

The layman leading the service, and preaching that day, knew nothing of the nature conference going on down the road, I’m sure.  He began the service with the reading of Psalm 116. Suddenly, but quietly, by soul awakened.  

116:1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.  
‘You, Creator, know the cares and concerns I have for the creation, know what the nature-lovers think.’

116:10 I kept my faith, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my consternation,
“Everyone is a liar.”  
‘God hears the cries for environmental justice in our day; You, Maker, understand the confusing talk about nature and science and the economy, You know the lies and the truth.’

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
   is the death of his faithful ones.
‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of each tree, each whale, each bird, each person.’

16 O Lord, I am your servant;
   I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
   You have loosed my bonds.
‘Master, I am your servant, in a long line of servants.  May I bless this world, even when it appears to be dying. May I serve the world and the future. Set me free to do my best!’

The tone of these thoughts, my imagination when I heard the Psalm, seemed so reasonable and calm.  

And then there is the Contentthere is a content that marks the voice of God. This is a matter of what information the voice conveys to us. (Willard, p. 178)

Evan Roberts, when he was in college studying for the ministry, was deeply moved by the sermons of [a preacher] Seth Joshua, who visited his school.  

Roberts could not concentrate on his studies after that and he went to the principal of the college, and said,“I hear a voice that tells me I must go home and speak to the young people in my home church. Mr. Phillips, is that the voice of the devil or the voice of the Spirit?”  Phillips answered very wisely, “The devil never gives orders like that. You can have a week off.”

Like sheep who know the shepherd’s voice, we get to know our Masters voice. So, let me end with this.  Some of you know the gospel song that asks:
How long has it been since you talked with the Lord
And told him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed?
How long since you stayed
on your knees till the light shone through?

Consider well how your conversations with God have been lately. There are always many ways to renew your friendship, and many daily opportunities to be in holy fellowship!

Today, for our time of prayer, let us take a page from Rosalind Rinker’s personal story. Let us not close our eyes.  Let us have a conversation together, and include our God.  
Speak of the things to include in our conversation with God.  
And then, we will address God with us, eyes open.

What love and confidence do we have in Jesus?

What problems and sins are hurting us?

For what are we grateful today?

For whom do we ask blessings and help?

The Lord’s Prayer.  AMEN.

Creative Wisdom

(Psalm 8; Proverbs 8) – J G White
11 am, Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019 – UBC Digby

It’s Father’s Day, it’s almost summer and feels like it, it’s the weekend, it’s the day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.  

It is also a troubling time in our word. Seems to me, in the past four weeks, I have heard so much about humans harming nature, and people we know being sick or injured. It’s hard work to look on the bright side! It is a challenge to live and act wisely.

We are looking for the good life, for wise ways.

Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside by doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favour from the LORD. (8:34-35) This is the voice of Wisdom, personified in Proverbs chapter 8.  

Wisdom is behind all creation, undergirds it. Proverbs 8 speaks of the wisdom that supports everything in the universe.  In our lives, we speak of physics, of biology, of geology, of chemistry… This world is constructed in amazing, wise ways.

When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep. (8:27)

This spring I attended the Nature NS conference, and this past week a series of lectures on ecology and faith. Amid the amazing beauty of all creation, amid the confusion about the human destruction of the planet, we look for hope, for good news, for how to make a difference, and for inspiration!  

This past week, in Truro, Rev. Michael Dowd spoke of having a pro-future Faith. Before he spoke, I was guessing he means being positive about the future, seeing the good that is on its way. No. Dowd speaks a lot of doom and gloom about what is ahead, in this time of climate crisis. But Dowd also believes in having a faith that is good for the future. We live and do things that are good for the world and the people who will be around later. A pro-future Faith does good things now for the sake of the future.  Become a good ancestor: live now for the sake of the seventh generation yet to come.

Michael Dowd’s wife, scientist Connie Barlow, told us of an example, a project that has been important to her: assisted tree migration. As the earth’s overall temperature increases, a rare evergreen tree in Florida needs to move north, but it had not been doing that.  So people are planting it further north, to help it make its way up into the continent, to survive into the future.

The ways we are now capable of wrecking things are becoming clear to us.  Yet the day-to-day good things we can do are also becoming clearer. Among other things, there is real wisdom in becoming the best environmentalist you can be.  

Wisdom is underneath good human leadership.

Proverbs 8 tells us this. By me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly. (8:16)

We know so well the corruption, the politics, the bureaucracy, and the violence of leadership in our world. So, good leadership stands out, when it happens. Wise decisions stand the test of time. Fairness and justice come out of good attitudes.  

In his final years of life, my father’s father was interviewed by his daughter, my aunt Phyllis, about his early life. Grampie told stories. Phyllis recorded them, and just before his death, the stories were published for the family.  Here is one bit of wisdom, from the early life of George White, a story about a good attitude to have.

[During wartime,] one family was no better than the next. Everyone was poor. George felt very strongly about everyone being equal. “If we worked and got a few pennies, we would give every cent to our parents.  Extra pennies, if you had any, were counted and given to other family members or to your neighbours. We helped whenever we could and we helped whoever we could.” He went on to say one more thing, “Pennies were never thrown away like they are now-a-days.” (p. 59) Don’t we know that wise saying: ‘count the pennies and the dollars look after themselves?’

Speaking of pennies: Wisdom is so valuable. In Proverbs 8, Lady Wisdom says: Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.  (8:10-11)  

What is valued by us is often the gold and treasures that do not last.  Greed, consumption, waste. We end up desiring things that are not wise. We want more of what we do not need. We waste things, and make a lot of waste. We want what we think we deserve, instead of wanting to share with those in need. Wisdom is better than this, greater than this.

Years ago I got introduced to the More With Less Cookbook.  The subtitle explains: suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.  An opening chapter suggests: As North Americans, most of us grew up believing we were born into an era of abundance. The ability to buy something has meant the right to have it. Christian discipleship now calls us to turn around. The chapter goes on to talk about our Overspending Money, Overeating Calories, Overeating Protein, Overeating Sugar, and Overcomplicating Our Lives.  
When was this written? 1976!

Our knowledge about the human diet, and about the natural environment is amazing today. Our practical wisdom about how to change my habits is still weak, and we can’t quite change our personal lives and live simply so others can simply live.  

There is real value in the true wisdom that is built into creation. If only we could be wiser, and do what we know to be wise! For Wisdom is right and true.

Wisdom, she declares: All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. (8:8)

Real wisdom in life is clear, and cuts through the clutter of our words and our thoughts.  To speak clearly, or to hear clearly, is a matter of good relation- ships. We look back, at times, to that Garden of Eden, to a beautiful way of life wherein people got along perfectly with everything, and each other, with God.

Do you have a good relationship with your food? Even the simple Judeo-Christian practice of grace before a meal is a way of pausing to respect what we are eating and drinking. To be grateful and not take it for granted. To consider where the veggies and meat lived and grew up, where our water flows from also.

Here’s another story from my grandfather, George.

George’s father went hunting a lot. He was a good hunter and an even better shot – he hardly ever missed. George’s father wasn’t fond of taking him with him because he was more interested in finding [bunch]berries – and eating them rather than staying quiet while hunting.
George shot a deer once. As the deer fell to the ground, he said it looked him right in the eye. That was the first and last time he ever went deer hunting. (p. 11)

Well, perhaps because Grampie never again hunted, and my father didn’t hunt, I have never hunted.  Yet, to me, it seems better to eat meat that got to live wild and free than meat that grew up in a crowded metal box.  We gain wisdom from our experience in the world. All creation has an impact upon us. Our God speaks through all we see.  

And we declare that this God is all about relationships.  It is Trinity Sunday. If we see God as Three and One – Father, Spirit and Son – then God Is Relationship.

So, we also discover that Wisdom is available!  

To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. (8:4) This is the Good News of the day! This whole chapter presents a picture: wisdom as a woman who calls out where everyone can hear: Here I am! Learn from me. Everywhere we look, and listen.

It is the true wisdom that we seek, to make the most of this life, to celebrate was has been given to us from the past, and to be good to the future people and future world that comes after our lives.  

My Aunt says, and the end of her father’s book of stories: Your words will be passed on to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren over time. Thank you, Dad, for letting me write about a very small part of your life.  

May we all have the grace to live our lives, now, so that we will be a blessing to the generations yet to come!  God’s wisdom be yours!

Quest for Fire

(Acts 2:1-21) – J G White
11 am, Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019 – UBC Digby

It’s been a long time since I watched the 1981 film, Quest for Fire, about a primitive tribe of ‘cavemen,’ who are seeking a new technology we call fire.  The tribe had fire, but it goes out; they do not know how to start it again. They send a few of their warriors out to find fire. In time, they discover from another tribe the secret of starting fire on their own. 

In a sense, we are on a quest for fire in our reality, here and now.  And no, I don’t mean deciding upon the best energy source: coal, oil, biomass, wind, solar, hydro or nuclear. I mean the spiritual fire that gives energy to human souls and human faith communities.  

Many branches of Christianity celebrate today as Pentecost Sunday, with the story of Acts 2. The Holy Spirit comes with power upon the disciples of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem. The Church is born, we say.

Two thousand years later: what is your spiritual quest for fire?  What is of greatest interest to you, a spiritual being, may be different from what attracts me.  I looked for a few, illustrated in the Biblical story of Pentecost, in Acts 2.

There is, of course: The Quest for Fire in our personal life of Faith.  I think of the lines of a classic, Holy Spirit hymn.  

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But, take the dimness of my soul away.

(Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart, George Croly, 1780-1860)

We speak and sing so much, as church people, of the individual walk with God, the personal experience of salvation and obedience, the potential for spiritual growth.  And we have the experience in our lives of simply needing the dimness of my soul taken away.

The biblical story today takes place seven weeks after Jesus came back to life, resurrected. Fifty days. His followers are obediently waiting in the city for the promised arrival of the Spirit, whatever that means. Then, during the next big Jewish festival, it happens.  

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit… (2:3-4)

Perhaps you feel, you feel you know, that this is what is needed. For believers to get fired up, get Spirit-filled, be revived. You want it for yourself; you want it for others around you. I believe a key thing we do to be ready for this is the practice of spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting, confession, worship, study, simplicity, meditation, and so forth.

For some of you, something else, more cosmic, is important to you, as a Christian.  The Quest for Fire of the Last Days: the Second Coming of Christ. The quest to understand this, and be ready, be watching, as Jesus taught us to be.

Once the powerful and supernatural things happened that Pentecost day in Jerusalem, disciple Peter gets up to explain, to preach. He takes as his text one of the fiery prophets. This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”  (2:16-17)

The last days. We know there has been so much taught, and written, and preached about the second coming to us of our Messiah. Some of you have found this so interesting, so important, so compelling.  Some of us read, years ago, the Left Behind novels, about future days when the things of Revelation, and Daniel, and Mark 13, and so on, come to pass.  

There are several complicated systems of understanding the second coming of Christ, the apocalypse, the end times, the rapture, the final judgement, and all the rest of it. I have never settled on a way to put it all together for myself. I need to keep it simple.  [Our own Basis of Union for the Baptists of Atlantic Canada, from 1906, includes this article, which keeps things to a minimum:

General Judgement — There will be a judgement of quick and dead, of the just and unjust, on the principles of righteousness, by the Lord Jesus Christ, at His second coming. The wicked will be condemned to eternal punishment, and the righteous received into fullness of eternal life and joy.

Our Basis of Union allows us freedom-loving Baptists to have a lot of different opinions on the last days and the second coming.]

We know the frequent Biblical commands to be watchful, be waiting, be prepared. Part of our preparedness is to see and celebrate the breaking in now of the Kingdom of God, before the finale.  

Beyond all this, I think that so many people of the pews are quite interested in this: The Quest for Fire in the glorious Light of Heaven.  Are some of you focused, in your faith, on heaven and its glory?

Beyond what John read for us from Acts 2, Peter goes on in his Pentecost sermon to say of Christ: God raised Him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.  (2:24)  Death does not get the last word. There is life, life eternal!

Maybe you see, like I do, the strong connections people feel with deceased loved ones. We count on the grace of God in Jesus Christ to be reunited with them. And there are the highly motivated Christians, who are deeply concerned for their unsaved loved- ones and neighbours. We want the bright glory of heaven for them all. Just as our God wants this for them all. Some of this motivates the next quest.

The Quest for Fire in the fiery Truth to be spoken and win the day! Peter ends his sermon about Jesus saying: Therefore, let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified. (2:36)

The 23 verses here that tell us Peter’s sermon are surely just the synopsis. At the funeral for Rev. Dr. Randy Legassie on Friday, we were reminded of Randy’s advice to preachers, even preachers in Africa: sermons should not be longer than twenty minutes!  Surely Peter’s full sermon on the day of Pentecost was actually a full twenty minutes.

And what Peter sounded like, the energy and force of his preaching, we can but imagine. Most Holy Spirit hymns and songs are so gentle and sweet. The fired-up sermon is not so. And that’s what some Xians look for and long for today. Maybe you also. There is also that longing for the voice of the preacher to be heard again in our whole land, and influence our Canadian culture. We must speak the Truth today!

You who are here often know I continue to quote the Church leaders and scholars who tell us we must understand our times, and understand our people. This knowledge is something the Spirit will use in us, to influence our wider world.

I see also one more, a fifth spiritual quest of Christians.  The Quest for Fire in the Renewal of the Church today.  We read the whole of Acts 2 to be completely inspired and instructed. We love this success story.  After Peter preached, we hear: So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. (2:41)

I think you know as well as I do, that I tend to harp on about things of this nature.  How can we, who come in here, be changed, to make a greater difference out there?

In a sense, I have just given you one multiple choice question, with five possible answers. What is your spiritual quest? What kind of spiritual fire do you want to see rekindled?

I think there is another question to be asked; and this, at last, is my point today. What is God’s Quest for Fire? What does the Holy Spirit desire, and design, and do among us now?  What you or I want is not as important as what the flow of the Spirit actually is. What is God’s spiritual quest, among us?

Step back from Acts 2 and notice how it all happened. It was planned. It was prepared. It was prompted by the Spirit.  Not the choice of the believers, those waiting disciples. Yes, they were trained. Yes, they were obedient. Yes, they were praying. But they did not make Pentecost happen.

Nor do we renew ourselves or our churches or our neighbourhoods – without the will and way of God.  We can do a lot of fake firing things up, in our religion. But the Holy Spirit is the One who brings new life, in new ways.