Sunday’s sermon was less about the sermon and more about the Ministry Fair that followed it.
I wanted to connect the church’s “need” to fill ministry openings with Scripture’s truth that ministry stems from the Holy Spirit’s power.
Really, I wanted the church to see the difference between John the Baptist’s baptism of NO (“Stop sinning!”) and Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit of YES (“Start ministering.”)
Titled “De-Weirding,” the sermon landed at this bottom line:
You get right WITH God so you will get going FOR God. Best of all was the overwhelming response we had for Reading Buddies at Lake Wylie Elementary School.
So “Wake Up Call” is a series about the Holy Spirit. And can I let you know something about the way this church approaches any teaching about or experience of the Holy Spirit? We want to DE-WEIRD the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that great? Because here’s the truth – and those of you who have been part of churches that call themselves “Spirit-filled,” “Full Gospel,” “charismatic,” or “Pentecostal” know this better than anyone – usually when churches or movements focus on, talk about the Holy Spirit, they get WEIRD. They specialize in WEIRD. The weirder, the better.
You know, hand raising, tongue talking, aisle running, snake handling weird. I know I’ve told many of you before of the time I went to a healing service at one of those type of ministry & the whole thing, yeah, weirded me out. Especially when I went up for healing prayer (from the celebrity pray-er) & people gathered behind me & I realized they were there to catch me when I fell. I was like “I ain’t falling!” So I left that gathering kind of disgusted, a bit weirded out, and . . . hold on . . . healed.
See, the weirdness we see and focus on when it comes to the HS causes a lot of people to ignore the beauty and the power hidden within. And at Good Shepherd, we BELIEVE in the Holy Spirit. We believe the HS is “he,” not “it,” we believe he is not a separate God but part of this mysterious & beautiful thing called the Trinity (F,S, HS), and we believe he empowers, delivers, and heals. We believe praying in tongues is real, not fake, & a lot of us do it. We believe hand raising is good. We believe all that. We just want to teach about him and explain him in a way that DE-WEIRDS him. Because so many Xns & churches have gotten so weirded out by HS excesses, they have stopped talking about him altogether (mostly UMs!). We’re convinced that we you de-weird, you wake up. You wake up to the ongoing movement, love, & power of the HS available to all.
So with that in mind, it might strike you as . . . well, weird . . that we begin this series on HS & this talk about De-Weirding by focusing on one of the weirdest guys in the biblical library, John the Baptist. JtB, who is sort of a cross between Grizzly Adams and the Unabomber. When Mark tells Jesus’ story, he is in such a hurry that he skips right over what he probably considers fluff and we regard as uber important: Christmas! Mark has no Magi, no Star, no manger, no nothing. He starts with Jesus at 30 being introduced the world by JtB who is himself 30. And when it comes to JtB, we also don’t get some of the miraculous events surrounding HIS birth (elderly parents, dad struck mute for doubting, in utero leaping). Instead of all those preliminaries, it’s BOOM! Look at Mark 1:4:
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Circle that: baptism of repentance. He is there to til the soil, prepare the way for his cousin Jesus to appear and his focus is on SIN. He tells the people, “You Stink!” That was it. No sermons that stick or series that pop. You Stink! Stop Stinking! Get baptized!
And look at the response to this Not Very Savvy message in 1:5:
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
The whole countryside and Jerusalem went! That weird guy from the boonies was able to reach the city slickers! Look again at 1:5b – “confessing their sins” – again, what JtB was about was people’s past, people’s dirt, and getting all that stuff that was wrong made right. His message is You’re OUT, you need to get IN; you’re WRONG with God; you need to get RIGHT; you’re LOST & you need to get SAVED. Kind of one dimensional but evidently effective because we’re still talking about his sermons 2000 yrs later. And it’s the kind of message that reached a lot of you at BG crusades, at summer camp, on youth retreats, even at a church service. A profound sense that you’re out of alignment with God and you need to be made right. And you did it, you surrendered, & it was great.
Well, after all that in 1:4-5, Mark goes to great lengths to tell us about JtB’s weirdness in 1:6:
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
For the Jewish culture of that time, telling about the camel hair clothing & locusts dipped in honey diet was kind of like a coonskin cap works for us. We hear coonskin cap & think “Ah, Daniel Boone.” They heard camel, locusts, honey & thought, “Oh, Elijah’s back!” Not reincarnated, but someone coming in the spirit of Elijah. And Elijah has to come before the Messiah comes, so something big is fixin’ to happen! And then – after making John seem ever more bizarre, Mark gets a lil weirder in 1:7-8:
7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[a] water, but he will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
“This was his message.” Wait! I thought his message was REPENT!? No, apparently, this was his real message. His purpose on center stage is to exit the stage altogether. He appears so he can disappear. Both in the book and in life.
And look at 1:8 because it’s the whole deal: READ. I water (duh), he Spirit. (Huh?) What in the world can that mean? We can see water; that’s clear. But we can’t SEE the HS. How do you baptize people in what is invisible & untouchable? And then I remembered: ah, for the Jews, the word “Spirit” is the same as the word for “wind.” Bingo! It must have something to do with movement and freedom and activity. Water washes but wind sends. And then I see how John’s baptism (as we’ve seen) is such a NO (You stink!) . . . and what Jesus delivers is such a YES. John: STOP your crap. Jesus: START your beauty. Here’s really what it is, understanding what JtB is saying by recognizing water washes & wind sends. When you are fully awake to the HS, you realize You get right WITH God so that you will get going FOR God. Yep, that’s it. Get right to get going.
Because here’s what gets me. A lot of people spend a lot of time and emotional energy GETTING RIGHT. You got saved. You got sober. You got sober so you then got saved. You came to your senses. You returned home to faith. You’ve said NO to what was killing you, you’ve accepted what Jesus did for you, and now you’re taking it easy. You’ve received the marvelous gift of ASSURANCE – you KNOW you’re going to heaven when you die because we have taught you very well that it’s not about your performance for Jesus but about your position in Jesus – and you’ve taken that blessed assurance & your celebrating with blessed relief. And listen: we enable it! Nice music, sermons you can (usually) understand, a great venue. It’s pretty consumeristic. You got right with God and then you get relaxed. It’s almost like what happens in Indonesia where traffic is so bad that vehicles with fewer than three passengers are banned from public roads. But that law created a niche in the job market. There are now professional passengers who, for a few, will ride along in your car so you can stay on the road. These folks are literally just along for the ride.
And so are some of you. You got right . . . and then you got comfortable. And that tragedy of that is NOT your comfort, not your ease, the tragedy is that you have GIFTS, you have SPIRIT that is waiting to be unleashed! You’re content saying NO to what was killing but you haven’t embraced the adventure of saying YES to what will bring you life. You got washed in the water but you haven’t gotten sent by the wind! You haven’t allowed Jesus to baptize you in his HS again and again and again – and each time your drenched in his invisible yet kinetic HS you’re empowered to do the kinds of ministry and HAVE THE KIND OF IMPACT you’d never do or have on your own.
And whenever I in leading this church, corral gifts rather than unleash them, well, shame on me! See a pastor or church who involves everyone in ministry ISN’T DELEGATING!! We’re UNLEASHING! Huge difference! Delegating just makes sure that work gets done and names get slotted. Unleashing realizes that each of you who is owned by Jesus has a cocktail of gifts that are just itching to be used for impacting the lives of other people in a positive way. When you’re baptized in the HS, he puts you in people’s lives to share your experience, strength, & hope with those who need it. You get right WITH God so that you will get going FOR God.
It makes me think of that test they did with race car drivers. You know what they discovered? That drivers feel the most stress . . . when waiting in the pit. When they start driving, that’s when the stress diminishes. Why? Because that’s what they’re designed to do! And Xns are the same way! We’re not designed to get right so we can get comfy; we’re made to get right so we can get going! You get right WITH God so that you will get going FOR God.
A few months ago, a guy came to a healing service here to receive prayer for his back. And he confessed to me that he’d never been to a GS healing service because he feared they were too . . . wait for it . . . WEIRD. Well, he discovered that they are weird — oddly beautiful. And his back was healed. You could say on one level he “got right.” But here’s the deal, here’s what is so cool. After that, he kept asking me, “Hey can I tell that story somehow? Can you use me?” And finally, one Monday night, it all fit. We needed a way to start our healing service and BOOM! there he was. Not a public speaker, but stood up and shared his story & all of a sudden the mood, the spirit in the room transformed. And I saw someone get baptized in the Holy Spirit that night. A “no” to what kills and a breathtaking “yes” to what gives life. He got going. You get right WITH God so that you will get going FOR God.
Happened to me. Years and years ago, in Monroe, I signed up to teach a special needs adult how to read. I figured, “well, I can’t fix his front porch, but I can teach him to read.” So I did. Got trained, got prepared, got some HS power to do something that demanded the kind of patience I don’t normally have and there that man was, not only learning to read but in our church. And that’s why, that’s why, this fall, working with Ambassador D. Daniel, I’m going to be on the Lake Wylie Elementary team helping 3rd graders with reading. I’d love you to join me.
Because I’m convinced that the more you “go” – offer yourself to speak into the next generation with children or student ministries, create a memorable first impression for our guests, lead a LifeGroup, or – get this – use your gifts to help ppl informally within your LifeGroup – the more he sends his Holy Spirit in sending, drenching power. It’s like if you stand in a rainstorm for a minute, you’ll get this wet (AV or we make a video?). But if you stand in a rainstorm for THIS long you get THIS wet! (Drenched) Same with what JtB says Jesus promises: the more you GO, the more baptized in the Holy Spirit you become. So he’s not so much waiting for you to have a MOMENT where you become Spirit drenched & then you can do something productive for him; I am convinced that in the going there occurs the drenching. What started out as weird ends up defining who you are.
Because, ultimately, the question is NOT, as some people assume, whether or not you “have” the HS. It’s whether he “has” you. And I just want the ppl of GSUMC who have been washed in the water to be fully, completely available to be sent by the wind. You get right WITH God so that you will get going FOR God.