Mercer_Island_High_School_Cheerleaders

Photo Credit: “Mercer Island High School Cheerleaders” by Jeff Hitchcock from Vancouver, BC, Canada – What Fun. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mercer_Island_High_School_Cheerleaders.jpg#/media/File:Mercer_Island_High_School_Cheerleaders.jpg

 

A common cheer when I was in High School was:  We’ve got spirit, yes we do!  We’ve got spirit, how about you?”  Was done as a challenge to the opposing teams fans and often resulted in a shouting match between the two groups of fans.  It was done to pump up the enthusiasm and participation of the fans.

What does it mean to have God’s spirit?  Pastor Doug reminded me of a the illumination in the St. John’s Bible depicting the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2.  At the bottom of the illumination there are images of St. John’s University fans and St. John’s University colors.  St. John’s athletic competitions was a place where the artist for the illumination experienced a lot of spirit!

What does it mean to have God’s spirit?

H. George Anderson, was a past Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.  He was also a past President of Luther College.  He married a immigrant woman from East Germany.  He tells a story about their decision to go back and visit his wife’s relatives in East Germany.  This is before the wall came down – back during the time when East Germany was still part of the Soviet block.

They got all their documents in order and went to the town where his wife was from.  She could speak German and her relatives could speak English, but despite that, they found they had little to talk about.  All her relatives were communist and atheist.  And so, they found they had little in common.

But on Sunday morning, they found a local Lutheran church and went there for worship.  There were only about 50 people there in the big church, but they worshiped together.  After the worship service they stayed and talked for over 3 hours.

When H. George Anderson tells the story, he says:  “It just goes to show you, water is thicker than blood.”  The bond created by the Holy Spirit in baptism unites us more than our DNA.

What does it mean to have God’s spirit?

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus has just come up out of the water and is praying when the Holy Spirit comes upon him.  I find myself relying on the Holy Spirit when I come up against things bigger than myself.  Many times those are the things I find myself praying about?  Isn’t that also true for you?  What have you prayed about recently?

In worship, we look to the Holy Spirit for help when we pray for the heal and recovery of loved ones, or for an end to mounting racial tensions, or the threat of terrorism, or economic stagnation.  We look for the holy spirit to help us feel God’s presence and move us to praise.
On a practical everyday level, I find myself looking to the Holy Spirit for help when I have had a fight with a family member that doesn’t seem to get resolved.  Or when I need to come up with a sermon that will touch each of you, knowing that you are coming from very different backgrounds, needs, and experiences through the week.  Or when I feel perplexed in trying to lead this congregation in a rapidly changing culture. I know you also face similar challenges, obstacles, and problems.  The specifics aren’t the same, but we all have things we deal with that are bigger than us.

Because God adopts us in baptism, claims us as his children, and gifts us with the Holy Spirit I see the Holy Spirit at work in you.  Helping you to become more and more like Jesus.  Help you to be more loving, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and able to exercise self-control just like Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22.

What does it mean to have God’s spirit?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each tell the story of Jesus baptism slightly different.  But, they all agree on two things:  1) the crowd saw the Holy spirit descend upon Jesus as a dove, 2) the crowd heard the voice from heaven say, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus baptism is a bit puzzling.  Why was he baptized?  We all know that Jesus is God’s Son.  He is part of the Trinity.  He personally had no need to be baptized.  His baptism must have taken place for the sake of the crowd.  The crowd sees the Holy Spirit descend.  I think the crowd sees the dove descend upon Jesus so that the crowd can know that the Holy Spirit can also come to us.  Jesus has just come up out of the water.  He is dripping wet in all his humanity and the spirit descends.  If the Spirit can come to Jesus in the flesh it can also come to us as is promised in our baptism.

The crowd hears the voice say, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Again, I think this for the sake of the crowd.  They need to hear it, because in three short years Jesus will die a tortuous death as a common criminal on the cross. By all appearances he does not have God’s spirit with him.  By all appearances he is not loved by God.  By all appearances God is not pleased with him.  The crowd needed to hear the voice from heaven speak, because as human beings we continue to insist that God’s presence conform to our notions of success.  They needed to hear that God was present, God continued to love, and God is pleased even when it may not look that way to us.

When we judge ourselves or others in the church harshly because we don’t see the change we would like.  Or we wonder, where is God in this?  It is helpful to remember that God sometimes works in ways that we cannot see or in ways that are not immediately apparent.

But we can know this:  For in Jesus Christ you are all Children of God through faith.  God has gifted you and claimed with the Holy Spirit.  We’ve got spirit, yes we do!

Amen.