We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 23 And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. 24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.
26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.
When is it in life when we feel most safe, secure? I would suggest that it is when we are with someone we trust, having someone watching over us. I was probably 5 or 6 when my family went to Springfield, MO to my aunt and uncle’s house. While we were there we took a trip to the public swimming pool. You know hoe they always tell you to shower before getting into the pool? This particular pool took that very seriously. I called it the “rain room”. To get from the locker room to the pool you had to walk through a covered porch with shower heads all over the ceiling. To me, at my size, it seemed like the room was at least as big as the parlor! I was afraid. Could I hold my breath that long? Could I hold my eyes open so I could see where I was going? My dad could tell I was upset and unsure. He picked me up and held me in his arms. At that height, I could get the required shower, but keep my head above the water. I felt safe and secure.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, celebrating God’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit on believers. There are two parts to my sermon this morning. First, the amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us as God’s beloved children. The Gospel of John has more about the Holy Spirit than the other gospels. We get images of the Spirit through descriptive words like Companion, Advocate, and Counselor. We are told that it is the Spirit of truth, and that it will show us the deep things of God and guide us through all of life. It is like an adult, spiritual version of “Show and Tell”. With the Spirit we can live with confidence, feeling safe and secure.
In our passage this morning, the Spirit creates a restoration of intimate communication with God. Verse 26 points to a complete communication with God. When Jesus leaves this earth on the day of ascension, his followers are left feeling vulnerable. The Savior they had been following was taken into the sky and they were left alone (though not really). Now, God was reaching toward us, after Christ’s earthly body was gone, by sending the Holy Spirit. He was renewing the conversation, continuing the conversation, through the Spirit.
To address the magnitude of that gift from God, let’s look at the word “pour.” In the Acts reading, Acts 2:17 quotes the Prophet Joel when it says, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” This wording is reiterated in verse 18, “ Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” “Poured out.” That is a powerful image. First it reminds me of what Jesus did in his crucifixion. He poured his blood for us. Luke 22:20 says, “In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.” Note extravagance of this poured out action. It was not with an eye dropper, but a flood! The image is of being covered in the sacrificial gift that Jesus gave. In just this same way, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us. We find ourselves surrounded by the presence of the Spirit.
As I mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit is poured out to help us in our weakness. God recognizes our humanity and our need for help to live into the kind of life God wants for us. Again, verse 26 speaks about what the Spirit will do for us. It will advocate for us, that is plead on our behalf. When life threatens to overwhelm us, we can face the trials and challenges with courage. When we aren’t sure what to do next, the Spirit intercedes with groans too deep for words. What is beautiful is that The Holy Spirit is a guarantee that God is with us. We are not alone! The Spirit reminds us daily that we are receiving the fullness of salvation throughout our lives. Verse 24 says, “We were saved in hope.” Isn’t hope one of the most powerful forces in life? We do not see everything, and we will have trials in our lives, but because of the Spirit poured out on us we will always have hope!
So, the extravagant gift of the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us – first at Pentecost, and then onto the life of every believer then, now, and yet to come.
That leads me to part two of my sermon. Our part in all this is critical. Not that we bring it to be, but our task is to acknowledge the Holy Spirit and receive the power and guidance that God wants for all of us. We don’t call it on to ourselves, we only open ourselves to what God has given.
Let me try an image. At this point in the sermon, I held up a container that was full of pebbles. You could see that it was full to the top. But I also had a couple of large rocks. There was no room for the big rocks without removing some of the small ones. Our lives are filled – sometimes by our own choosing, and sometimes filled by outside forces. When we come to belief in God our lives are already crowded. There is no room for the “big things” that God wants to fill us with. We will have to “make room” for this new life in Christ. [I poured out some of the pebbles and put in the bigger rocks. The rocks were labeled, “Holy Spirit”, “Faith”, “Full Life”.] The more I emptied the smaller pebbles the more room there was for the big things.
The Musical Meditation in the 10:30 Service was entitled, “Empty of Me” – Just before the Choir sang it, I explained that our lives are so filled with “stuff” that there is no room for the Spirit. That it is our task to become more empty of “me” in order to make room for the Spirit. Here are some of the lyrics to the song.
“Empty of Me” – “I hunger in the morning for a taste of your grace, I thirst for your Spirit full and free. You promised you would fill me with your power divine … but first I must be empty of me.” That last line is a recurring theme throughout the piece.
“… but first I must be empty of me.”
“… I know I must be empty of me.”
“Fill me, Lord, and keep me empty of me”
“Fill me up, and keep me empty of me.”
At one point in the song there is a verse that says, “Light the flame of your Spirit in my vessel today, pour out all that would quench the holy fire. Lord fill me with your Spirit till my cup overflows, and always keep me empty of me.” There is so much in my life that can quench the Spirit’s fire. My own self-centeredness is one of the greatest.
Remember, earlier I spoke of the extravagance of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit? The song, in its refrain, paints a radical picture of the emptying necessary. “Fill me up, Lord, I want to overflow, fill me up with your Spirit full and free. Turn me upside down, pour me out on the ground, then fill me up and keep me empty of me.”
Then comes the invitation …
“So, Spirit, make my heart your home, my soul Your very own. Full of You is what long to be. A life that’s overflowing with Your mercy and grace. Fill me up and keep me empty of me.”
On this Pentecost Sunday, I invite you to look at your life and see what is needed to make more room for the Holy Spirit. Are there things that need to be put on a back burner? Are there other things that need to be eliminated all together?
So, my question is, “What practices do I engage in that empty more of me, making more room for the Holy Spirit?” Think about it. Make room! Amen.
Pastor Paul Grossman