"The Impact Of God's Spirit"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - 5/31/1998

Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17


     One of the most far-reaching statements that Jesus made about the spirit appears in our lesson today. And since this Sunday is Pentecost, the day when Christianity celebrates its birthday, it is fitting that we consider the impact of his teaching. Jesus was discussing a dimension of life that had been understood by only a few people. Jesus referred to this dimension as "the Helper," an inner personal guidance system that would help people understand the nature and truth about God.

     Jesus taught, "The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him." He went on to say, "But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you." What is interesting about this passage is that at first it appears as if Jesus were planning to ask God to send this Helper to his disciples at some future time. Yet as we look at this passage more closely, it is clear that this "Helper" is something that the disciples already possessed.

     Our Christian heritage has taught through the ages that Pentecost was a "coming of the Holy Spirit," to the church. Was God suddenly adding a new dimension to human life, a quality that was unknown prior to Pentecost? As we learn from the Scriptures, many people were well aware of this dimension of life long before Jesus was born.

     Such a spirit guided Joseph, for example, when he was sold into slavery. Such a spirit motivated Deborah, Gideon and Samson during the time of the judges in Old Testament history. It guided Moses and the prophets. Most certainly this spirit motivated John the Baptist. Was this spirit limited to a select number of people or is this a powerhouse that has remained open to everyone throughout history?

     During the last 50 years, there has been a growing belief in many scientific and religious circles that the spiritual dimension of human life is an arena that is the least understood by people. We have watched as prayer has been added to the curriculum of at least a dozen medical schools. We find large corporations stressing meditation as a way of rejuvenating and stimulating creativity among its employees. More and more people are choosing to learn the disciplines of the spirit in order to live more effective, peaceful lives. And they are experiencing dramatic results.

     Y People are discovering that we are not "born into sin" in the sense that we were created by God with a predisposition toward evil. Rather we were born as beings who were created to reflect God's likeness. As more people have chosen to focus on this area for living, their testimonies are striking. And such talk is coming from people who have learned that tapping into this spirit dimension has produced a very different experience from those traditionally celebrated by many of the world's religions.

     Jesus told his listeners why only a few people understood the power of the spirit. He said, "The world cannot receive him because it cannot see him or know him." Jesus was saying that no one can discover the spirit through the five senses, the primary source of how we learn what we know. It's because of our five senses that we resist so strongly that which we cannot see.

     We also remember the pioneers, Orville and Wilbur Wright. People scoffed at them and said, "If God would have wanted humans to fly, God would have given us wings." After repeated failures, the brothers discovered and used the principles of aerodynamics. These invisible principles were not new. They were there awaiting discovery and application.

     Every breakthrough in human understanding was first met with strong resistance from those who needed sensory proof. Just as germs and the power of flight were beyond the thought systems of most, so is the enormous transforming power of the spirit. The recognition and use of the spirit was a new thought to the disciples. Listen again to what Jesus said, "But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you." He did not say, "One day you will know him;" he said, "But you already know him." When we take very seriously what God has given us, we tend to use it.

     You may have read about her recently. Within the past year, Lucy Sinclair jumped out of an aircraft strapped to a guide who helped her make this leap of faith. This dramatic experience awakened her ability to trust. It also helped her understand that life was not over. Upon landing she said, "Once I understood why I had been afraid of everything, I learned that all my fears were ones that I had created. Now I am no longer content to remain a prisoner of such a ridiculous use of my time. We must teach ourselves that our age has nothing to do with what the spirit can inspire our lives to experience."

     A teenager who was being held prisoner by drugs and alcohol went through 12 weeks of spiritual training and walked away from both addictions. Rachel Newman said, "Once I learned about all the equipment God had already given to me, my entire life was transformed. I never knew that God was inside of me. I had always been taught that God was in a distant, unknowable place called Heaven."

     The Holy Spirit is not something out there that we need to pray for and trust will come to us one day. The spirit is here! All we have to do is understand that this is how God wired us from the beginning. When we choose to allow our lives to be ruled by stress, worry, anger and disillusionment, we are interpreting experiences drawn from our five senses. Think about it! Where else do such reactions come from? This is how our behavior appears when we have little or no faith.

     It was this understanding that made the disciples of Jesus break away from their fears and come out of hiding to preach the Good News to other captives. Once we recognize what God has given to us, the sheer impact of it transforms whom we are. God does not and will not change us even though we may pray for that every day. We want God physically to remove the blockages to joy and peace that we have constructed throughout our lives. The impact of such a complete transformation happens, as the Apostle Paul once wrote in his letter to the Romans, when we change our minds.


     Eternal and everlasting God, we come into your presence knowing that our lives are often a whirlwind of activity. Sometimes we do not stop to consider the spirit by which we live. We thank you that so much of the healing we radiate remains beyond our control. You are touching lives through us when we are least aware. We seldom consider the power of a smile, the assurance from our touch, or the encouragement from our friendship. Your spirit moves in ways we could not imagine. May your presence in our lives become so profoundly experienced that nothing can remove our sense of trust and peace. Help us to remain willing participants in creation knowing that what we have has resulted from what we have given away. Amen.


     Thank you, God, for the day of Pentecost. Truly it is a wonderful time when our attention is drawn to the incredible power of the spirit.

     You created us with the capabilities to take or to share, to demand attention or to listen, to desire more or celebrate all that we have, to feel inadequate or to radiate everything we have taken time to discover. How is it, O God, that people can take the same precious gift of life and one person knows only despair while another person soars with every passing year to greater heights of awareness?

     Lord God, help each of us to consider this marvelous part of ourselves that we have called our "conscience," our "rudder," or our "inner voice," or our "spirit," and know that these words describe You, just as Jesus taught. Awaken our lives to the transforming power of the spirit.

     When we are tempted to complain, to cry "unfair," or to walk away from life's dramas, teach us how to withdraw into the quiet of prayer, of meditation, and of practicing your presence, so that the tap root of our lives might be nourished by all that you delight to feed us. Thank you for this day and for the rich privilege to be here with each other. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus Christ who taught us to say when we pray. . .