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Bringing Down The Fire

John 15:26-16:15

The Rev. Jon Roberts

19 May


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. 16:1 “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convince[a] the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


The Pentecost by Antonio Gonzalez Velazquez, 1723-1793

Souls were meant to be won not lost.
God brings down the fire,
with His Holy Spirit to wake us up,
And this is called Pentecost.[1]

Did you hear the tragic story about the shoe factory that caught on fire? It was terrible. They say several souls were lost.

God knows you don’t work in a shoe factory, and what He really cares about is truly your soul.

Pentecost has a special place in the liturgical season of the church. It follows Easter or Pascha, by fifty days. It is when Christians celebrate the event where the Holy Spirit came down and brought something very important. The symbols of Pentecost are water (for baptism), the dove (for peace on the earth) and fire. Why did God bring down fire? In the painting by Antonio Valezquez the twelve disciples can be seen in the Upper Room with the symbol of the dove descending, along with multiple fire bursts, that land upon and enter inside of them. Their minds and their hearts are caught on fire. God brought the fire to awaken them. Do these disciples, just ten days after the Ascension appear to be happy? Do they appear to be confident or strong? No. They appear to be worried, scared, and weak. It is this fire that will change all of that in a hurry. God intends to win their souls.

If I were to ask, tell me where can I find the story of Pentecost in the four Gospel accounts? Would you be able? Can we read about Pentecost in Matthew? What about Mark? Luke? John? Surely it is in John, as this is the text today, but that is the words of Jesus prescribing that day when the Holy Spirit will come and enter their lives. He is telling about the future, but St. John does not record the event either. Almost all the Gospel narratives end with the Ascension or Jesus commanding the disciples to go forth and spread the good news. Soon after Jesus ascended, as miraculous as it was, as miraculous as it was for his resurrection alone, or the forty days of his appearing afterward, you would think their hearts and minds would be on fire, but they were not. God brought down the fire to wake them up.

Most may get a sense that Pentecost is an exclusive Christian event, but it is not. The New Testament does not correct the Old Testament. It completes it and there are so many parallels shared between them. Pentecost is another example. When Jesus was tried and sentenced, the night before the Passover, we are reminded that there were several Jewish festivals in addition. Shavuot, known as the Festival of Weeks, follows fifty days after the Passover. They also called it Pentecost. What is the Jewish Pentecost all about? It is the commemoration of event when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with God’s commandments. “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.” You would think that after they saw themselves part of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, by God’s hand, they would forever be walking on holy ground, but they did not. They turned away and profaned the image of God with a golden calf. God brought down the fire on them to wake up.

The prophet Ezekiel even wrote about this falling away, and what happens to the soul. He says, “By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought forth fire from the midst of you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you.”

Our lectionary choices have seen revisions over the last two hundred years as to what is chosen to be read for principal services. I wonder why they did not see this parallel between the Jewish and the Christian Pentecost? Instead, they leaned upon St. Paul and his letter to Romans whereby he makes the connection through the expression, “The mind of the spirit”. This could very well be our heart, as it is often used to discern for the spirit within us. Did you know your heart had a mind? They are separated by only eighteen or so inches, yet they are composites of the spirit. Our spirit groans for adoption. Our spirt yearns to connect with God’s Spirit. How does this happen? It happens when we hope for it and wait. Wait for the moments of weakness. We have much more in common with the Jewish people at the base of Sinai as well as with the twelve huddled in the upper room than you may realize. Perhaps the Upper Room is where the mind goes. It locks the door. It gets fearful, stubborn, set in its own way and sometimes it takes something, someone pretty powerful to awaken us and set us free.

When studying American Religious history, we learned about not one but two official Great Awakenings. I would argue there have been at least one or two more. The First, led by George Whitehurst and the two Wesley boys, Charles (the songwriter) and John (the preacher), were legendary. They were known to draw thousands of people in all the big towns. Once, in Philadelphia, witnesses said you could feel the ground quake from all the horses and carriages that traveled to see and to hear them. Whitehurst was the founder of the Pentecostal church. The Wesleys, formed the Methodists. As a young boy, my parents took me to a Pentecostal church. You were lucky to get out in less than three hours. Thank the good Lord to be an Episcopalian. During those times of worship, the music, so repetitive but with a rhythm all its own, was most telling. It led members to speak in tongues. Years later, when hearing Jewish chant, I would attest that it was the Hebrew language I heard as a child. Someone would always know what was being said as the words flowed like a river and not a drop was wasted. I wonder if that was like what those disciples heard. At no time did I fear my soul was lost.

Are you awake in Christ? Is your head and your heart united, whereas your spirit is in sync with God’s? Maybe you could use a little Pentecostal movement right about now. Maybe you could use a little awakening. Can I get an “Amen?” You are not to waste away in some shoe factory as Jesus wants to win your soul.

Souls are meant to be won not lost,
and by God’s Holy Spirit,
He is sent for you,
to bring down the fire,
on this day
called Pentecost.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Exodus 19:18
[3] Ezekiel 28:18
[4] Romans 8:22-27

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