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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

I Will Pour Out My Spirit

I Will Pour Out My Spirit
                                                                
                                                                  Joel 2:23-32
 
 
I remember the time Joe and I had decided to go back to church after having been away for quite some time. I remember having a little fear, my anger at God which drove me from the church to begin with, and wasn’t sure I remembered what to do when. We were handed bulletins and chose seats at the back of the sanctuary so as to be inconspicuous during the service. The service went well, old, familiar songs were sung, some rituals had not changed and the pastor had a good sermon. So we decided to stay and started attending that church. We made the effort to get to know some people and for the rest of the time we were in Hudson, WI we attended that church. During that time, my faith in God was restored and my comfort with church was rebuilt. A simple decision to start going back to church, a few people friending us, and a sense of the Spirit being re-awakened in us and our course in life was changed. It wasn’t by a rulebook or set of principles that we had kind of stumbled back into our faith and found a comfortable home there. It was by the outpouring of God’s Spirit that both our faith experiences began to blossom. 
 
When the Israelites were led out of Egypt into the wilderness, they had very few guidelines, very little sense of direction. They were free from slavery, free to try to go and claim their homeland after 400 years of enslavement. It was apparent right away that they did not know how to deal with their new found, miraculous freedom. When they had wandered for a little while, they began to complain about lack of food and water. God provided food and water. At a certain point in their journey, God knew they needed some guidelines about their faith. They needed a way to become a Holy people to the God who had rescued them. Already rich in history, the history of Abraham and Jacob (Israel), they needed a set of principles and laws that would guide them in living with the terrible and awesome God who had brought Pharaoh and his army to its knees. This powerful God was one to be reckoned with. This God could keep the people Israel from the Promised Land or He could make it possible for them to establish themselves in the Promised Land. This God could be terrifying and sustaining at the same time. How could the people know how to deal with this God? After all, they had been enslaved for more than 400 years, suppressed in their faith, except for the few people who could tell the stories and keep the embers burning for a couple centuries until the time was right for that faith to be more fully expressed.  So God led Moses up the mountain and gave him the 10 commandments. The next bunch of days was spent in giving the full set of rules and regulations that would guide the people into their promised land in faith. Then we are privileged to see and read about how the people were faithful and unfaithful to their covenant with God. 
 
And then we come to the prophecy of Joel. God has wrestled with this stubborn people, yet has not given up on them. He sent them into exile so that they could learn that God was to be reckoned with, and call them back to faith that had wandered into idolatries. Joel paints a picture of a time coming when the people would not need the written laws to guide them. The people would be able to live in abundance, just the way God had wanted them too. A time would come when the earth itself and all of nature would be healed from its brokenness. This would be a time when the people would have the very Spirit of God poured out upon them. Their God would no longer be a God of the law.  God would be a God of Spirit. They would not know him through the keeping of the law, but would know their God through the working of God’s Spirit within them. 
 
Joel had a unique glimpse of what was to come. He would not know Jesus, but he did know that God would be worshipped in a new way. He did know that God would be known in a new way. When Jesus entered into history, that new way came about. When Jesus entered into the Jordan to be baptized we get our first glimpse into the new possibility. God’s Spirit came to rest on him to declare the possibility of relationship with God that had only been available to a few. That Spirit was poured out on those who were gathered on the day of Pentecost. Each person there began to speak as the Spirit directed them. Many were enabled to do the same things Jesus had been able to do, heal, teach, prophesy, and share the Spirit with others. A new covenant in relationship with God had been established, not just for a few, but for all people. God, who had been creator of all the earth, had become known to all the peoples of the earth potentially. 
 
And so we have an active, vital way to relate to our creator. God is not just a God of the Law, but has fulfilled the law in Jesus. We are no longer bound by an impossible set of rules and regulations, but have been blessed with God’s own Spirit to guide us through the mountains and valleys of our lives. This same Spirit guides us through right living, through knowing right from wrong into knowing God him/herself. 
 
We have this wonderful book to tell us the stories of our Creator and how God has shaped history to get us to this point. And we could try to follow all the rules and regulations that are contained within its pages. But, as the Israelites showed us, it is impossible to live completely in the law. They had a hard time doing it and we would too, in fact we do when we try to postulate and follow the rules and regulations we create for our faith. 
 
Jesus pointed out that impossibility when we talked with his disciples about the laws of “thou shalt nots”. He talked about how even thinking about wishing someone dead was a form of murder or lusting after someone’s wife or husband was a form of adultery. He knew the law was impossible to follow. Yet we are a stubborn people. We want to know how, we want the rule books, the directions on how to live this life of faith. We want to know “is it right to do this or that?” We want to know God through the Bible and through what others say about God and how to live life. 
 
But God wants us to know Him the way Jesus knew Him. God wants us to be in an intimate relationship with Him. And the only way that can happen is through the Spirit that teaches us about God. The only way to know God is to talk with God on a regular basis. That Spirit that has been poured out on us is the key to knowing God. That Spirit of God teaches us how to laugh, cry, speak, lament, rejoice, vent, and receive from God. Jesus called God “Abba”, father with all the intimacy that goes with that.  Jesus has made God available to us in personal relationship. 
 
When we err in our relationship with God, Jesus has made it possible for us to continue to seek and spend our time with God. When we sin, we are no longer required to sacrifice to make our relationship with God right. When we do wrong, God does not hold us at a distance, but welcomes us back with mercy and forgiveness and love when we repent. This God of ours desires to walk with us through our lives and into eternity. And it is out of that kind of relationship that we learn right from wrong, true right from wrong. It is out of that kind of a relationship with God that we are able to catch glimpses of God’s hope for His creation. 
 
We have a chance to get it right over and over again. And as our relationship grows with God, so does our desire to do what is God’s will.

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