The Christian Movement
Today’s story is the beginning of the Christian movement. The Christian movement began with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ ministry also began with the coming of the Holy Spirit. For 30 years, he was preparing himself but his actual ministry began when he received the Holy Spirit.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. (Mark 1:9, 10)
Jesus did NOT carry out his ministry on his own, with his own strength. He always had a companion. His companion was the Holy Spirit. He was never alone. Even when he was alone in the mountain, praying, he was not alone. The Spirit was with him. He carried out everything with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus showed us how we should live. He showed us how to live with the Spirit. We are not alone. The Spirit is with us. The Spirit walks along with us. Even when we walk through the darkest time of our life, the Spirit is right there with us. Our life is journey with the Spirit.
After Jesus died, many people felt that it was all over. Jesus’ death killed the fire of the Christian movement. They thought, with Jesus, they could do anything. But now they lost that passion without Jesus. Many of them went back to their home. When you read the story of two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, you can see that sentiment. They lost hope and they were going home.
But there were some people who still gathered together even though it was a small number. There were about 120 people. They gathered together and prayed but they didn’t have the vitality. They didn’t know what was ahead of them. They had no idea of how to carry on this movement but they didn’t lose hope. They just prayed without clearly knowing what the future holds for them.
Don’t we sometimes feel that? We don’t have any conviction. We don’t know where our life is going. But somehow, you still have a faint hope and keep praying? 120 people were like that.
Then the Holy Spirit came down on those 120 like fire and revived them. It was the Holy Spirit who kindled the fire of the Christian movement. The Spirit energized them and gave them the vitality. The Spirit gave them the new vision. Now they could have a clear hope for the future.
They realized that they were not alone. When Jesus died, they felt empty and lost. They didn’t know what to do. Their leader was gone. They lost their leader. Until then, they were all just followers. It was Jesus who did everything. It was Jesus who led them.
Now when the Spirit came down upon them, they were excited. They could see the light at the end of the dark tunnel. They were very hopeful. They were all surprised. What they experienced was beyond what they expected. They were empowered to take this movement to the next level.
We could see this change clearly in Peter. Peter was timid. He was afraid. He denied Jesus three times. He was so weak. But now he was a changed man. He stood up and preached with confidence. When they heard Peter, they were cut to the heart and asked, “What should we do?”
But it wasn’t just Peter. Everyone had this energy. There were a lot of women right from the beginning. This is how Luke records the people who were there from the beginning.
When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. (Acts 1:13, 14)
They were all filled with the Spirit. They were full of energy, conviction, and hope.
There was a true unity of humanity happened right there. People who were praying began to speak in other languages. There were people from all over the places and they started understanding in their own language.
What happened at the Babel tower was reversed. At the Babel tower, God confused their language so that they could not communicate with each other. Now they all had a different language but now they could understand each other. Understanding each other – How difficult it is!
Even though we use the same language, we don’t understand each other. But through the help of the Holy Spirit, they were able to understand each other even though they had a different language. Unity is possible when we can understand each other. Racial difference did not stand in the way for them to be united. Languages, races, nations, and cultures did not become the reasons for division and hatred. That is what this world needs right now. This compelling desire to be united is what the world leaders need to have. Instead of using our differences to discriminate each other, we should recognize and celebrate our differences to experience true unity. I told you before. Unity is possible only in diversity.
People who saw that, said this.
They are filled with new wine. (Acts 2:13)
They meant they were drunk. They were not drunk but what they said was right. They were filled with new wine.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’ (Mark 2:22)
New wine was poured into fresh wineskins. Their hearts were ready to BE the new wineskins. The Holy Spirit made them a new wineskin so that they can take on the new age that was about to begin.
This year is our church’s 25th Anniversary. God has led us through the Spirit. The Spirit has guided us with wisdom we needed and empowered us with vision. We thank God for that.
Now it is the time to think of next 25 years. We need the Spirit. We cannot do it alone. The Spirit will guide us. I was impressed by the generosity of this congregation for the campaign we just had for the Rose of Sharon Nursing Home project. We raised more than $100,000 and surprisingly, more than $85,000 was raised in the ESM. It is not just the amount that is important. I see the spirit of sharing, the spirit of generosity.
One of the results of receiving the Holy Spirit for the early Christians was not only to gather together for learning from apostles and breaking bread together but also to share everything with each other.
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
The Spirit brings about changes in us personally, in our community, and in our society. The Spirit moves us forward. The Spirit breaks through the barriers and moves us forward. The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, the same Spirit is with us and revives us.
This journey with the Spirit is not necessarily easy. Moltmann said in his book, “The Spirit of Life”, when freedom is close, the chains begin to hurt.
When our eyes are open through the Spirit, we see not only the vision to be free but we also see how enslaved we have been and how much we have been in bondage. It hurts us to see that. When freedom is close, the chains begin to hurt. The more we have vision to move forward, the more our conditions that don’t let us go, will hurt us and dissatisfy us.
We all want to grow out of our bondage. We groan. The whole creation groans.
St. Paul said,
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:22-25)
In that groaning, we are not alone. The Spirit is with us. The Spirit gives us hope. The Spirit gives us the power to wait for the redemption with patience. Even when we have no more strength left and even when we don’t even know what to pray or how to pray, the Spirit prays for us. This is what St. Paul said, right after he talked about the groaning of the creation.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26, 27)
That was the secret of how the early Christians persevered when they were persecuted. The Spirit was with them and interceded for them. And they knew that.
We don’t have the strength but the Spirit gives us the strength. We don’t have wisdom but the Spirit gives us the wisdom. We don’t create hope but the Spirit gives us the hope. The Spirit changes us.
Let us be people of the Spirit. Let us live with the Spirit.