The Gift of Life
Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Making a human – or something similar – is an idea that people have always been fascinated with. Whether you are talking about Frankenstein’s monster or Data (the android on StarTrek Next Generation), humankind has always imagined what it would be like to create life. We want to create something in our own image.
There is a lot that we are already able to do.
Ø People can study what God has made by dissecting bodies and examining living creatures, but we have no way of making things live.
Ø We can build robots and complicated machines
Ø We can even build computers that can outplay a human chess-master.
Ø But we cannot create anything like a human.
Even if we assemble all the parts, even when we get it to move or respond to certain commands – it still lacks the life and liveliness of a gerbil, much less a human being.
The story of how God created humankind holds one of the keys, I think. We read from Genesis 2 a description of how humankind was created:
The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living thing.
That was the beginning of human history, the account of the heavens and the earth. God’s breath of life into the first human is a turning point: from an empty body, just a shell, into a living being: human life began.
That miracle of creation is repeated at Pentecost. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples were a frightened collection of people. They weren’t well educated. They were frightened by the people who succeeded in crucifying Jesus, their master and Lord. They were huddled together without many signs of life.
The church was like Adam’s body. They were formed and shaped – they had been prepared for their task by following Jesus for a number of years – but they lacked life. All the parts were there, but they were missing something important.
On Pentecost, the Spirit of God came and breathed life into the disciples. The body of Christ on earth came to life. They lost their fear and began to speak as the Spirit enabled them: telling the story of Jesus to all who assembled. But the miracle of new life didn’t stop with the disciples. The breath of God blew further.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around, can warm up to its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it, you want to sing,
It’s fresh like spring; you want to pass it on.
You can see the life that the Spirit breathed into the individuals who heard Peter’s sermon that day too – they caught the fire of the Spirit.
They began as a crowd of scoffers – mocking the mixed up languages of the apostles – when you don’t understand the different languages it must have sounded like so much nonsense. Those who gathered assumed that this group of Galilean fishermen were continuing a party that had started the night before.
But when Peter stood and spoke in the Holy Spirit’s power, describing the events of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection, the HS changed them too. As we did in this morning’s service, Peter retold the events of Jesus’ crucifixion. He laid the responsibility for Jesus’ death at the feet of those assembled.
They were cut to the heart. Their guilt stabbed them like a knife. It was a deadly hit. They were convicted. The recognized that they were dead in their sins and transgressions.
They reached out to Peter and the apostles for a lifeline – for some hope – some chance at life. In the power of the Spirit, Peter told the crowd to repent – turn away from the deeds and attitudes that led to death – and be baptized. Coming to the water they would experience the symbol of dying and rising with Christ. Then they would receive the gift of the HS.
You see the echo?
I had never seen it before, but this week, studying the passage, I saw the connection between the creation account and the re-creation of humankind at Pentecost. People who have sinned against God, who are estranged from God are just as lifeless as Adam was. It was not until they receive the breath of God’s Spirit that they really came to life.
God breathed life into the early church in order for it to really come alive. Since we are the body of Jesus Christ on earth, we depend on the presence of the Spirit of Jesus in order to live.
What does that life by the Spirit look like? Luke describes the life of the early church in a paragraph at the end of Acts 2.
We live many years after Acts 2. The way we live our faith has been formed by years of tradition – shaped by controversies, heresies, and culture. The church has become an institution – yet there are certain basic characteristics to life by the spirit:
|42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.||The church enjoyed communion with God and with each other: hearing the Word of the Lord, speaking to God through prayer, and enjoying communion with Jesus Christ and with the rest of Christ’s body through the Lord’s Supper – we continue this through our services, meditating on God’s Word together and celebrating Communion tonight.|
|43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.||This awe is not stirred by the work of the apostles as much as by the wonders that the HS was doing through them – the glory was centred on what the Lord had done and was doing.|
|44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.||Sharing their gifts with each other – just as the OT laws were designed so people could help each other in community according to their gifts and needs, so in the NT, the body of Christ carried each other’s burdens, sharing God’s blessings with those in need.-- we do this through the ministry of the deacons|
|46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,||Fellowship – build community by meeting in the temple and visiting with each other|
|47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.||– praising GodGrowing because people respond to the preaching of the gospel.|
As we come to the Lord’s Supper table this evening, we are reminded of our communion with God and with each other. We are the body of Jesus Christ. As Christ’s body, our life comes from his Spirit living among us. Once we were dead, but we’ve come to life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the gift of the HS living within and among us – molding us as a community of believers to live together and praise God together.