June 9, 2019

“The Holy Spirit and Adoption”
Acts 2:1-4 and Romans 8:14-17
A message for Hawaii Kai UCC by Janice Ogoshi
June 9, 2019 (Pentecost)

 

Happy Birthday, Church!  Today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in power to the followers of Jesus.  It was quite the day—the sound of the blowing of a violent wind, flames of fire landing on the heads of the disciples, and people speaking many different languages all at once, all praising God.  And many people received the gospel of Jesus Christ that day. 

We celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the church because it is the day when the relatively small group of Jesus’ followers, about 120, grew by about three thousand.  That’s the power of the Holy Spirit, isn’t it? 

In our activities today we will be learning about the Holy Spirit.  There’s a lot to think about and understand about the Holy Spirit.  While we can’t completely comprehend the Holy Spirit, there are some characteristics and descriptions of her work in the Bible that give us things to think about, and help us live more fully as Christians. 

In the shortened story from Acts 2, we see that the Spirit is powerful, like a mighty wind.  You can’t really see wind, only its effects.  The Holy Spirit is the same—we can’t see her, like people were able to see Jesus, but we can see the impact of the Spirit’s presence in people’s lives.  

The Holy Spirit empowered people to do things they hadn’t done before.  They spoke in foreign languages that the disciples hadn’t studied, but they were understood by the many people who had come from far and wide to Jerusalem to worship.  All these visitors could hear the uneducated Galileans and others praising God in their own languages.  The Holy Spirit had almost instantly expanded the reach of the gospel of Jesus Christ way beyond the people of Palestine. 

When we think about the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we think of this amazing, spectacular, flashy event.  But there is another aspect of the Holy Spirit that is just as important as the wonder-making phenomenon.  It is the Spirit who leads us and testifies to us that we are children of God.  In Romans 8:14-17, the second part of our Scripture reading, the Apostle Paul tells us the wonderful news that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have been adopted by God.  We are God’s children!    And as God’s children, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.  We are in line to receive all the blessings and benefits that Christ has and will receive as God’s Son.  

This is the work of the Holy Spirit—to let us know and assure us that we have been adopted by God.  We don’t have to trace our lineage back to Abraham.  We don’t have to be blood relatives with King David.  All of us are children of God because God adopted us.  In adoption, especially as Paul is thinking about it in the context of Roman society, a man who is unrelated to a family is recognized as a member of the family who is given all rights and the inheritance of a son.  In the same way, God adopts us as full members of God’s family.   The Holy Spirit tells us this good news.  

I think that speaking this message about my adoption by God is the more difficult part of the Holy Spirit’s work.  There are so many messages we receive in our daily lives that make it hard to believe that God loves us.  There is so much evil and hardship and suffering in our world that make it difficult to believe that God is in control, that God loves the world, that God is with us.  Paul is aware of the suffering and says that it is part of being co-heirs with Christ.  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (v. 17).  Suffering is part of the experience of living in this time.  When Jesus returns, when God’s kingdom comes on earth, then we will see God’s glory and we will share in it.  In the meantime, we like Jesus suffer, and we look forward to the day when God will wipe away every tear and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).  In the meantime, God promises to always be with us, and we are assured that nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39).  Until then, the Spirit testifies to our spirits that we are God’s children, and that keeps us going, that encourages and inspires us to live as God’s people in the world. 

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, and her work in our lives and in the life of our church.  There are five activities for you to choose from, each one will help you to reflect on one aspect of the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit’s coming is described as a powerful wind.  Jean will be leading some  games that will help you think about how we can’t see the Holy Spirit, but we can certainly see its effects.  Bring your lungs! 

If you would like to celebrate the birthday of the church, Susan is leading a cupcake decorating activity.  What do you appreciate about the church and being a part of it?  

If you would like to discuss what it means to be adopted by God and to call God “Abba, Father,” you will want to join Ron.  His group will be singing “Family Song” and will lead us in our closing song. 

Ellen has printed some coloring sheets to encourage a more quiet meditation on the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Some people have found coloring to be meditative.  As you reflect on the Holy Spirit’s coming and presence in your life, you can color. 

If you want to talk about the two Scripture readings, please join me for a brief Bible study. 

We thank you, O God, for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  As we engage in these activities, help us to appreciate more and more what the Holy Spirit does to empower and encourage us to be your people.  Be present in our time of learning and engaging with one another.  May your Holy Spirit’s presence be felt by all this day.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.