Worship Message Texts

I concluded my final interim pastorate in March 2016, so I am no longer preaching on a regular basis. I am available for pulpit supply and these sermon scripts and videos give a picture of my approach. For pulpit supply, I am happy to write new sermons targeted at specific concerns or needs of congregations, otherwise I will rework previous sermons based on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Recognizing the Spirit’s Whispers

Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16:4b -15
May 24, 2015
© 2015
The Day of Pentecost
Mark Hewitt

This is my last sermon as I conclude my interim ministry with Highlands Christian Church in Dallas. I hope to have another interim pastorate, but as yet do not have one in place. Thus, this will be the last sermon script posted here until I am serving another congregation. I will post notice of that on Facebook and Twitter when the time comes. Thanks to all who have read and encouraged my ministry.

In Jesus’ farewell message to his disciples he warned them they would be hated (John 15:18-26) but promised them the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15. For me this brought together Pentecost Sunday with my last Sunday as your interim pastor. Listen to Jesus’ farewell message to his disciples to recognize and follow the Holy Spirit’s whispers.
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. … I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
To whom are you listening when the Spirit whispers?
Jesus called the Spirit “the Advocate” in 15:26; 16:7. The Greek word is Paraclete which means defense attorney or legal counsel. Jesus envisioned a courtroom in which accusations would be hurled against his followers, and the Holy Spirit stands by them to defend them.
The Holy Spirit is the opposite of the prosecuting attorney called hasatan in Job 1:6-2:7 and Zechariah 3:1-2, from which the New Testament gets the name Satan, whom Revelation 12:10 calls the accuser.
Jesus also called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth in 15:26; 16:13. The Spirit is the one who gives true testimony on behalf of Jesus and us when we are accused.
For what are you listening when the Spirit whispers?
Jesus said the Spirit will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment (16:8-11). When the accusations seem too much to bear, the Spirit becomes judge of the ruler of this world, handling the condemnation of our accuser. The Spirit whispers truth freeing us from shame.
The Spirit testifies on behalf (15:26) of and glorifies (16:14) Jesus, so when affirming Jesus wells up in you, recognize as the Spirit’s whisper and let it out knowing the Spirit speaks in and through you.
Jesus said that all the Father has is his, and the Spirit declares all that belongs to Jesus to us. (16:14-15) Thus the Spirit whispers that you have complete and free access to all of the spiritual resources of the Father in Jesus.
So, in the cacophony of not just a noisy world but an often noisy church, how do you discern the Spirit’s whispers?
Scripture is the starting place, not just informational knowledge but absorbing it into your whole being as your body absorbs nutrition from food. To change the image, keep filling the reservoir of your heart with Scripture so the Spirit can bring relevant truth to the surface at the exact moment you know your resources are inadequate.
Though Jesus said the Spirit “speaks,” I have intentionally said the Spirit whispers. Noisy, cluttered minds tend to drown out the Spirit’s whispers. Even our prayers can be chatter. We don’t let God get a word in edgewise. One thing to pray for is to recognize the Spirit’s whispers and then be quiet long enough to listen for them.
The Pentecost story in Acts 2 says that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, not each one. Yes, we each have the Spirit indwelling us, but it is together as we listen to each other that we recognize the voice of the Spirit in someone else’s words. When the Spirit speaks to and through the church, all sense a confirmation of having heard from God. I know the Search and Call Committee experienced that when they discerned God called Jonathan as the next pastor for Highlands Christian Church.
Though his disciples couldn’t grasp it at the time, Jesus assured them that it was to their advantage for him to go away so that the Holy Spirit could come. I am certainly not Jesus, nor is Jonathan the Holy Spirit, but it is definitely to your advantage for me to go away and Jonathan to come to you.
As the Lone Ranger said to Tonto at the end of every episode, and Mary Poppins said when she left the Banks family, “My work here is done now.” Between what you have accomplished on this interim journey and with Jonathan starting on as your pastor this week, mixing in some Star Trek, you are poised to follow the Holy Spirit into a mission frontier to explore new ways to bring the Gospel of Jesus to new people, to boldly go where Highlands Christian Church has never gone before.
During these last 9 months, I’d like to think God has conveyed some wisdom, experience, insight and stability to you through Candy and me. To boldly go where God is leading you, it is to your advantage for God to send you energy and imagination through Jonathan.
I have mentioned before how impressed Candy and I have been with the spiritual tenor of this congregation. Just as the Holy Spirit came to propel the early church into their mission, recognizing and following the whispers of the Holy Spirit is essential for you to boldly go into the mission frontier God is opening ahead of you. It doesn’t happen magically with the right pastor or the right programs, it happens when you listen to the Spirit’s whispers together. If what you think you are hearing is really from the Spirit others will confirm it. And if the Spirit is leading you into unfamiliar territory, the Spirit will also equip you with all the know-how, energy, ideas, resources, courage and people you need.

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