Beyond limits

Here is the sermon I gave at Zion Lutheran New Palestine on Saturday evening, and St. Peter’s Brownstown Sunday morning for the festival of Pentecost

Have you ever wished there were not so many limitations to your life? A few years back there was a movie called Limitless.  The basic plot of the movie was that the main character gets a hold of a pill that unlocks the full potential of his brain.

Through being able to access 100% of his brain he is able to live life as if it is moving in slow motion, several step ahead of everyone else to the point where he has seemingly limitless power in society.  If you are honest, you may admit that such a premise sounds attractive.

In recent months I have probably become more aware of limitations in my life than ever before.  With two young children, limitations are self evident to begin with.  You can only stay out so late in the evening, you can only get so much house or yard work done in a day when you are also seeing to the needs of your children.

But what has really made me feel my limits is serving as a vacancy pastor here at St. Peter’s.  I know what you are thinking, yes the long drive from Greenfield, and the challenge of bringing leadership to people who aren’t always so eager to change- I bet that is a little challenging.

But actually, the particular way my role as vacancy pastor has been humbling to me is the nearly limitless possibilities of how to approach ministry.  It is natural for me as a vacancy pastor to pay attention to what other pastors in the area are doing.

I might like one evangelism idea from one church, and another idea about care and hospitality from another church, and still one more approach to teaching faith in the home from another church.

So many good ideas, it is simply not possible to carry out even a fraction of the ministry approaches that are observed in various churches in our synod.  The more aware I am of opportunities for pastoral leadership, the more aware I am of the limits of our human nature.

Perhaps you can relate to the feeling of limitations.  Maybe you feel your life has more limitations than others. One family you know has a vacation cabin on a lake, where your family is lucky if you even manage one weekend a year to travel somewhere different than your usual life activities.

Maybe you know some people who do so much through the course of a year that they seem to have energy to spare, where you feel you are lucky if you have enough energy to keep the house in reasonable condition and bills and deadlines caught up with.

The fact is that limitations are a characteristic of all of our lives.  Our human nature presents us with limitations about how much sleep we need, and a list of countless  things we need in place to be healthy.   Our society presents many limitations in the form of how much money we are willing or able to spend.

The ultimate limitation of our lives is sin.  Sin limits how healthy and rewarding our relationships are.  Sin limits how big our hopes and dreams are.  Sin limits every good impulse we might have.

If only we could take some magic pill to remove those limiting effects of sin! But the truth is that no movie fantasy can overcome the effects of the Fall into sin.

But there is one real life character who can overcome the effects of the Fall.  Our Lord Jesus Christ has come to us to remove the limits from our lives. No not the limits that keep us from being wealthy beyond our wildest dreams- as some televangelists would have us believe.

Nor has Jesus come to remove the limitations of our bodies and daily schedules that humble us on a daily basis.  Jesus has not come to give us an ultimate freedom to do whatever we desire or attain whatever we covet in life.

Instead Jesus has come to make us perfectly free to have a relationship with our living God!  On the day of Pentecost Jesus sent His Spirit to His church so that his kingdom would come on the earth without limits.

Pentecost was the day in history where the Holy Spirit was given without limit to the church.  The day of Pentecost was seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus- 50 days by the Jewish counting of days.

We hear in Acts chapter 2 that when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. How is it that the disciples and countless others knew to be together in one place?

Pentecost was already a day in it’s own right, the feast of Weeks  which marked 50 days after the Passover, the end of the Passover season- sort of like how today we think of Labor day as the end of the summer calendar.

During the Feast of weeks or Pentecost, God’s people were to bring the first fruits of their harvest as an acknowledgement of God’s blessing to them.

People might journey to Jerusalem for Passover and stay through Pentecost.  It makes sense why God would chose this day to give the church the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Beginning with Pentecost the Holy Spirit sends the church out to proclaim the message of Christ crucified and glorified.   Before the events of Christ’s passion the full story could not yet be told.

Now that Jesus has ascended into heaven, the Spirit strengthened the church to tell the whole story.  The day of Pentecost was the first of many fruits of the harvest of Christ’s Passion.

Following Pentecost the Holy Spirit now was available to the church anywhere and at any time. No limits to the Spirit’s work of proclaiming Christ crucified.

Part of our sin is that we put limits on the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We may limit the Holy Spirit in our own minds through unbelief or doubt.  We may have doubt as to what power the Holy Spirit has in our and in the church.

We look at the church and see limits in terms of what the church is as an imperfect human institution. We might even resent the church for such limits- as if it is keeping us from God’s love.

One particular limit our society may put on the Holy Spirit is casting doubt on the clarity of the Holy Spirit to us.  Does the Bible really say what the church claims it is saying about how God’s kingdom works? Or even the question of, does the Bible really say what God intended for it to say, or has it been changed by human intervention?

It is no mystery what is the agenda behind such questioning of the clarity of the Holy Spirit.  The more we question the clarity of the Holy Spirit, the less likely we are to follow the truth of God’s Word.  And the more likely we are to accept the beliefs that many in society want to impose on us.

Still others today may overlook the clarity of the Holy Spirit’s communication on Pentecost to the point where we are encouraged to look for signs all around us for what God might be trying to communicate to us as far as how to live our lives.

But the clarity of the message of Pentecost is undeniable: Jesus is our risen and ascended Lord.  The Holy Spirit has been given to proclaim the good news of Jesus throughout the world, as a preparation for the Last day.

When I was a child, I remember being confused about exactly what Pentecost was.  It is not an event like Christmas or Easter that teaches about the two most important aspects of Jesus His birth and his death/ resurrection.  No elaborate celebrations in our culture attached to this event like Christmas and Easter.

Since Pentecost happens in the beginning of summer, you might even find yourself traveling on the weekend of Pentecost and not even be aware that it is Pentecost Sunday until you pick up the bulletin at whatever church you visit.

But what is important is not that the day the church celebrates Pentecost is a big splash, but that every day in the long season of Pentecost and even everyday throughout the calendar year is a day of sure and steady growth.

The legacy of Pentecost to us is that even though are lives are full of limits in every aspect- there is through the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, no limit to our ability to access the grace of God in our lives!

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we now have a relationship with God that knows no limits.  When we pray, the Father hears us.  When we hear and receive God’s Word with joy, our faith grows- it’s a guarantee and promise of our Lord! With the Holy Spirit we pray:  Alleluia. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.

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