Inspired Words

Sermon Series: Caught By the Spirit

Inspired Words

May 10, 2012 - May 13, 2012

Isaiah 55:8-13; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

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Harry Heintz

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I love to go sailing on my old Sunfish, which has no motor.  When sailing it I am totally dependent on the wind.  Which means I need to read the wind.  I’ve learned from better sailors that there are ways to read to wind.  You look for ripples on the surface of the water—they can indicate which way the wind is blowing and how strongly.  If you are near trees, you look for movement in the higher leaves.  If there are other sailboats out you can see how they are working with the wind.  You can even use your ears.  I slowly turn my head toward the wind until the pressure on both my ears is equal—then I know which way the wind is blowing.  But the wind is mysterious.  It shifts without warning.  It can fade quickly and just as quickly revive with greater force.  I have experienced that as a big puff of wind put the boat on its side and me into the lake.  If I had been paying attention I might have seen indications of an increased wind and made allowances for it.  I love sailing my little boat with no motor, because there I am totally dependent on the wind. There is a mysterious nature to the wind.  We don’t control it.  And we don’t control the Spirit of God.


A song by DC Talk caught this sense of mystery, using some words from the evangelist Billy Graham:

“Can you catch the wind?  [Can you see God, have you ever seen Him?]
I've never seen the wind.  I see the effects of the wind
But I've never seen the wind]  Can you see the breeze?
[There's a mystery to it]”   --(From “Mind’s Eye” by DC Talk.)


There is a mystery to the Holy Spirit.  It is not spooky mystery, but glorious mystery.  The word for “spirit” in the original language of the New Testament is the same word for “wind” and the same word for “breath.”  So the third person of God the Trinity could be called the holy wind or the holy breath.  The word is dynamic, not static.  The word connotes power, the power to move water and leaves and sailboats . . . and the hearts of people.  The Spirit of God, the wind of God, the breath of God moves among us mysteriously.  But it’s not the mystery of a riddle, but of the unseen but very present wind.


Reading the ways of God is not easy.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9.)  God is not the extension of our thinking.  We are creatures fashioned by God; in some ways, we are the extension of God’s thinking.  But there is a large distinction between God and God’s creatures.  Left to ourselves, we don’t read God’s ways very well.  We need help.  God supplies the help we need.  God speaks and God sends his very Spirit to open us to God’s very word.  So is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desirand achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55:11.)


The scriptures give ample evidence that God has spoken.  God has spoken through the prophets.  Hebrews begins:  “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. . . .”  (Hebrews 1:1-2a.)  Jesus is the clearest and loudest word God has spoken.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1.)  In writing that John was doing an elegant word play, by calling Jesus the Word, using the Greek word logos, which means more than just a few letters making a sound, but the idea or the concept itself; that which the words are communicating.


That word needs to be proclaimed, which is the ultimate prophetic task: speaking God’s truth and pointing people to Jesus.  “’The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:  If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. . . . Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”  (Romans 10:8-10, 17.)  Where would we be if the word had not been spoken to us?

There was a problem in Corinth.  A church that started well had heard some bad teaching and heeded it far too much.  The result was internal strife and ultimately divisions.  It was a mess.  The Apostle Paul used more words trying to correct this church and get them to a healthy place than he did with any other church in the New Testament.  An elitist spirituality had arisen.  It evidenced itself in two ways.  One was a puffed up kind of wisdom that elevated some people above others.  The second was using spiritual gifts, including some I mentioned last Sunday, as a way of showing which people were really spiritual.  Paul would have none of that.  The Spirit does not come to produce strife and division.  Puffed up wisdom that is held by a few and sets them apart from others is not God’s wisdom. The Spirit does not come to do that, but to open the hearts of all people to all God’s wisdom.  No secret in-group stuff.


Elitist spiritualities are still around today.  Sometimes Pentecostals and charismatics communicate that they are the only ones with the Spirit.  Sometimes Roman Catholics communicate that they are the only ones with sacred tradition.  Sometimes Presbyterians communicate that they are the only ones with an intellectual faith.  Sometimes Baptists communicate that every one else is wrong.  Partisan politics can drift into the Church too.  Sometimes political conservatives communicate that they are the only ones with wisdom.  Sometimes political liberals communicate that they are the only ones with wisdom.  And the Body of Christ suffers strife and division because of puffed up wisdom that isn’t from God.  The Spirit’s work is to bring us together.  Now.


1 Corinthians 2:9 is often quoted as promise of what is yet to come.  Listen carefully:  However, as it is written:What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived— these things God has prepared for those who love him’—for God has revealed them to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit within? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”  The Spirit is revealing God’s best for us now, searching our hearts with the wisdom of God’s heart.


The Holy Spirit brings an anti-elitist spirituality.  God’s wisdom breaks down walls between groups and puts us on common ground at the foot of the cross of Jesus.  I need to speak about this congregation.  God has graciously brought together a wide range of people in just about every way.  This congregation is not marked by “in-groups” with special wisdom.  This is a gift to be treasured.  Yet some issues have arisen that can be divisive.  Issues like understanding allegiance to God must be above allegiance to country, issues like convictions about worship styles, and issues that swirl about in our denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, particularly about human sexuality.  I see these issues as opportunities to be a Church filled with the Spirit and not strife or division.  To be a Church honestly seeking God’s wisdom above human or political wisdom (be it from the conservative or liberal side).  To be a Spirit-filled congregation of God’s diverse people, finding their unity in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.  The Spirit reveals the deep things of God.


In this series we have seen many aspects of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  Here is a brief recap: 


The Spirit is creative, involved in the creation of the cosmos and in the new birth he brings to us. 


The Spirit makes the presence of Almighty God manifest, whispering to us, “God is    with you.”


The Spirit teaches us about God and reminds us of what Jesus has said and done. 


The Spirit empowers us to confess that Jesus is Lord. 


The Spirit gifts the people of God for building up the people of God. 


The Spirit reveals what God has prepared for us.


Being open to the ministry of the Holy Spirit is following Jesus 101.  It is essential.

In my childhood in a Pentecostal church I learned a simple prayer song, a song that belongs to the whole Church and is for us to pray:

“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us, Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us;

Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.”


Where the Spirit of God is moving, walls are falling and the Church is being built up into spiritual maturity.  It begins with the foundational work of the Holy Spirit, inspiring the telling of the Good News of Jesus so that people will believe in him, put their faith in him, and be part of his body, the Church.  And it leads to healthy church life, where people pull together and share the gifts the Spirit gives for the good of all.  I hear the wind blowing.  Mysterious and glorious.  The Spirit of God is at work in our midst right now.

To contact Harry Heintz about this sermon, please email or write to: Brunswick Presbyterian Church, 42 White Church Lane, Troy, NY 12180