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July 25, 2021

“Spirit-Powered!”

(From Ephesians 3: 14-21)

  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

     Whenever I see an Energizer Bunny commercial, I think about how great it would be if Christians were as highly powered and active as the Bunny, but by the Holy Spirit’s power.  Just take a minute to envision a world in which Spirit-powered and infused Christians were hustling about engaging in deeds of kindness, compassion, mercy, and love, on…and on…and on!  Now there are many reasons why such a bold vision is both fanciful and impractical for us to fulfill in the real world in which we live.  People are not inanimate toys with an infinite capacity for activity without rest, even under the Holy Spirit’s power and direction.  Then, of course, there is the matter of the limitation of funds and resource available for allocation to such a grandiose undertaking.  And so, just as quickly as we began, we have returned to a world of limits that lead us back toward a status quo mindset.   Yet, the Holy Spirit still beckons us on toward greater living in the kingdom of our God.

     When Jesus walked in the world among us, he observed and spoke on the creative activity of the people of the world for the purposes of their own personal gain.  The occasion of this lesson was Jesus sharing a parable with his Disciples about “The Dishonest Steward.”  As the parable, found in Luke Chapter 16: 1-10, is stated, a rich man called his steward before him because he had been told that the steward was wasting his goods.  He desired an accounting from this dishonest steward, and he also intended to remove the man form his position as steward.  When the steward learned of this situation, he thought to himself that he had better make some provision for living after he was removed from his master’s service.  So, the steward cunningly cooked his master’s books to make friends of his master’s debtors.  One man who owed his master 100 measures of oil had his debt lowered to 50 measures. Another debtor had his debt lowered from 100 measures of wheat to eighty.  When he learned of this behavior on the part of the dishonest steward, the master commended the steward for his shrewdness in dealing with his situation. Jesus then commented on this parable by remarking that the sons of this world are shrewder in dealing in the world than are the sons of light.  Truly, children of light strive to be good and honest stewards in this life. Yet, what a blessing it would be if  believers were as creative, shrewd and energetic in working to build kingdom inroads in this world as those of the world are in seeking worldly gain.

     The Apostle Paul was not only a great founder and leader of early Christian churches, he was also a wonderfully gifted and supportive cheerleader.  Our New Testament lesson this morning, penned in the style of Pauline tradition, reminds believers, as did Paul himself, that we have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Through the power imparted to us by this same Spirit, we can accomplish for God’s kingdom abundantly more than we can ever ask or even imagine. We simply need to embrace and internalize the Spirit’s power, whose height, length, breadth, and depth surpasses all our human knowledge.  This teaching is consistent with that of our Methodist Denomination’s own founder and leader, John Wesley.  Wesley spent a great part of his early ministry concerned about the fate of his immortal soul.  His sin was ever before him, and the assurance of salvation eluded him.  It was his relationship with Moravian believers, and his experience of their inner peace and assurance, that began Wesley on his road to personal salvation.  At a Moravian meeting at Aldersgate Street in London, on May 24, 1738, John Wesley felt his “heart strangely warmed.”  He finally felt that he did have saving faith and the assurance of his salvation from sin and death.  His intellectual assent to Christian doctrine and practice became a personal experience of heart-felt faith.  It prompted Wesley to engage his ministry toward leading others to Christ and to good works by the indwelling power and work of the Holy Spirit.  He firmly believed that the inner working of the Spirit toward a life of personal holiness in an individual was critical.  It works in conjunction with any means that God may employ to accomplish God’s good plan in the world.  To this end, Wesley both practiced and preached three simple rules of living: 1) Do no harm, 2) Do all the good you possibly can, and 3) attend on the ordinances of God, those practices of personal holy living that keep our relationship with God both vital and meaningful.  Wesley firmly believed that the evidence of one’s personal salvation should be evidenced by the good fruit it produces in and through the life of the believer.  How do we accomplish such feats of faith?  By the in-working of the power of the Holy Spirit, through whom we can do infinitely and abundantly more than we can even imagine! 

     So, Peninsula United Methodist Church, what new works are we doing by the Holy Spirit’s power to build God’s kingdom in our time and place?   Newton’s first Law teaches us that an object at rest tends to stay at rest until a force acting upon it sets it into motion.  Well folks, for believers, that force is the power of the Holy Spirit, available to work in and through us at the moment we believe.  James 2: 14-17 teaches that faith by itself without accompanying good works in the world is a dead faith.  For, as James asks his readers, what is the good if we encounter a brother or sister in need and merely say to them, “go in peace,” without acting to help supply their needs?  Their lot is not better without our acting on their behalf.  Dear friends, may the fire and power of the Holy Spirit move us beyond our inertia and comfort zones and into mighty works for the building of God’s kingdom.  Let it be said of us that we are more energized for this good work than the Energizer Bunny, because our batteries cannot become run down—they are Spirit-powered!  Amen.

Hymn- “Where the Spirit of the Lord Is”

(words and music-Stephen R. Adams) 

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is peace; where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is love.  There is comfort in the life’s darkest hour; there is light and life, there is help and power in the Spirit, in the Spirit of the Lord.