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  • The Rev. Dr. Brian Rajcok

Empowered by the Spirit


Acts 2, Romans 8, John 15


The movie “The Karate Kid” is about a teenage boy named Daniel who has recently moved to a new school. Daniel is picked on by a bully named Johnny and his friends. They beat him up using Cobra Kai, an aggressive form of karate, and Daniel is saved by his neighbor Mr. Miyagi who then teaches Daniel his own style of karate. As the movie progresses Daniel becomes more and more confident and better able to defend himself. The movie’s climax is a karate sparing tournament with students from different martial arts schools. In his semi-final match, Daniel is injured by an illegal move, but he makes it to the finals where he will fight none other than his nemesis Johnny. After an epic match, Daniel wins the championship and Johnny presents him the trophy with a newfound respect for Daniel. It’s a movie about karate yes but even more so it’s a movie about empowerment and confidence, coming-of-age and conquering your fears.


The theme of empowerment is what the day of Pentecost is all about. Not empowerment to physically fight bullies, but the even more challenging task of spreading a message that will lead to persecution and martyrdom, but which will ultimately change the world. After witnessing Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. The Gospel reading we heard is set the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion where describes what this empowerment will be like. Jesus describes the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the One who continue God’s mission through the disciples. Jesus says that he must go to the Father so that this new age of the Advocate will come. Jesus tells them to expect this Advocate to be their guide as they carry the Good News of God’s love and grace and redemption to the ends of the earth. This Holy Spirit will be their inspiration and their guide, what gives them confidence and boldness, what empowers them to face anything for the sake of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


In our first reading this morning we heard a description of how the coming of this Holy Spirit happened. Luke doesn’t call the Holy Spirit the Advocate like John does; the Gospel writers are using different language for the same thing. Instead Luke uses images like wind and fire. He reports tongues of fire resting on their heads, and the disciples being given power to speak to gospel message in different languages. They go outside and start speaking, and Peter preaches his first sermon and at the end of the it three thousand people were baptized that day.


This is clearly a monumental day! And it is often considered the birthday of the church! It’s the day when the disciples became apostles. Disciples means those who follow or those who learn. And apostles means those who are sent. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and empowered them to become apostles. This is the day they started sharing the gospel message fearlessly. The day the gospel started to spread around the world like wildfire! The day the Holy Spirit filled them and inspired them to tell everyone about Jesus and his message of God’s transformative love, freedom from sin, reconciliation with God, and their mission of manifesting the Kingdom.


In our other reading from Romans this morning, we hear about the future that this Holy Spirit will bring about. Paul writes that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains for all of history up to now. And he describes this Holy Spirit will continue this great act of giving birth to establish a new humanity, this revealing of the children of God. He describes that the Holy Spirit will transform us, direct humanity’s spiritual evolution, and bring healing and wholeness to our broken world.


Paul describes a beautiful image of creation longing for humanity to grow up into what we were created to be. He describes the idea that all throughout history, the Spirit of God has been pushing humanity to greater levels of consciousness, wisdom, and love. Calling us onward to reflect the divine image more fully. Paul had an understanding that the Holy Spirit is transforming this world into a manifestation of the kingdom. Or what Paul calls the new creation. He believed that, no matter how bad things look, the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification will come to fruition. And this same Spirit that is transforming the world is also present in each one of us, calling us forward and empowering us to do whatever God calls us to.


It is this empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we celebrate today on Pentecost, and it also what we celebrate today with Confirmation. When six young Christians will affirm their Baptism and confirm their faith. Today they will take ownership of their faith journey and be recognized as adult members of the church. And as they do this, we will pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in their lives. During the Rite of Confirmation, Pastor Ryan and I will place our hands on their heads and pray for each of them, that God give them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like the disciples at Pentecost, today is a big moment for these six young adults. Today they are confirming that they want to continue the Christian journey, that they want to be empowered by the Spirit to do what God calls them to.


Now they’re not confirming that they know all the answers. They’re not saying they have everything figured out. They’re not promising they will never doubt or wonder again. What they are confirming today is that they are happy they are baptized and that they want to follow Jesus. And because of that that they will trust the Holy Spirit as the guiding force of their lives. And that they will keep asking questions, keep exploring and learning, keep growing on their faith journey and discerning God’s will for their lives. Confirmation isn’t about claiming you know all the answers; it’s about affirming that you will keep wondering, keep searching, keep discovering where the Spirit is calling you.


And so let us celebrate with them. And let us pray that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit as the disciples were at Pentecost. That they may be empowered to be the mature adult children of God that Jesus calls them to be. That they may be inspired to grow on the spiritual journey, and to live out their faith.


And let us pray that we all will be touched by the Holy Spirit to live into God’s calling for our lives. We do this not because we think we have to in order to be loved and accepted by God—(we’re all already loved and accepted!)—we do this because get to! Because we’ve been so touched and inspired by the Holy Spirit that we genuinely desire to do God’s will and follow Christ’s path. This Pentecost, let us all join our Confirmands in confirming our faith and rededicating ourselves to the spiritual journey. Let us invite the Spirit to fill us and inspire us to follow Jesus more closely. Let us be empowered by the Spirit to be apostles, those sent out to proclaim the good news of God’s love to all creation.


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Pastor Brian Rajcok | May 19, 2024


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