Sermon Edition: People of the Spirit

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

— Acts 2:1-21

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. You 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. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, 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. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When 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. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

— John 15:26-27; John 16:4-15

 

Listen.

Have you ever just listened to the sound of breathing? Whether the breaths are deep or shallow, quick or even, the sound of breathing constantly fills our ears. Without breath, we would not be here. To breathe is to live, to continue in this existence. It is one way that we measure life: from life’s first cry to final breath. Most people average ten to twenty breaths a minute, but you could get by with breathing deeply four to six times, breathing from your gut and not your chest. It is a mysterious process — not in terms of scientifically understanding it, because we can now. Scientists and doctors, at least, know all about alveolar tissue, how our blood gets oxygenated by the air we breathe in, and how that enables all our cells to live and function. But in terms of the experience, it is mysterious. We take in this invisible stuff, something that is other than us, we who are visible, tangible, unitary, and we make it, that which is invisible, intangible and multiple, part of us. If we didn’t do this even for just a few minutes, we would die.

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Ti€s that Bind

“Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” — John Wesley

19. 28. 334,570,678. 9.5. Members of the eurozone. Members of the EU. Population of the eurozone. GDP of the eurozone, in trillions. But numbers are sanitary things. They do not “lie,” but they can be manipulated. They do not get at any existentially real truth. What, in truth, is the euro about?

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The Least of These: Diaconical Taxation

 “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'” — Matthew 25:40

A social system will always have gaps in it; spaces and borders that cannot totalise the landscape of human life and society — there will always be spaces and the people who occupy them that fall outside the borders we draw for our social space and that we care for. There will always be the other, the poor and the outcast. Jesus promised and prophesied as much. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t create a system…

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Giving to God: Making Sense of Everything Else

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” — Matthew 22:15-21

What is yours? What is mine? These are the questions at the heart of paying taxes, of living in society, of being made in the image of God. In the previous post, I exhorted the paying of taxes, and the social goods that that accomplishes. But Jesus says more than that; he twists the Pharisees’ question back on to them. What does it mean to give what is God’s back to God?

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Giving to Caesar: Making Sense of Taxation

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” — Matthew 22:15-21

Pay your taxes. There, I said it. Not only that, but you should encourage your neighbours, your business partners, and multi-national corporations (those particularly) to pay their taxes. For an American living in Europe, I’ve come to appreciate the value of paying taxes. And sure, the system isn’t perfect, but it is a lot better than the other way around.

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