Thursday, September 21, 2017
Rock 'N Roll Love Letter (2 Corinthians 3:1-6; Acts 2:1-21)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

May 19, 2013

 

Series: Rock and Roll Christians

 “Rock 'N Roll Love Letter”

(Acts 2:1-21)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     Come, Holy Spirit, Come! That’s a dangerous prayer. It’s dangerous because when we open ourselves to the infilling of the Holy Spirit, we never know where the Spirit will lead us. Loving and obeying God is dangerous because we give control of our life to God. But when we combine love, obedience and the Holy Spirit we become Rock n Roll Love Letters to the world.

PRAYER

     Love letters, we’ve all read them, most of us have written them to our sweethearts. I remember a love letter I read about, it read: Dear Rosie, I love you. I love you. I love you. I would climb the highest mountain, swim through shark infested seas and trek through the densest forest just for one of you kisses. I can hardly wait for Thursday so I can see you and hold you in my arms. Love Jimmy. PS, If it’s raining I won’t be able to make it.

     Then there’s the letter from a young woman to her former fiancé. “Dear Johnny, No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you. Yours forever Marie. PS, Congratulations on winning the lottery.

     Sometimes love letters are sincere and sometimes they’re not. As Paul said in the passage from Second Corinthians, God wants us to be God’s love letters and letters of recommendation to the world. And on that very first Pentecost God filled us with the power to be those love letters to the world. Let’s look at the passage from 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NRSV) and Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV)

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NRSV)

[1] Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we?

[2] You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all;

[3] and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

[4] Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

[5] Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God,

[6] who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Acts 2:1-21 (NRSV)

[1] When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
[2] 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.
[3] Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
[4] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
[5] Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
[6] And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
[7] Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
[8] And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
[9] Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
[10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
[11] Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."
[12] All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
[13] But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."
[14] 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.
[15] Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning.
[16] No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
[17] '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.
[18] Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
[19] And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
[20] The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.
[21] Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

     When the sound like a rush of mighty wind came and the Spirit appeared like tongues of flame, “They were thunderstruck,” as the Message puts it. When the spirit came upon the disciples it changed everything. Just look what happened to them. From timid, tepid souls they became vital, vigorous almost unstoppable champions of this new faith. Look at Peter. This is the same Peter who stuttered and stammered, made all kinds of excuses and denied even knowing Jesus, not once but three times, on the night of the crucifixion.

     Here he is, standing before the crowds, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ so fearlessly and powerfully that when he finished, people were so excited, so moved that they began asking, "What should we do?" Peter answered, "Repent and be baptized." They did and they were; to the tune of about three thousand of them. That was just the beginning. The power of God was in those words. Peter’s message was God’s love letter to us. It was real and it made the difference.

     Just like the disciples, we have been empowered for living the Christian life through the same Holy Spirit. In "The Korean Creed" one of our affirmations of faith, we have one of the best summations of the work of the Holy Spirit. It says, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, God present with us for guidance for comfort, and for strength." And that's the key, that’s the language of God’s love. Those are the words God wants us and the whole world to hear. The Holy Spirit is simply God available and approachable, God present with us "For Comfort, Guidance and Strength."

I. COMFORT:

     A.  God is present with us for Comfort. That doesn’t mean God is going to make us comfortable but in times of need, God will fill us with Comfort.

     A woman tells the story that she and her 6-year-old daughter always thank God for one thing about the day. One evening, her daughter was breaking out in chicken pox, her husband was out of town and she had the flu. As she was tucking her daughter into bed, the daughter said, “Mommy, I can’t think of anything to thank God for today. It was a horrible day.”

     Mom said, “I know sweetie but we CAN thank God that the day is over.” And she did with this prayer. “Thank you Lord, for the gift of life. No matter how difficult it is, we take comfort knowing you are there to help us make it through horrible days. Amen”

     The point is, this is Pentecost Sunday today we give thanks that we have a very real comforter, a counselor, an unseen presence to see us through those times when we are filled with fear and doubt. Or simply to help us make it through horrible days.

     Did you know there’s an organization in Hollywood California called The Holy Ghost Repair Service, Incorporated. They're not in the business of repairing shoes, watches or automobiles. On their stationary they state as their purpose "repairing broken lives for Jesus...in the power of his Spirit." Now, we might express it a little less colorfully, but that's what every church is about! We're in the business of "repairing broken lives for Jesus in the power of his Spirit."

     We've all had those times when we were in need of the Holy Ghost Repair Service. We give thanks for the comforting power of God’s Holy Spirit with us every day.

II. GUIDANCE:

     A.  We depend upon the Holy Spirit for Comfort. We also depend on the Holy Spirit for Guidance. We need that help in our lives. Like the disciples, we can tap into the promised presence and power of God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God with us.

     Have you seen the movie “Glory Road” inspired by the true story of Texas Western's Coach Don Haskins, who changed basketball history when he led the first all-black starting lineup team to the 1966 NCAA national basketball championship by beating the powerhouse team from Kentucky. Haskins recruited kids from the street. For many of them it was their only opportunity for an education or to play Basketball at that level. Some of them needed a little help and a little Guidance. Watch.

     Now, I’m not suggesting that the Holy Spirit is like your mother or is going to guilt you into anything like that mother. But there are time in our lives when we all need help and Guidance. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes into play. God’s Holy Spirit resides in us, encouraging and Guiding us. Through the Spirit, Christ himself comes to us; God comes to empower and enable our lives. Through the Spirit, Christ comes to stand beside us, to lead us, to guide us to and walk with us through all the struggles of life.  God IS present both for Comfort and for Guidance. And that's Good News.

III. STRENGTH:

     A. God is present with us for Comfort, Guidance AND for Strength. We're not talking about strength just to hang on. We are talking about strength to go out and be the disciples, the church, the force for good and God's Kingdom in the world today which God requires. I’m talking about the strength to be examples of Christ alive in the world; the strength to be God’s love letter for those who may have never experienced love.

     That strength comes from knowing we belong to God, that what we do has God’s approval. That God is proud of us. You see, for some people, all their lives they have been seeking acceptance; seeking approval; seeking unconditional love; seeking someone to believe in them. God does believe in them! God does love them! But it falls to us to tell them.

     By living as God’s Love letters, by opening ourselves to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we are strengthened to do what is right even when others say it’s wrong. The portrayal of Branch Ricky, and the relationship he had with Jackie Robinson in the movie 42 is a great example of that strength. Watch this scene

     Branch Rickey had seen injustice due to prejudice but couldn’t do anything about it, but when the time came that he could do something, he was open, ready and willing. God, through the Holy Spirit, gave him the strength to do what was right.

     It’s not told in the movie, but Branch Ricky had been a Methodist Lay Preacher and was an active member of his church. According to many, the day before they sat down to choose from a huge stack of possible players, Rickey went down the street from his office to a little church and spent most of the day in prayer. And God gave him the strength to make the right choice.

     Thomas Jefferson once said that, "one man with courage makes a majority." The Holy Spirit strengthens us and fills us with that courage to stand up when we need to stand up. To be the love letter of God that challenges us and the world to change. The Holy Spirit reminds us that God knows us, God notices us, God loves us, and God approves of us.

     It doesn’t matter what the world might say because the Spirit reminds us that we are the children of God. The Spirit reminds us of God’s deep love for us. The Spirit reminds us that God believes in us. The Spirit reminds us that one day we will hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

     The power of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit fills us with Comfort, Guidance and Strength, so we can be God’s love letters to the world.

CONCLUSION:

     A good friend of mine, Rev. Ron Albertson tells the story about a young lady named Sally. Sally was growing up and preparing to go off to college. Her mother had struggled to provide for her education, an especially difficult task since her father had died several years earlier. Her mother made every effort within her power to raise Sally right. Now she would be on her own, which is both exciting and frightening at the very same time. 

     Sally had strong reservations about leaving her mother alone to mind the farm and the chores. She was also nervous about having to find her own way without her mother’s guidance. As Sally prepared to meet the bus, bags packed and ready, her mother took her arm and said to her, “You’re gonna see things an’ do things you ain’t never heard of, and you won’t know which way to turn sometimes. You ‘member how you used to tug on my apron string when you wanted something and I’d see to what you was after? You ‘member how when you was too close to the road and I’d holler to you to tell you to get away from there’?” Her mother gently reminded. “Well, I’m gonna be there with you in your heart, but it’ll be up to you to listen to what I told you. I can’t kiss your hurts when you fall down an’ skin your knee or quiet you when the big storms come rollin’ through. But, I’ll be close as a peanut in your pocket when you need me. If you’re afraid, I’ll stand with you. And if you are hurting, you can feel me close, and if you do wrong, I’ll whisper the truth to ya so you won’t do it no more.”

     Tears came to both their eyes. Her mother opened the dresser drawer and took out a neatly folded handkerchief and placed it in the pocket of Sally’s dress.

     As she was leaving, Sally felt completely alone. As she fought back the tears, she reached into the pocket of her dress to take out the handkerchief her mother had placed there. Then she noticed a knot in one corner just like her mother used to tie her milk money in her handkerchief. Upon untying the knot, she found a single peanut. She knew that her mother would always be with her in her heart. (3)

     The Holy Spirit is in our lives and in our hearts, as close as a peanut in our pocket. All we have to do is listen for the Comfort, Guidance and Strength which God offers to us through the Spirit. Trust in the power of God’s Holy Spirit for Comfort, Guidance and Strength.

     Trust in the power of God’s Holy Spirit so you can be a walking, talking, living, breathing Love Letter, from God, to the World.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

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