First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Pentecost Sunday ~ May 31st, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Today is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is not as well-known or as popular as Christmas and Easter, though it commemorates a watershed event in Christian history. In many ways, Pentecost is the birthday of the church. The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fifty.” Fifty days or seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was descended or poured out upon Christ’s first followers, thus empowering them for their mission and gathering them together as a church.
Today we remember and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Someone rightly said that the Holy Spirit is the “Forgotten God.” The Holy Spirit is the God we hardly know. As you may’ve already noticed, since the beginning of this pandemic, I have delivered numerous sermons from the Apostles’ Creed. As I said several times, it is one of the most profound creeds and the ancient of all creeds.
The Apostles’ Creed could be easily divided into three main sections. Each section deals with one Person of the Trinity. The first section addresses our faith in God the Father Almighty; the second deals with the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity; and the third section deals with the Holy Spirit, stating simply, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
Two powerful lines in the Creed are devoted to God, and ten lines are devoted to Jesus Christ. But as you can see, there is only one line, one phrase, devoted to the Holy Spirit, and that line is not very descriptive — “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Though short, this line is packed with truth you and I need today.
Any study of the Holy Spirit must begin with this fundamental question. Who is the Holy Spirit? So, let me say a few words about this, then I will very briefly share a single thought about the ministry of the Holy Spirit today and how it relates to our lives.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
Essential to a Biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit is recognizing the Spirit as a Person. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd Person of the Trinity. You may have heard the Holy Spirit referred to as an impersonal power or influence, as an “it.” This is not true because the Holy Spirit is a person. He is fully God. To borrow a phrase from a later creed, He is co-equal, co-eternal to God the Father and God the Son. He is equal in every way and has always been. He is as important, as eternal, as powerful and as much a part of the Trinity as the Father and the Son are.
The Holy Spirit is God’s active presence in the world. The first mention of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 1:2. He is God’s agent of creation. He hovered over the waters in the beginning. He is the breath of the Almighty (Hebrew ruach elohim), and as such He is an agent in creation, the breath of God. He demonstrates power and energy. The Holy Spirit spoke things into existence, the whole world, the stars, everything visible and invisible.
Not only is the Holy Spirit the agent of creation, He is the agent of the new creation in Christ. In John chapter 3:5-6, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Thus the Holy Spirit is the author of new birth. The Holy Spirit is God’s active presence in the world. It’s God showing up in a clear and tangible way, but also sometimes in a mysterious or even miraculous way.
“I believe in the Holy Spirit,” the Apostles’ Creed affirms. What does this mean? One profound way the work of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to our lives today.
First: The Holy Spirit is Our Helper
In John 16:7 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper “paracletos” will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” I know most of our English translations render “Paraclete” as Helper, Comforter, Advocate, or Counselor. Yet, I feel this doesn’t really capture the depth and complexity of the Greek word. The Greek word paracletos combines the verb “kaleo,” “to call,” with the proposition “para,” meaning “with, by, or beside.” A Paraclete, therefore, is someone called alongside.
When I think of the Holy Spirit, this is how I primarily think of Him: my 911, and my 24/7 hotline. The Holy Spirit is God with us, helping and empowering us to live a flourishing life that radiates the goodness of God. I don’t know about you but I’m constantly aware of my need for divine help. As my flesh fights for control, it’s the Spirit that steps in and helps me to be who God created me to be.
When you are feeling powerless or tired or like your failing at life, you can have confidence as a believer that you're not alone. You can start each day knowing the Holy Spirit is there to help you. He is the power that sustains, energizes, and keeps you on a holy path.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:26, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Reflecting on these words, American Theologian, Thomas Oden (1931-2016), wrote, “There is nothing too subtle or dense for the Spirit to penetrate or too sinful for the Spirit to cleanse or too weary for the Spirit to breathe life into again. The Spirit strives with us, prays for us, groans with us.”
Each time we confess and affirm, “I believe in the Holy Spirit”, we affirm our faith in the Paraclete, God’s personal and powerful presence in our lives today. Friends, the ministry of the Holy Spirit today reminds us that our God is an active God. He is still helping, comforting, counseling, guiding, empowering, and reminding us of the truth of God’s Word. Friends, I don’t think our churches today need more attracting programs, or committees, or even better Ministers. We may change all these, and still be just the same. All we want is a fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God. Psalm 104:30 says, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” So, come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.
 Thomas C. Oden, Life in the Spirit: Systematic Theology: vol. 3. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994.
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