5/24/2015 Day of Pentecost Text is Romans 8:22-17.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “It’s my problem. I can handle it!” Sometimes it’s an addict trying to deal with addiction. Sometimes it’s someone in financial trouble. Sometimes it’s a person whose spiritual life resembles a desert. Sometimes it’s just someone with a flat tire. But, they all think they can handle anything by themselves.
Where we ever got the idea that doing everything on our own is a good thing, I have no idea. Certainly, being overly dependent isn’t the way to live. But, is self-sufficiency really any better? We may think that the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves,” but it doesn’t. That statement, which is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, is non-scriptural. For, the Bible says that God helps those who admit they can’t help themselves. And to this may I add: Praise be to God! For, our lives and our world stand in need of God’s help.
On Memorial Day, we remember the struggles we have endured as a people – the wars fought and the lives lost, the natural disasters and illnesses and the lives changed forever, the financial upheavals and present day violence and the lives affected. We don’t have to look past our own history to see that we are in need of God’s help. For, no personal, no individual effort of ours can change the madness of this world and its battered economies, its wars, its hunger and poverty and its lack of care of all the good things that God has provided for us. No personal, no individual effort of ours can change the brokenness of a sick world. In spite of our best efforts, we can’t change the world and we can’t save ourselves. We need God to intervene on our behalf. We need God to provide forgiveness and salvation. We need the power of His living spirit to make us whole and to bind us to each other. We need the Spirit to gather us, to enlighten us, to give us faith, to empower us to do what we can in the name of God, to give us hope and to help us pray for what we truly need.
Have you ever gone to pray for someone but you didn’t know what to pray for? I know that I have – more times than I can count. We are not always aware of what someone truly needs so we don’t know what to pray for. Perhaps a friend is in a difficult and complicated situation. What is the best solution? Do we pray for the situation to end? Or do we pray for strength so that the person can grow because of the situation? Sometimes all we can do is sigh and throw our arms in the air. At those times, the Holy Spirit, which knows our hearts, our needs and the will of God, intercedes on our behalf. It groans along with us and speaks for us.
So while we might say, “Well, I’ve known how to pray since I was a kid. It’s easy! You just say something like, ‘Dear God’ and then thank God for things or ask him for what you need.” But, the truth is we don’t know what to thank him for or what to ask for. How can we possibly know all the things God has done just this morning to keep us from dying before coming to church? So, how can we know that what we are asking for is really God’s will? We need the Holy Spirit to guide our prayers for we cannot do it all alone, just like we need God’s help each and every day for we cannot survive without him.
We were never meant to be self-sufficient in prayer and in life. God has put us in communion with each other and God provides all that we need. We don’t have to be like a man laboring in vain to fix his car. When this man’s friend came by and asked, “Frank, what ya doing?” Frank proclaimed, “Can’t you see – I’m fixing my car.” His friend asked him why and Frank rolled his eyes and said, “Cause it’s broke.” The conversation continued: “Can’t you take it to the mechanic?” “It costs money.” “But the car’s under warranty.” “But it’s too far away.” “But your warranty covers towing.” “Doesn’t matter – I can fix it myself.”
My friends, we think we can fix our lives, our families, our relationships, our communities, our world by ourselves, but that’s a comic strip view of life and what it means to be a follower of Christ. Some may think everyone should be Super-Christian: faster than the powers of evil, able to surmount tall problems in a single bound, stronger than the power of sin.” But, life isn’t like that and the world in which we live is not like that. The world is not yet perfect, and neither are we. But, something better is coming and is already on its way. Through us, God is bringing a new world and a new life to birth. The trials we face today are the labor pains of this new age.
The Spirit is here to help us in the way a loving husband supports his wife through the birthing process. The Spirit is here to help us get through the pains of this age, to bolster our hope in the coming of salvation and even to pray according to God’s will. When we find ourselves at odds with the world, when we find ourselves groaning under weighty problems and what seem like insurmountable troubles, we are not to lose heart for the Spirit is there to help us. We don’t need to fix our lives on our own because they are still under warranty. We don’t even have to take them to the dealership because the manufacturer makes house calls. God comes to us and helps us in our weakness. In Jesus God gave us what we truly need to face life head on – a forgiveness and salvation that we don’t have to earn, an indwelling presence in the Spirit, and the gift of each other. God has given us the help we need to live the life he intends. And that is what Pentecost is all about! It’s about God making house calls, providing the tools we need to make it through the struggles in life, and coming to support, encourage and empower us for living.
So, let us look to God and each other in our time of need. For, whenever we try to go it alone, we get in the way of real help – we become like a person sinking in quicksand with no place to get firm footing or to grasp hold of anything substantial. Any effort we make to save ourselves will only make us sink faster. We need someone to pull us out, someone who is on our level and can reach us, someone who has firm footing and strength of arm. And that is why Jesus came – to give us something and someone to hold onto – and that’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into our lives – to give each of us a firm footing in a groaning world.
On this Memorial Day, let us look at the past and see where God has blessed us. And let us look to the present and the future with hope, knowing that Jesus is there to lift us up each day and that the Spirit resides within us. And may the indwelling Spirit lead you to find what you truly need on this Day of Pentecost, including the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, and keeps your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.