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I Can Do It Myself!

June 3, 2019

When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting . . . They were all filled with the Holy Spirit . ..”   (Excerpts, Acts 2: 1-4).

How many times has a parent heard these words, “I can do it myself!”  I remember pushing my parents to allow me to do things that I probably wasn’t ready to do. When I was about eight years of age, I pleaded with them to let me stay home alone on a Saturday.  I thought that I was ready for the responsibility, because, after all—hadn’t I cared for my little brother since he was born? Hadn’t I proven my ability?  Didn’t my older brothers get to stay home alone?  Those were my arguments.  I must have been persuasive, because my parents finally relented with the proviso that I keep the door locked, and that I would go next door to our neighbors if I had a problem.  I had finished my morning chores, and was settling down to read, when all of a sudden, I saw and heard massive egg shells hitting the windows and door!  It made quite a racket! I was scared to death—too frightened to open the door. I later learned that the “egg shells” were large hailstones.   We had moved to Texas from Ohio a couple of years before, and we had not yet experienced a Texas-size hailstorm.  I learned two things that day: (1) being alone is not what its cracked up to be; and (2) we all need help.  It was an early lesson in humility.

I was reminded of this story when I read the Scripture lessons for next Sunday– Pentecost Sunday.[1] In the Old Testament lesson, the folks decided to make a name for themselves—they would build a tower that was unrivaled anywhere. They got so preoccupied with building the tower that they didn’t have the time or energy to think about God: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4b).   When God saw that their achievement caused them to forget him, he took them down a notch. Their language became confused, they couldn’t understand each other, and they scattered.  There are consequences to our pride and to thinking that we don’t need God, or anyone else.  We all need God and those he entrusts to help us.

Jesus understood that, and he did everything he could to comfort the disciples before he was crucified to assure them over and over that they would not be alone.  He promised that the Holy Spirit would come—their advocate, their helper, their comforter: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”  (John 14: 26-27). The disciples still didn’t fully understand what was to happen, but they knew that Jesus was the Messiah and that he could be trusted.  God hasn’t changed.  He is the same as he was yesterday, today, and will be tomorrow.  You can trust that.  When you believe in the resurrected Christ, you have a permanent helper, companion, and advocate who will always protect and guide you. You will never be alone. Being alone is not what its cracked up to be.

The helper came during the Pentecost festival.  The three main pilgrimage festivals celebrated in Jesus’ day were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.  Passover remembers the exodus, Pentecost remembers the giving of the law, and Tabernacles remembers the years of wandering.  Observant Jews were not required to come to all three festivals, but many came to one of the festivals each year.  It was the reason why believers of so many different countries were gathered in one place on Pentecost in AD 32: “There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world .  . . Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs!” (Acts 2: 5, 9, The Message).

God sent the promised helper–the Holy Spirit—to the church on Pentecost: “When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky, which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit . ..”  (Acts 2: 1-4).  The racket they heard must have been similar to what I heard as an eight-year old in that violent hailstorm that pelted the door and windows.  Pentecost, AD 32 is the day the church was born under grace.  Its literary parallel was the birth of the church under the law in 1446 BC, when Moses delivered God’s law to the people.

We know from experience that God hears us when we turn to him.  We echo David’s plea: “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief “ (Psalm 143:1). We know that Jesus prayed for us before we were born, and continues to pray for us (John 17:20).  Jesus told his disciples (and us) to turn to God: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me(John 14:1).  He promised to ask the Father to send another Counselor: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth”(John 14: 15-17).

You can’t make it on your own.  You need God and you need other people.  There is a God-shaped vacuum in your heart just the right size for the Counselor.  The more you open up to him, the more space he will occupy in your life. You are never alone. Trust God. Do not be afraid, and turn to the Counselor.  Open your heart to the Counselor sent by God to help, guide, and comfort you.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I open my heart to you today. I need you. Teach me, lead me, comfort me, help me, and rescue me. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.  Amen

Praying the Scriptures: Choose words or phrases from the following verses taken from Sunday’s Scripture texts to pray during each day of the coming week:

  • Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy” (Psalm 143:1);
  • Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you” (Psalm 143: 8);
  • Teach me to do your will, for you are my God” (Psalm 143:10);
  • I will pour out my Spirit on all people,” (Acts 2: 17);
  • And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21”);
  • The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14: 26);
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27)

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

 

 

 

[1]The Scripture texts for Pentecost Sunday are Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 143; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31.

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