Old Testament Reading- Ezekiel 36:25-27
New Testament Reading- John 14:11-17
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -June 5, 2022, Pentecost Sunday
You have probably heard the saying, “Just because we can do something, doesn’t always mean we should.” I can remember in 2003 when the cloned sheep, ‘Dolly,’ died.
There was, and is, still much debate as to whether this type of knowledge should be used. ‘Playing God,’ as we put it, has a great many moral and ethical questions that should be answered, and I am sure that alone, human beings do not have the ability to look far enough ahead or far enough beyond themselves to properly answer these questions.
Granted, we have been cloning live plants for centuries, maybe even millennia, but the life we find in animals is much different, and life should be respected, it is a gift. Interestingly, we term playing with life as ‘Playing God,’ but we still are only making more life from life that already exists. Thankfully, we haven’t figured out a way to really, ‘Play God,’ and create life from nothing, like the Almighty does. Still, the statement remains, “Just because we can do something, doesn’t always mean we should.”
God knew about our limitless ambition since the beginning, listen to the words from Genesis 11:1-9,
"Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So, the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
Many of you may think that God was being harsh for not allowing our ancestor’s creativity to be used to its fullest. Some may even think that God is jealous of the seemingly limitless abilities of human beings, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. God created us with wonderfully creative minds, we are His children, and because we are the children of the Creator, we are inclined to be creative ourselves. God does not want to stifle this ability, but He will if we are getting too big for our britches.
Humans have an uncanny ability to allow their greatest gifts and blessings to become opportunities for delusions of grandeur. Given the chance, after so many achievements, we will start to believe that we don’t need God anymore, and if we take this line of thinking further, we soon forget about God completely and set ourselves up as our very own god.
Sometimes, God allows this, so that we may learn from it, but other times, like in the ‘Tower of Babel’ story, He intercedes for our benefit.
"God does not want to stifle [our creativity], but He will if we are getting too big for our britches." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
It is like the legend of ‘The Lost City of Atlantis.’ As the legend goes, the city of Atlantis
existed in the early days of humanity, and the people there became technologically
advanced beyond normal human capacity at the time. They achieved great wonders, but
soon their knowledge and advancements led to the destruction of all they had done, and the city and its people sank under the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Now this is legend, but is it far from the truth? Look at all that humanity is capable of right now, the wondrous things we have achieved, but we also have the ability to destroy the planet we live on. How different are we than them? “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.”
When the Israelites came from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, God was with them and guided them in all that they did. The Almighty made His people great in the land and the people of the surrounding areas were fearful of their power and might. The Israelites thrived under the Hand of God, becoming rich and powerful, but soon they too slipped by forgetting about their Creator. Without God’s intervention, the nation soon was splintered, and in time, God handed them over to other nations and scattered them on the earth. Had they had listened to God, who knows what they would have achieved, but I have a theory that achievements in technology and warfare are not the crowning jewels of advanced civilization. The Lord has much more in store for those who love Him.
Our Old Testament lesson today gives us God’s words in Ezekiel 36:25-27,
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Great, but how Lord?
How are you going to give me this clean heart of flesh, and how will I have your Spirit in me?
For this answer we look to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John 14:15-17,
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.”
This is what the disciples heard Jesus say, but they still did not have a clue as to what He was talking about because they did not have the Spirit yet. Jesus tells them that He must fulfill all things and leave, but this all needs to take place, so that the Father will send the Spirit.
Are you baffled too? The disciples sure were, but God isn’t done yet.
Now listen to Acts 2:1-21,
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
"‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
There you have it, another part of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity has been accomplished. Jesus has been raised after conquering death and has returned to heaven and God has sent the Holy Spirit, His Spirit to dwell within the believers of Christ. These people were changed. By believing in Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit they would be able to allow the Spirit to guide them in ways that was not possible for them to conceive of before.
Remember how God had confused the speech of the people in Genesis that were building the glorious tower and city? He did this because they were not ready or capable of controlling themselves from becoming corrupted beyond hope. But now we see God giving His Spirit to these believers and they are given the ability to speak in languages not their own, to speak of things they hadn’t previously even known about. God is returning that ability to communicate for a reason.
God’s ways are not our ways, His priorities are not our priorities, but with His Spirit dwelling within us, we are able to access His Word more than was possible before the events of Pentecost. God confused speech when all we wanted was our own glory; He gave it back when He needed communication of His Gospel to be spread around the globe in every language, as He wants all of His children to be saved from every tribe and every village, from the country to the cities, to all nations, His Word shall be proclaimed.
I love the words of Paul in Romans 8:14-17,
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”
“Just because we can do something, doesn’t always mean we should.” This statement takes on a whole new meaning once we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. God’s Spirit allows us to see the world through His eyes and through His will. It allows us to make decisions that may not be the best for ourselves alone, but better for humanity in general.
Think of Oskar Schindler, he could have kept on with the Nazi’s and became wealthier all the time, instead he chose to risk his personal finances and his own life to benefit the German Jews that were in his charge, that is the Holy Spirit at work.
President Abraham Lincoln could have played it safe and sided with all the other white leaders of his day and let slavery continue to happen, heedless of the misery and horror being subjected to a whole race of people just because of the color of their skin. Thankfully God’s Spirit spoke to honest Abe, and he listened, championing the cause for what was truly right and ending slavery once and for all, even though he ultimately lost his life because of it.
Lastly, Christ listened to God the Father when He laid down His life for all of us, taking on the sacrificial role that was intended for Jesus alone and ensuring our ability to live life eternal. Through His suffering we are made free. These three in their own ways chose to give up what would have been much easier and more profitable to themselves to instead choose to do what would benefit others most.
God’s Spirit allows us to see the world through His eyes and through His will.
Imagine a world where the crowning jewel of civilization was not technological advancements, a strong military, or how much money you make, but a world where people really care for each other. Imagine a world where all were supported and loved because that is how each of us felt, and we wanted to share it with others, not take advantage of one another. If we allow the Holy Spirit to change us into what God truly has intended for our lives, we go from selfish to selfless and we take one more step toward God’s kingdom. This is what it is to become more like Christ. This is what being a true Christian is all about. This is the message of Pentecost, to allow the Holy Spirit to guide your life until the lives of others means more than your own.
Just because you can be the wealthiest, or the most powerful, or the most famous doesn’t mean you should, choose instead to be more like Christ, humble, gentle, kind, loving, and all with the heart of one who comes to serve rather than to be served. All praise and honor to our heavenly Father now and forever. Amen.