Hidden Hope

Hidden Hope

Pastor Mitch Coggin May 19, 2024 Pentecost

The story of Pentecost is not really about what happened in the gathering described in the Acts passage we read, but what continued after that miraculous event. Pentecost is about embracing the work of the Spirit within us and being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Do we focus on what we are doing or not doing or what someone else is doing or not doing and miss the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us?

Walter Brueggemann boldly proclaims that the church has never gone anywhere on its own steam…The Holy Spirit refers to the intruding, evasive, energizing power from God that comes like the wind to blow us beyond ourselves, to take actions, to dare dreams, to run risks that in our accustomed powerlessness are well beyond us. The assurance of Jesus is that the wind of God will blow us to freedom and courage in spite of our tired fearfulness.

What does it mean to receive the Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit reveal hidden hope? Are we willing to pray, Come Holy Spirit? It is not about what we do, rather it is about what we ask God to do in us. Many of us might wonder what the Holy Spirit is doing at St. Andrews, today? The passage we read from Romans 8 assures us of the activity of the Spirit to offer concrete hope to us.

“We know,” Paul writes, “that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now (v.22).

In other words, we are waiting for the fulfillment of God’s plan for us.The best we can do is groan and sigh and hope. Paul assures us that we can hope for what we have been promised but we do not yet see (v.24). Like we mentioned last week, we pray but without knowing what to say given the weight of our concerns. When we are overwhelmed, the Spirit is there to intercede with God on our behalf. What the Spirit does is to bring our concerns and the will of God into harmony.

Like those to whom Paul writes, we may not see the visible signs of hope that we desire. Paul reminds us that the hope that is seen is not hope. The hidden hope of these verses seems to be what one commentator called “the great nevertheless of God.” We may not see the Spirit’s activity, but nevertheless God is guiding us through the pains to a future that God is yet to reveal. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and prays for us with sighs too deep for words. We may not know what God has in store for us; nevertheless, the Spirit knows the mind of God and will lead us to the One who made us for God’s own purposes.

So on this Pentecost Sunday, ten days after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, His followers were still milling around Jerusalem wondering what to do next. They, too, were certainly in need of hidden hope.

In the passage we read from Acts, those gathered were only identified as God-fearing Jews. They were in town for a celebration of the Harvest and were from a myriad of places – 15 to be exact. Medes, Elamites, Parthians and others who spoke many languages had gathered when suddenly, a sound like a violent wind swept through, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. All persons heard the message of Jesus in their own language.

We may believe that the Holy Spirit caused them to speak “in other languages”. A closer reading of the historical context suggests that each person spoke in their own native language but could miraculously be understood by everyone else. Pentecost has little to do with a miracle of the differences in language and everything to do with the work of the Holy Spirit within them.

God breathed into the people in their humanness and, in spite of their differences, they breathed together and found a shared hope. They discovered their differences weren’t quite as unique nor their distinctiveness quite as permanent as they previously believed. The impossible became possible in the Spirit.

When the presence of the Holy Spirit touched them, suddenly their differences weren’t the lead story. Before they were sitting comfortably in their own individuality never having to connect and listen in a meaningful way to another. Now, they could understand each other and see beyond their differences, and suddenly the other across the room became a human. The Spirit provided them a bridge that enabled them to do what they could not have accomplished on their own.

How do we foster a deeper awareness of the Holy Spirit? How do we wait in patience for what we cannot yet see?

How do we bless one another? How do we put aside our judgements and assumptions and seek the Holy Spirit’s help? The Holy Spirit opens us to listen to people with whom we may not agree. The Holy Spirit gives us the power that allows us to listen without being defensive, without needing to tell our story, and instead to listen to understand?

Once we become aware of the Spirit’s help to listen to one another with open arms and hearts, then something different has happened. The Holy Spirit fills the gap, that space between us and God and bridges the divide between people.

Do we still believe that God breathes into us to transform our lives together? How do we discover the hidden hope that is underneath our differences that leaves us open to new possibilities?

When we begin speaking with a conviction that we weren’t aware we had, and when we offer forgiveness that we had not intended to offer, and we take risks that we never thought we had the courage to take, we can be quite certain that God has breathed into us the breath of the Holy Spirit.

How have you experienced the Holy Spirit flow through your own life, rearranging things, opening things up? There is nothing you can do to make it happen except to pray “Come Holy Spirit.” I’ve found meaning in the Christian Prayer for guidance that spans many traditions: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love, Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” Are we willing to embrace the Spirit’s hope as we pray that prayer?