Catch the Flame

Held 50 days after Passover, Pentecost was also called the Feast of Weeks. It was one of the three major annual feasts, a festival of thanksgiving for the harvested crops.

Jesus was crucified at Passover time, and he ascended to heaven 40 days after his resurrection. At the time of his ascension Christ promised to send us a Counselor. Well today marks the reception of that Counselor and the birth of the church.

The promised counselor, the Holy Spirit, came 50 days after the resurrection, ten days after the ascension.

Jews of many nations gathered in Jerusalem for this Feast of Weeks. Thus Peter's speech, which we read in Acts, was shared with an international audience, and it resulted in a worldwide harvest of new believers - the first converts to Christianity. Also in our scripture readings today the Holy Spirit is portrayed as a divine force, a gift from God, which descends to us. This gift enables us to hear God speaking to us, and enables us to speak to God.

And through our reading in Acts you can see the power of God's Spirit at work in the lives of those present that day. It's a story of conversion, a story of change of mission, a story of conviction.

Joel's prophecy shapes the church's mission. God's Spirit, the Spirit of prophecy, has been poured out to inaugurate the last days of salvation's history. These are no longer the days of waiting but rather these are the day's set apart for mission. For the converting of hearts, the saving of souls, and the transforming of lives.

God's Spirit is poured out on the entire community gathered in order to prophesy, see visions, and dream dreams.

It was this same Holy Spirit, this divine force of God, which led John Wesley many years ago to become alive and on fire with the Holy Spirit, thus creating and leading the Methodist movement.

Wesley took the scriptures to heart and allowed the Holy Spirit to fuel his zeal to reach out to others, to bring God's Holy Word to the out casts and down trodden, and to be used by God as a life transforming agent. John and Charles Wesley spawned a movement that was characterized by openness to the Holy Spirit.

Today many Methodists are rediscovering that this movement was born in a revival that emphasized holiness, evangelical zeal, and compassion for sinners. A movement which was experiential not just intellectual. A movement that focused on individuals being restored to the image of God.

Wesley's message swept across the British Isles like a raging fire, and hurdled the Atlantic Ocean to North America, where it sparked the Second Great Awakening in the late 1700's. John Wesley logged some 250,000 miles on horseback to preach on the American frontier and in the British Isles. And the 18th and 19th century American circuit-riding preachers Wesley trained; laid a foundation for a denomination that today claims over 35,000 churches in this country alone.

Methodism eventually led to the Holiness movement, which emphasized the Holy Spirit's power to purify the believer. Wesley's emphasis on sanctification also led indirectly to the birth of Pentecostalism at the beginning of the 20th century.

But unfortunately the fire lost its vitality. In the early and mid 1900's the Methodist Church became so mired in liberalism that Wesley probably wouldn't have recognized it.

But the good news is that people are once again getting caught in the wind of revival. The fire for Christ, which once blazed so vividly, is once again being rekindled. God is becoming number one in the hearts of many once again, leaving in many cases liberalism and individualism in the dust. Folks are being led by faith, rather than being driven by fear.

The Holy Spirit is moving once again in the lives of the faithful just daring us to catch this life changing flame, which once burned so bright.

Throughout his life Wesley never sought permission for what he did, he sought the power of God. Wesley was a risk-taker who sought people others just simply ignored. He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and moved ahead with the authority of Jesus Christ. And ever since, from its very inception, the Methodist movement has been marked by displays of the presence of God.

I'm convinced that for the church to move forward we too need to seek and embrace the power of the Holy Spirit as the early church did. Placing God above all else and seeking his will, knowing that his spirit will lead and guide us.

Spirit-led churches focus on following the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Spirit-led churches make prayer an important part of their lives. Intercessory prayer, prayer at healing services, and praying openly for one another is a hallmark of spirit-led churches.

John Wesley reported on one of his meetings in 1784; "After preaching to an earnest congregation at Coleford, I met the Society. They contained themselves pretty well during the exhortation, but when I began to pray the flame broke out: many cried aloud; many sunk to the ground; many trembled exceedingly; but all seemed to be quite athirst for God, and penetrated by the presence of His power."

Last weekend while I was attending the young adult retreat at Camp Manadokin one of the older women serving as a counselor was experiencing severe pain in her knee, to the point she couldn't sleep. She limped out of her bedroom into the common living area where two other women were having a conversation. She approached them and fell into a chair next to them crying out for help.

She told the two of her severe pain and asked them if they would pray for her. So the two women kneeled beside her and began to pray. One woman touched the older woman's leg and asked the Holy Spirit to remove the pain so she might sleep.

Immediately both the person praying, and the person with the painful knee, experienced a trembling in their leg and arm. Then the woman felt the pain leave her knee and the woman who laid hands on her felt the pain go up her arm and leave her body.

The woman immediately got up and went to bed sleeping very soundly. What a witness to the power of prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Keeping prayer in a position of priority is a spiritual necessity. Spirit-led churches engage in discipleship through study and reflection, and have an emphasis on seeking intimacy with God, using all spiritual disciplines as a means to experience God's grace. Discipleship, sometimes called spiritual formation, is important because as we grow closer in our relationship to Christ we become convicted and excited.

And let's face it when we are excited about something we want to share it with others. Do you know what the American Sign Language sign is for Methodist? (rubbing hands) This is the sign because it means enthusiasm, a hallmark of the Methodist movement.

It's in this excitement and enthusiasm that we begin to invite others to experience God, and before you know it the church is full, and most importantly God's kingdom is all the larger.

In other words we need to grow in faith to grow God's kingdom. If we take this slogan of ours to heart, and call upon the Holy Spirit to lead us, watch out, before to long this place will be on fire for Christ and we will be blessed.

The symbol of the United Methodist Church is unique and very meaningful. The cross stands for Jesus Christ… The flame stands for the Holy Spirit, and the flame also indicates the merger between the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church by the two branches of the flame.

But the cross and flame can be something more meaningful to us as individuals, and as Christians.

Certainly the cross stands for Jesus Christ, … and the flame stands for the Holy Spirit, but with the flame, I see the Holy Spirit as one branch and us as the other. Therefore, the flame becomes the Holy Spirit working in us to share the good news in Jesus Christ. We that follow Christ, the Light of the World, should ask Him to "set our hearts on fire," and to send forth His word so that we might tell the story. In that way we point people to the Savior, "the true light which gives light to every person coming into the world." (John 1: 9) Shine Jesus shine, what a blessing.

Napoleon once pointed to a map of China and said, "There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable."

Well today the American church, in general, is a sleeping giant. Many pews are filled with members doing nothing with their faith except keeping it. We can't simply be always here and utterly irrelevant. We must be in ministry and relevant to the community.

If we can ever awaken and unleash the massive talent, creativity, and energy found in the pews of all our churches, if we can mobilize the ministers in our midst, Christianity will catch like a wildfire and spread. Lives will be saved for Jesus Christ.

So what's stopping us?

We often times ask one another, "Why can't I win my friends to the Lord? Why is it that my family members don't seem the bit interested in God? The answer may shock you by its bluntness, and it's not pleasant to hear, but we all need to hear it.

A major reason people we know are not interested in the living God may be because we don't have enough of the presence of God in our life. Perhaps we are Sunday morning saints and Monday morning sinners. Perhaps we are in the spirit, but not filled with the spirit. Simply put, maybe we are not living with the Holy Spirit ablaze in our hearts.

There is something about the presence of God that makes everything else crumble in comparison. Without it we are just as pale and lifeless as everybody else around us. Think about it. Can't you tell when somebody is just filled with the spirit of God. You can see it, hear it, and you just know. No matter what we do without his presence, we are just another somebody to those around us.

I don't know about you but I am tired of just being another somebody to the lost around me. So I've made a decision.

I've made up my mind that I am going to pursue the presence of God like I never have before. I want the flame of God so bright within me, that God will be noticed by everyone I encounter in some way.

How about if we all become filled with the spirit and set this church ablaze so people want to come and know the living God as we do. Lets allow the power of God to invade our bodies, enlarge our mind, fill our soul, lift our spirit, and make us more than we ever imagined possible.

You know the power of God is incredible. The power of God can make you young when you're old, and it will make you live even when you die. The power of the Holy Spirit will disturb us, challenge us, delight us, deliver us, and lift us up.

When God sends forth the Holy Spirit the whole face of the earth is renewed. When God sent forth the Holy Spirit chaos was changed into creation. When God sent forth the Holy Spirit the Red Sea opened, creating a highway to freedom. When God sent forth the Holy Spirit a young woman said "yes," and Jesus was born.

When God sends forth the Holy Spirit miraculous things happen: Obstacles are overcome, Broken relationships are restored, Addictions are broken, Races are reconciled, Cities and towns are renewed, Disease is cured, The impossible becomes possible, Unity becomes reality, Hope is established, People are blessed, Lives are saved And the passion for Christ burns bright!

I encourage you to call upon the Holy Spirit to rekindle that flame within your heart. I encourage you to step aside and allow the Holy Spirit to step in and lead you. I encourage you to let go, and let God. And I encourage you to catch the flame of the Spirit and get on fire for Christ! God is up to something in this place, so open your hearts and be filled with the Holy Spirit!

Lets us pray God of wind, word, and fire, we bless your name this day for sending the light and strength of your Holy Spirit. We give thanks for all the gifts, great and small, that you have poured out upon your children.

Accept us with our gifts to be living praise and witness to your love throughout all the earth; through Jesus Christ, who lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade