By Word and Example

The Day of Pentecost
June 8, 2014
Acts 2:1-21

Now, you know Maggie and I are good Episcopalians. When we first started talking about how we were going to pray with Lydia, we immediately went to the Book of Common Prayer. We asked each other: what service are we going to read from the Prayer Book? Can you believe that? Actually, I know you can. And seriously, we had a discussion. Should we say Evening Prayer? Well, that’s kind of long. How about Compline? Well, that talks a lot about death. Seriously. We were hesitant to pray because we didn’t know which page to open in a book.

And I know it’s not just me. It’s deeply engrained in us. All I have to do is say, “The Lord be with you” and you say …

But let me tell you something straight: you don’t need a book to pray. You don’t need a book to tell people about Jesus. You do not need to have read the entire bible to be a good Christian. Because what matters is that you have received the Holy Spirit. Because our church has received the Holy Spirit.

Seriously. You have been given the Holy Spirit. Now I know – you probably didn’t experience a great rush of wind and a tongue of fire probably didn’t rest on your head like the story from Acts says. But I promise you – the Holy Spirit is within you. That’s what happened at your baptism. And that’s what happens every time you open your heart to the Lord Jesus in prayer, if you use your Book of Common Prayer or not.

And believe me, you don’t have to be some great biblical scholar to talk about Jesus and what God has done in your life. And you don’t have to be some holy person. Seriously. You don’t. All you need is the Holy Spirit, and you’ve already got that. 

Think about Peter. The same Peter who gets up in front of a crowd to tell everybody about Jesus, is the same Peter who denied Jesus before the crucifixion. This is the same Peter who was raised to be a fisherman. Peter never read the Bible, because there was no such thing as a bible then. Peter never read out of the Book of Common Prayer, because there wasn’t a Book of Common Prayer. But Peter had the Holy Spirit, and that’s what matters. It was the Holy Spirit that opened up his mouth to proclaim the good news of Jesus, and what Jesus had done for him.

When I’m getting at is this: you have the power within you to talk about Jesus. You don’t have to prepare some perfect speech. You don’t have to write a book about who God is. All you have to do is open your mouth, and talk about how God has changed your life. That’s it. And believe me, the Holy Spirit will give you the words you need.

And it’s time that we, specifically as Episcopalians, start talking about our faith. Openly and publicly. Without a book. Without a worship service. Look, this week, I was approached both by a Roman Catholic and a Mormon. They both told me that they knew I was a minister in another church, but that they wanted me to know what their faith meant to them. That’s the kind of boldness that we need. It’s time that we start articulating why we are here, and how God has changed our life. So I’ll start with me:

I’m here this morning because I love the Lord Jesus, and I know the Lord Jesus loves me. I am here to thank God for everything I’ve been given in this life – a beautiful family, a wonderful job – because it’s all a gift from God. And yes, God changed my life. I used to think it was all about me. But then, through the Church, I was given the chance to work in a run-down, state-operated nursing home on the poor side of Austin. The Holy Spirit popped my eyes open, and the Holy Spirit changed me for the better, and I learned that I’ve got to return the gift.

 I am here because I believe that God has big things in store for this church, and I believe that I am here to help make that happen. Those are the words the Holy Spirit has given me, and that’s why I’m here this morning.

So we are going to do something very un-Episcopal. And we are going to create Pentecost right here and right now. I am going to put my sermon on pause, and you are going to get up, and go to somebody else, and tell them why you’re here this morning. You don’t need a book or a bible. You’ve got the Holy Spirit. Then, if you have one, I want you to pull out your phone, take a selfie with the person you’re talking to, and put it up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram whatever. Show your friends who aren’t here why you’re here. And it’s all good, a bishop told me not only could I do this, but that I should do this. So it’s got an Episcopal stamp of approval. So let’s do it, let’s have a Pentecost moment:


You know how the story of Pentecost said there was the rush of a mighty wind. That just happened, because I heard all sorts of chatter. And you know how it said the Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak in different languages? That just happened too, because each one of us speaks a different language because we come from different places.

Now here’s the catch. Because Patrick and Bridgette are getting baptized in a few moments, we will be renewing our own baptismal vows. And pay attention to that one vow. “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” A lot of times we go straight for the example part. But I’m going to hold you accountable, you are making a promise to open your mouth and actually talk about what God has done in your life. You are making a solemn vow before God that you will be Pentecost. You are promising, to God, that you will tell other people why you go to church, and what God has done for you in your life.

And that brings us back to us as Episcopalians. See, we’ve got these three great books. They’re called the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Hymnal. When you are looking for the right words, when you’re looking for poetry, when you’re wondering how the Holy Spirit is going to give you what you need to say, you’ve already got the resources right there in front of you. You actually don’t have to make it up yourself. So yeah, Maggie, Lydia, and I do pray out of the Book of Common Prayer. And there’s nothing wrong with that. When I pray, a lot of times I’m singing out of the hymnal. Because I believe the Holy Spirit is there just as much as it’s here.

So it doesn’t matter how you talk about God in your life. It just matters that you talk about God in your life. Because it’s all from the Holy Spirit. So use your words. Proclaim the Good News of God in Christ. And then step back, and watch out, because here comes the Holy Spirit.

One thought on “By Word and Example

  1. And the Book of Common Prayer (this will surprise some folks) mentions the Holy Spirit on almost every page. How to share your love of Jesus? Take a deep breath (that’s call inspiration) and let it all out! Thanks for a great post, Jimmy.

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