Some Things the Spirit Can Do
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

June 3, 2018

Luke 1:39-57

Some Things the Spirit Can Do
Luke 1:39-57

Grace and Peace to you this morning.  Grace and Peace.

We know how life is supposed to be.  Good people have good stuff happen to them.  Bad people have bad stuff happen to them.  So if bad stuff happens to people, we wonder and speculate, “what did they do to deserve that?”  And when good stuff happens, we say, “Wow, you must have been really good.”

So, when we have things like working electricity, and running water, and access to good medical care, it must be because we are good right?

And when so many Puerto Ricans have no electricity, or intermittent service at best, and no running water, and the hospitals are barely functional, and the death toll from the hurricane is 70 times the official number, it must be because they are bad right?

We know that these things have more to do with policies and privilege and politics than whether people are good or bad, but the default assumption we start with seems to be good people get good, bad people get bad.

So what about Elizabeth and Mary?

Here’s what we know about Elizabeth:

“In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.”

Zechariah and Elizabeth are upright and blameless and yet they have no children.  God rewards people who are good with good things, and children are seen as a great good, surely a couple who want children, who are good and righteous and holy, should have children.

What are the chances that someone has whispered about them?

What are the chances that someone has questioned how good they have really been if they have not been rewarded by God?

But they receive a promise.  While Zechariah was serving in the Temple, he was visited by an angel:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.  You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

This is one of the things that the Holy Spirit can do.  It can bring the promises of God.

We know this about Mary:

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary….  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.”

She was a young woman of childbearing age but had not ever had sex.

But she had received a promise.  And a pregnancy.

And now, the aging and barren Elizabeth and the virgin Mary, stand before each other, pregnant.  This is something the Holy Spirit can do: the impossible on behalf of God.

The Holy Spirit can bring God’s promises.

The Holy Spirit can bring the answer to God’s promises.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up, people speak.

Filled with the Holy Spirit

·        John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. (Remember, before he was born he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit.)
·        His mother, Elizabeth, shouts to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
·        Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, speaks a prophecy.
·        The Disciples at Pentecost speak in all the languages.
·        Filled with the Holy Spirit, people can speak the truth in the midst of a world of lies.

And when the Holy Spirit brings the promises of God to fruition, the Holy Spirit opens our voices in praise:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to
his descendants forever.”

Experience the trust in God’s promises because of the promises already fulfilled in our lives!

The Holy Spirit can bring us God’s promise to be with us in the midst of pastoral transitions and search committees and goodbyes and hellos and whatever changes we are facing.

The Holy Spirit can bring the answer to God’s promises, in whoever becomes part of the search committees, and whoever God is calling to be the pastor of First Congregational Church of Charlotte, United Church of Christ.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up, people speak.  They pray.  They praise.

Thanks be to God.