I remember as a candidate for ministry in Chicago in the 1980s hearing about a great sermon preached by United Methodist pastor Rev. Caroll Felton. It was a Pentecost sermon titled “The Church’s Finest Hour,” and it gave witness to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Based on Acts 2, the birth of the Church was experienced as a movement not to be stopped but fueled by the Holy Spirit. “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” (Acts 2:2-4 NIV). The last verse of Acts 2 ends with the people praising God and the body of believers growing in numbers.
The Wesley brothers, John and Charles, adhered to a doctrine of the Holy Spirit that was grounded in the Holy Trinity and a clear connection between Jesus, the son of God, and the sustaining power of the third person of the Trinity. “Receiving the Holy Spirit was synonymous with receiving Jesus Christ.” As Wesleyan scholar John Tyson writes, “The role of the Holy Spirit, also called The Spirit of Christ, was to make the ascended Jesus Christ present in the lives of his disciples.” This is what it means for us to say with assurance, “He will never leave us nor forsake us.”
We will gather at the 2019 Annual Conference in downtown Indianapolis in the season of Pentecost. We come with hopes and dreams, promises and problems. Glory sightings abound, if we pay attention, even as we acknowledge anxiety, anger, and the ambiguity of this time in United Methodism. The Promised Paraclete is given, and the comforter and sustaining the power of the Church is at work in and through us.
I believe that God’s grace has gone before us, and I believe that we should bring with us an eagerness to pray with and for one another and the world to which we give witness. Ask of the Holy Spirit to take our offering of this Annual Conference and prepare us to be bold witnesses in our Christian living and loving. Make us one in Christ as we celebrate from Water to Witness.
May we bring with us a generous financial offering that we might address the Opioid Crisis in concrete ways through two of our ministries in the Indiana Conference: Lucille Raines and Brianna’s Hope. May we engage in Christian Conferencing and electing of delegates who love Christ and the Church. May we share the current best practices of being missional in our communities and across the globe. May we listen to our Emerging Leaders and those who are often on the margins as we celebrate in worshipful work.
As we baptize and remember our baptism with water, may we be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Surprise us again, Lord! Give us a glimpse of the Church’s finest hour again.
A Hymn for the Day of Pentecost: “Come, Holy Spirit, Raise Our Songs” by Charles Wesley
Assembled here with one accord
Calmly we wait the promised grace,
The Purchase of our dying Lord
Come, Holy Ghost, and fill the place.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble