Last Sunday in Sunday School we were praying for some of the children to receive the Holy Spirit. As it was Pentecost we were looking at the story of when the early church were first baptised in the Holy Spirit. After briefly telling them of my own experience I gave the children the opportunity to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is now thirty years since I first experienced the Holy Spirit. In a small Pentecostal prayer meeting I began to speak in a language that I had never learnt. I didn’t really understand what I was getting into. To tell the truth I didn’t even believe everything I was told about it at the time. But the result of this experience was one of overflowing joy and a desire that everyone could experience this too.
There wasn’t any mighty rushing wind or fire but I would see my experience as similar to what happened to the early church at Pentecost. Of course not everyone’s encounter with the Holy Spirit should be a carbon copy of mine but I do believe that God wants to fall on all his followers in a special way. The Bible calls this the ‘receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit’. Being a gift it is freely given. As believers all we need to do is ask and keep on asking.
In a way receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit opens wide the door to moving in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And I believe we can express these gifts very naturally as part of our authentic relationships with each other. Gratitude is a natural response to receiving a gift. And gratitude often results in generosity. If we are invited to someone’s house for a meal we may take a bottle of wine and on a later date invite them to ours. We may even copy our host’s role model and start inviting others into our home.
Over the years I have come to realise that exchanging gifts like this is a mark of the Spirit at work. Whatever God gives us we pass on. It is what we as Christians do. The Spirit inspires us to become more like Jesus to other people. We serve each other and we serve the world.
So whenever Christians gather it is an opportunity to exchange gifts. This may mean praying for each other or speaking God’s word to each other. But it actually involves far more. We share our lives together. We share food. We share our possessions and even our money when the need arises. There are many gifts we can bring to each other both inside and outside of our worship gatherings - our time, our energy. We just need to ask God and to think more creatively.
Thirty years ago I received this gift of the Holy Spirit and God enabled me to begin to give to others in a way that I'd never really done before. Last Sunday I had the chance to give these children an opportunity to receive this gift too. My prayer is that as a result God's giving will be multiplied through them.