Summary: God calls us today to go out in the power of his Spirit and preach the Gospel
In 1926, a wealthy Toronto lawyer named Charles Vance Millar died, leaving behind him a will that amused and electrified the citizens of his Canadian province. Millar, a bachelor with a wicked sense of humour, stated clearly that he intended his last will and testament to be an “uncommon and capricious” document. Because he had no close heirs to inherit his fortune, he divided his money and properties in a way that amused him and aggravated his newly chosen heirs. Here are just a few examples of his strange bequests:
He left shares in the Ontario Jockey Club to two prominent men who were well known for their opposition to racetrack betting.
He bequeathed shares in the O’Keefe Brewery Company (a Catholic beer manufacturer) to every Protestant minister in Toronto.
But his most famous bequest was that he would leave the bulk of his fortune to the Toronto woman who gave birth to the most children in the ten years after his death.
This clause in his will caught the public imagination. The country was entering the Great Depression. As people struggled to meet even their most basic economic responsibilities, the prospect of an enormous windfall was naturally quite alluring. Newspaper reporters scoured the public records to find likely contenders for what became known as The Great Stork Derby. Nationwide excitement over the Stork Derby built quickly.
In 1936, four mothers, proud producers of nine children apiece in a ten year time span, divided up the Charles Millar’s bequest, each receiving what was a staggering sum in those days -$125,000. Charles Millar caused much mischief with his will. This was his final legacy to humanity.
When Jesus of Nazareth left this earth, he bequeathed a different kind of legacy to his followers. He left his Holy Spirit - to comfort, to guide, to empower them to be all that God had called them to be. Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the church.
After the crucifixion the disciples had been afraid for their lives and locked the door of the upper room when they met together. Now they were afraid no longer. The coming of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples from fear to confidence. The Holy Spirit gave them the courage to go out into Jerusalem and to declare the resurrection of Jesus to a city whose people had so recently called for his death.
The Peter we read about Acts seems very different from the Peter of the Gospels. The Holy Spirit has refined and honed his good qualities and pared away the bad. The courage to speak out, for example, remained, but the words spoken are no longer impetuous and without thought, but cogent, considered and wise.
But he was still Peter. The Holy Spirit had not destroyed his essential self and replaced it with something new and alien. His basic personality remained the same, but had been refined and strengthened, so that he became closer not only to what God wanted him to be, but closer also to what he himself wanted to be.
Peter’s undoubted courage was demonstrated on several occasions in the Gospels, but while Peter trusted in his own strength, it inevitably let him down at the crucial time and led him to deny Jesus. This same courage, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, became infinitely dependable and sure.