Summary: What God intends us to be. A Sermon for the Day of Pentecost
When I was in the Army in the 1950’s, our whole platoon was taken out on to the Rifle range for the first time. The idea was that you laid on the ground with your rifle. Pointed it at the target, and pulled the trigger - and bang and away would go the bullet right to the very centre of the target - the bulls eye (Does anyone know why it`s called a bull`s eye - not a cow eye, or a cats eye - or a frog`s eye for that matter?).
Well there I was doing what I was told. I got down 250 yards away from the target, took aim and fired - and what do you think happened? There was a spurt of dirt about 200 yards in front of me. The sergeant came up to me and said very gently, "Eric, Dear Eric, I think you`ve made a tiny little mistake!"..... well that`s not exactly what he said - I don`t think I`d better tell you exactly what he said - but you get the drift of it anyway.
He looked down at my rifle and said, "You need to raise your sights, dear boy" or words to that effect - so that`s what the trouble was. I`d forgotten that there was a foresight and a back sight to the rifle, and that the backsight needs to be raised and set at the exact distance to the target before you stood a chance of hitting the bull.
As you can see, I`ve never forgotten my first experience of being home, home on the range. But what`s this got to do with our faith - and particularly, as it`s Pentecost or Whit Sunday today, what`s it got to do with Pentecost?
Well if you look at the Bible it tells you that all of us have sinned or fallen short of the glory of God - all of us! And the Greek word which is translated as sin is a word that the Greeks used of target practice - when an arrow was fired at a target, if it fell short or missed the bull, they used a word which can be translated as "missed the mark" to describe the gap between dead centre and what was actually achieved. And St. Paul tells us that we have ALL MISSED THE MARK - EVERY LAST ONE OF US. There is a great gap, a great falling short, between what we are and what God intended us to be, even for the the Pope, the Archbishop and Canterbury, the President of the Methodist Conference, Mother Teresa and any of the great spiritual leaders you can think of - and if it`s true for them (and they would be the first to admit that it is true of them!), then how much more true is it for us.
In fact there`s only one Person who has ever lived, who has lived in a way that you could say "He hit the bull dead centre - and He did it every time" - and that`s Jesus.
But the strange and wonderful and powerful and exciting thing is that when God sent Jesus down to earth He sent Him as a blue print for humanity - it was as if He was saying, "Look at Jesus. See what He`s like. See how He acts. Well that`s what dead centre is like. And that`s how I intend you to be - that`s how I intend you act".
Now when we do this - when we look at Jesus and compare our lives with His - the tempation is to get depressed and say "I could never be like that" - and yet when you look at the New Testament and especially the Acts of the Apostles, you will see ordinary men and women just like you and me, being like Jesus and acting like Jesus, just as God promised...... and the reason is the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the Day of the great Party, God poured out His Spirit on anyone who would receive Him, and changed them, raised their sights, raised their expectations so that they became more and more like Jesus.
It was as if Jesus had died, and was raised from the dead, and vanished from the sight, but then re-appeared in the lives of the 12, then the 120, then the 3,000 then the 500, and spread and spread like wildfire as the truth of His great message hit home - "Jesus is alive, and He lives in me. Jesus is alive and He lives in you. Jesus is alive and He lives..... in usand among us." And what was true then, of course, is true today. Where the Spirit of Jesus is truly present in a person or in a group of the people we call the Church, you can expect to see the life and the works of Jesus being lived out all obver again - the love, the joy, the passion and exhuberance, the party like atmosphere of the church gatherings, and in addition the signs, and miracles and healings..... all of them present here and now and just as powerful as they were 2,000 years ago, if not more so.