The Day Of Pentecost: June 9, 2019
Year C, Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17, 25-27
There is no recording available for this sermon. Please read the text below.
Imagine you were part of the scene at Pentecost: The city of Jerusalem was teeming with tourists in town to offer the first fruits of their spring wheat Harvest. You are trying to get to the Temple, but you find it is crowded with other worshippers offering money and buying animals to be sacrificed. Like you these worshippers came to celebrate and give thanks to God for the harvest and the giving of the Law or Torah.
You hear a buzz among the people about this Jesus who 50 days earlier was said to have risen from the dead after being crucified at the hands of the Roman officials.
You weren’t in Jerusalem at the time, but maybe some of these other pilgrims who had come to town now had been present during that Passover time and witnessed the crucifixion or had heard him preach after he was resurrected.
You hope you find some of his disciples to talk to, for you have many questions about Jesus, who he was and what he did.
You keep asking everyone you met if anyone knows or met Jesus and, if not Jesus himself. From various people in the crowd, you are able to put together the basic story: Jesus was executed, was resurrected and spent fifty days with his followers. But now he is no longer here on earth but has ascended back to God in heaven.
Your belief is probably already a bit suspended. You’re already struggling with this when one of the bystanders invites you to join them and some others. You enter this room and note there are about 120 people there. Everyone is praying for “the Advocate” to come and guide them in whatever is coming next. This makes it even more complicated because you haven’t been there to hear Jesus proclaim about the advocate.
Suddenly, the room is filled with noise and light and heat and flame. The disciples, whom you have not even been introduced to, begin to speak in a cacophony of voices that fill blocks and blocks of the city with sound. To everyone’s amazement, amidst all this noise, people can hear testimony of God’s deeds of power, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Everyone hears this testimony in their own language.
One of the disciples tells you this must be the work of God’s Holy Spirit. This disciple was with Jesus and John the Baptist when Jesus was baptized. He left his fishing nets to follow Jesus. He tells you how Jesus told his followers that John baptized with water, but he promised they would soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and that is what is happening now.
Today is the feast of Pentecost when the church celebrates this gift of the Holy Spirit. One version of the Pentecost story is our lesson from the Book of Acts. The spirit alights on the apostles like tongues of fire and they are understood by everyone in their own languages, while the apostles preach the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit has always been regarded as the presence of God, here to guide us. But we are like Philip – we can’t see it, even when it is standing there staring at us in the face: “Lord, show us the Father.” “How long have you been with me Philip, and still you cannot see me?”, Jesus answered him. “This is the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
This is the reason that Pentecost is one of the chief days to baptize new Christians. We promise to raise the newly baptized up in the Christian faith and life. This is the promise and the reality of Jesus to us, to all of us.
But we have no cause to be complacent or to think that God abiding in us makes us or our decisions better than anyone else’s. The world, pre-occupied in serving self, cannot receive the Spirit because it does not see or know him. Too often the Church paradoxically becomes that world, preoccupied with fears and schemes, rather than the courage and love of Jesus Christ.
Nonetheless, the Spirit does guide us, in our weakness and our blindness. St. Paul says this, just a few verses later in his letter to the Romans following our epistle lesson for today: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
The Holy Spirit is not something superficial, nor is it something emotional; rather it is the power of God among us, between us and within each of us, guiding and healing us in his love.
There have been other manifestations of God’s Holy Spirit in the Bible before, besides just at creation. The spirit came to Moses on the mountaintop, and to Jesus at his transfiguration, just to name two instances.
The Spirit drove Jesus’ disciples out into the world and compelled them to spread the good news of what God is and was doing and the good news of the love of Jesus and the gift of new life in Christ.
The difference at Pentecost with the other manifestations of the Spirit is that the Spirit is here for everyone. Not just the disciples and other followers in that room, not just the believers, not just the holiest or the most faithful followers, not just those who witnessed his resurrection, but for everyone.
So, what does Pentecost mean for us here in the Shenandoah Valley in the 21st century? We come looking for Jesus, but he is not with us. As I said last week, I think we’re desperate for Jesus.
Well, I can tell you that same Spirit of God that sent those first disciples out to tell the good news is looking to inspire a rebirth within us.
Pentecost gives us a chance for us to think and pray about the possibilities the Spirit offers for our lives; to celebrate God’s love for us and for the world today.
We are at a crossroads in our life as a congregation, as a church.
In part because we are at a crossroads as a society. We can buy into the hate and/or complacency being peddled by so many. Or we can allow God’s Spirit to move among us – sometimes quietly, sometimes in a bold and awesome manner. In whatever way the Spirit comes to each of us, if we allow it, it will break down barriers, welcomes outsiders, reconcile the separated, and energize our sometimes, beleaguered spirits.
I’m going to end with a word is often used and abused by Christians, and yes, even by Episcopalians. God being at work in our lives in the world in our community means us being at work here and in our community. And that means “evangelism”.
Last week we had an opportunity to welcome two new people to Emmanuel’s bible study. How did they arrive there? Through Saint Andrew’s community lunch. Through the pamphlets put together by Melissa welcoming visitors to Beckford Parish. That’s evangelism folks – spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s embrace it.
God can and does speak to and through any of us. The Holy Spirit is doing amazing things here. I know and I continue to pray for God’s presence in our lives in the world and in the community.
On the first Pentecost, all, male and female, young and old, slave and free were invited to share in the blessing. And, they are not just invited to share in the blessing, they are expected to then dream and prophesy themselves. So, too, are we.
Let us continue to pray about how the Holy Spirit can best use you and me to be evangelists and spread the gospel and be open to the moving of that Spirit.
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