Acts 2;1-11/John 20, 19-23
4 June 2017
“Take my lips, oh Lord, and speak through them; take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Jesus said: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this he breathed on them and said to them, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.” All these years later and we receive that life-giving, life-changing gift too, part of our inheritance as daughters and sons of God. So, let’s exercise our holy imaginations today. Can you, in your imagination at least, inhabit that day of Pentecost so long ago? Jesus’ followers had gathered in Jerusalem to worship, it was, after all a festival day, Pentecost. They had come together bringing what they needed for their table worship. Maybe there were some olives and fish, there was certainly bread and wine. They lit the candles and said the prayers. Someone read from their scriptures and another commented on what they had read. Then, all of a sudden, and boy were they surprised, the room was filled with a rushing wind. Tongues as of flame appeared and rested on each of them. Power, sheer power, filled the air and they began to speak, each of them in a different language. It was pandemonium. And it attracted quite a crowd. What’s going on, someone asked. What does it mean? A few exclaimed, “we can each hear what they are saying as though they are speaking in our own language!” Others said, and I can hear the disgust in their voice, they must be drunk. (those Galileans you know, can’t trust ‘em) Then Peter spoke up. We are not drunk, he said, this is not the result of new wine, we have been filled up with the Holy Spirit. He was referring, of course, to what the prophet Joel had said when he spoke of how the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all humankind. And so here we are today, celebrating what has come to be known as the very beginning of Christianity as a separate religion. Here we are remembering, and in some way reenacting, hopefully re-experiencing, that moment of awareness of God doing a profoundly new thing, because, of course, it all happened so long ago, 2000 years and a little bit. That new thing has become old hat to us. Sort of like Christmas and Easter, though our culture hasn’t yet seized this day, prettied it up, and turned it into a profit-making enterprise. Oh yes, we do have special decorations and we sing hymns that remind us of the power of the Holy Spirit. But, really, beneath the skin, it is business as usual on Sunday morning. We have just what we’ve come to expect in our worship service with no real surprises and no real power either. Doesn’t it, just once in a while, feel kind of like a wedding dress, neatly cleaned and folded into a display box, kept on a shelf to be taken out on an anniversary and admired, a memento of a life changing event. What if (and yes, I am asking you to use that holy imagination of yours) what if this morning, when it comes time to respond to the Gospel with the Nicene Creed, suddenly this place was filled with the sound of rushing wind, what if tongues of flame appeared and began touching down on each one of us? What then? What would happen? Would we try to keep it quiet and covered up? After all, can you imagine what would happen if the Monroe Evening News got hold of the story? What would the Bishop have to say then? Never mind what our neighbors might say. I can just hear them: Oh those Episcopalians, this is what comes of using real wine for communion. Perhaps it would be better to push it away and not speak of it again lest G-od’s wild, exuberant, and Holy power overtake us, acting in and through us to bring God’s Holy presence into our world. Here’s the thing. We say that God came among us in the person of Jesus, we even call him Messiah, Christ, because of God’s great love for us. You know, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” God saw our weakness and our need and reached out to us in love. And guess what, that need still exists. People are still trapped, held prisoner, held in bondage, to depression, and addiction, and above all to loneliness. People are still locked in prisons of need as strong as any set of iron bars. Increasingly it seems we are alienated from one another by our differences, living in fear and frustration.
"Peace be with you [Jesus said]. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this he breathed on them and said to them, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.” What are we to do? Should we, CAN we, just shrug and say, well Pentecost (or Easter or Christmas), it all happened a long time ago, we have it right here in our holy book. But, of course, stuff like that doesn’t really happen anymore, and besides, isn’t that kind of work a job for the experts? Still, I have to wonder, what could happen if we asked a different question? What if we asked might it happen again, right here? And what would it look like if it did happen again, right here, today? No. I don’t mean actual wind and fire and each one of us miraculously able to speak a foreign language because, of course, if we wait for God to repeat what happened back then, well, we will wait in disappointment for a pretty long time. I am reminded of a woman I know who always expects to be disappointed, to be hurt, to be rejected. And guess what. She always gets just what she expects. So. Use that holy imagination of yours. What could an outpouring of the Holy Spirit look like in terms of your life, in terms of the life of this church? Could it look like increased prayer time, maybe learning to pray in new ways, ways you’re are not accustomed to? Could it look like committing reading the Bible and learning more about scripture? Could it look like finding new ways to serve God in others, reaching out to mend broken relationships or to make new ones, overcoming differences and accepting people as they are rather than expecting them to become just like us? Could it involve openness to new kinds of ministry because, yes, God does call each and every one of us to ministries that make use of the gifts we have been given. Keep your eyes open, use that holy imagination. The skies the limit when we expect God to do a new thing, a fresh and Holy thing, in and through us. God has promised that the Holy Spirit will be poured out abundantly on every single one of us. The Holy One is already doing a new thing. Remember what Jesus said; “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. God has promised that the Holy Spirit will be poured out abundantly on every single one of us. The Holy One is already doing a new thing. Remember what Jesus said; “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this he breathed on us and said to us, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.” Don’t fall asleep and miss the richness, the sweetness, the sheer power and beauty of new life, life lived in the power of the Spirit. Instead take your gift and go out into the world rejoicing in the Spirit’s power and sharing God’s love everywhere you go. Amen
My thanks to Rev. Marshall A. Jolly whose sermon posted in Sermons that work, Pentecost 2014, sparked my thinking and got me writing this Pentecost.