Sermon for Pentecost Sunday May 20, 2018
Jesus said to his disciples, ”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Today we are celebrating the feast of Pentecost – the feast of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Like last week today is a day I would love to rearrange the readings so that the gospel reading from John came before the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The reading from John is from Jesus’ farewell discourse. He is telling the disciples that he will be leaving them. That Jesus will be leaving this fragile earth and going back to the God Head. Taking the humanity that walked among us back to the Love that created the universe.
But I doubt the disciples where too thrilled to be promised a future gift. Jesus’ active ministry was too short. It could not be time for him to leave already. There was, and is, more work to be done to bring God’s dream of Love to all corners of this earth. Jesus also tells them, and again tells us today, that there are many things about God that we need to know but that we can’t bear to hear right now. That when the advocate comes she will open our eyes to things about God that are more wonderful and more awe filled than we can imagine. To open our eyes Jesus promised that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would come to be will us.
Just a quick note. When I use a pronoun for the Holy Spirit I use the feminine “Her” or “She” instead of the male pronoun. I do this for several reasons. One is that God is not male – or female - but we can’t figure out how to express that in
Human language. We know that, in part, because in Genesis we hear that God created humans in the likeness of God, male and female God created us. Secondly in my interactions with the Holy Spirit she reminds me of the spirit described in the Book of Wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures. In that book the Spirit of Wisdom that existed before and at the time of creation is referred to as feminine. Wisdom is female in the Hebrew Scriptures.
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear the story of the coming of the Spirit to Jesus’ inner group of followers. After Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension the disciples have been going fishing, and huddling in a locked room for fear that they would be next on the cross. So in this locked room they have been both hiding and waiting. Waiting for Jesus to appear post resurrection, which he did several times. And waiting for the gift of the advocate.
And when she came it was in a way that they could not miss. The room shuddered, a strong wind blew through the room and she alighted on the disciple as we heard, “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” And she blew the locked door off its hinges and drove the disciples out to the people. Just as she drove Jesus out into the wilderness after his baptism by John she drove them out into a wilderness that they had been fearing. She drove the disciples out into a wilderness of their society to preach the good news of the Risen Christ, the good news that the Love that was hung on the cross was not dead but was and is alive. She drove them to preach to the Good News of repentance, salvation, and love to the ends of the world.
That is the feast that we are celebrating today. I fear however that we try to tame this feast. We decorate our churches in red, we encourage our parishioners to wear red to remind us of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire. But the Holy Spirit will not be tamed!
It is appropriate to remember the Spirit as fire – because fire is unpredictable. Fire can be tame – like the fire we light in our candles, or fire can be wild and destructive as in wildfires or in the fire of lava spewing forth from the volcano in Hawaii. But even when fire appears to be destructive it is also creative. Certain plants require fire to scorch their seeds before they can germinate. The fiery lava creates new land that in time will support a new ecosystem.
So it is for us. If we but let the Holy Spirit into our lives we will be driven out of our comfortable places to a place of creative disruption. She will open our eyes to the truth that we don’t want to hear. She will open our hearts to the Love of all of creation which is the dream of God. If we open our being to Gods Spirit we will be changed. And just like the disciples in our lesson from the Acts of the Apostles we will be driven into the public square to preach the Good News of God’s love to a society that more and more seems to operate out of place of fear. Into a society that perpetuates injustice and oppression. We will be driven to proclaim that God desires nothing more than that we Love God with our being and Love all, and I do mean all, all of our fellow travelers on this fragile earth.
We celebrate and invoke the Holy Spirit at our own peril. For She will not be contained in our churches. She will not be tamed like the flame of our candles. When we open ourselves to her presence we will be changed. We will be driven to change the world and call out the injustice and oppression that exists in our world.
Today is also the liturgical anniversary of me celebrating my first Mass as a priest. I was ordained on the eve of Pentecost in 2015. The end of one journey – the journey towards ordination and the beginning of another journey. A journey that invites the Holy Spirit into my life – which is a scary thing to do!
At my ordination Dr. Susanna Singer – my advisor from seminary – preached a sermon about the Holy Spirit. In her sermon she reminded us that it is at our own peril that we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives.
In her sermon Dr. Singer said: “I think the novelist and poet Annie Dillard got it right when she said:
“On the whole, I do not find Christians sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
So be ready. Get our your crash helmets. I know from the experience the Holy Spirit of God will pursue you. She will continually call you out of your comfortable lives to live a God centered life. She will continually call us to help bring God’s dream of redemptive Love of all of creation to this earth. When you open your heart to God your life will be changed, and you will be driven to help usher in the New Jerusalem. A land where God’s love of all creation is the way of the world.