Day of Pentecost, year C (preached 5/15/16)
first reading: Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
second reading: Romans 8:14-17
gospel reading: John 14:8-17, 25-27
Pentecost is one of the oldest feast days we have in the Christian calendar. It was a Jewish holiday, commemorating the wheat harvest, and then became a festival celebrating the giving of the Torah by God to Moses. So when we read, “When the day of Pentecost had come…” we are getting a glimpse of the life not only of the baby church, but of the life of the Jewish community as well.
But after the giving of the Holy Spirit, “Pentecost” took on a new meaning. For us it is a day to remember the beginning of the apostles’ public ministry. It is a day to remember the outpouring of the promised Holy Spirit. It is a joyous day. We get out the red paraments, we get out our red clothes (and in my case even my red shoes!), but other than saying, “Yeah! It’s Pentecost!” What does this day mean?
It’s Pentecost. So what?
Do we celebrate this day just to remember some even of long ago, with no connection to our life of faith now? If so, then that’s a shame. If so, it’s like celebrating something that’s dead.
Each generation, indeed each one of us as Christians, is called to find meaning RIGHT NOW in these events. For what good does it do us to celebrate Pentecost, or Christmas, or Easter, if they have no meaning for us in the here and now.
On Tuesday at pastor’s Bible study, we spent a lot of time talking about this. It’s a HUGE part of our life of faith – indeed what makes it a “living” faith as the pastor prays in the communion liturgy – to find meaning for ourselves in these old events.
So how do we find meaning in Pentecost? How do we connect the dots between this 1st century happening and our 21st century lives?
Don’t feel bad if you can’t immediately answer these questions. In fact, maybe at one point in your life you had them answered perfectly, but now you wonder. That’s okay, because even our biblical forefathers and mothers wondered, pondered and questioned.
Peter had to work hard to explain how the Holy Spirit was working that day of Pentecost – as we read that some were amazed and perplexed, while others were sneering. Our psalmist is praising God for creation, but also contemplating the meaning of creatures like the sea monster, Leviathan. (I often wonder about the mosquito!) Paul, in our second reading, is exploring what it means to be “children of God” and how the Spirit joins us to God.
In our gospel reading, Jesus had just shared his now famous words about there being many rooms in the Father’s house, and that “From now on you do know [the Father] and have seen him.” But Philip is unsure. He needs more. “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
If our biblical forefathers and mothers wondered, pondered and questioned, then it’s more than alright for us to do as well. So – back to my questions. How do we find meaning in Pentecost? How do we connect the dots between this 1st century happening and our 21st century lives?
Peter used the prophet Joel’s “old” words to help HIM and the crowd understand what was happening in THEIR present. We too can use these “old” words in front of us to help US find meaning in, or understand, OUR present.
Jesus tells us quite a bit about the Holy Spirit in our gospel for today. He calls the Holy Spirit “another Advocate.” This Advocate he also calls the “Spirit of truth” who abides with us and IN us. Jesus also tells us the Holy Spirit will “teach” us and “remind” us.
These things were true then, and they are true now. Pentecost didn’t just happen 2,000 years ago. Pentecost is happening today, among us, WITH us and IN us through Holy Baptism.
YOU and I “HAVE” the Holy Spirit within us, the spirit of God, the spirit of truth, through whom we are adopted children of God.
This Holy Spirit, OUR Holy Spirit, is WITH and IN us as individuals and as a community to teach us and help us remember.
The Holy Spirit may not manifest itself over our heads with flames, and many times we don’t realize the Spirit’s work in the present. For me, it’s usually in retrospect that I can see how the Spirit was indeed working in my life. So just because we may not “feel” it sometimes doesn’t mean it’s not there. Jesus promised us the Spirit, and he doesn’t break promises.
So the Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us – the Holy Spirit LEADS us. St. Paul says this much in our second reading, “For all who are led by the Spirit…” He goes on to say that since we are led by this spirit we “are children of God,” that we “have received a spirit of adoption.”
When someone is adopted, it is almost always initiated by a parent motivated through love. Adoption is also a legally binding contract,just as meaningful as being a birth parent. In fact, just two weeks ago in the tv show “Grey’s Anatomy” there was a custody battle, and the ADOPTIVE parent won over the birth parent.
God has made a covenant with us that we can never fully describe or understand – this covenant of adoption through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and in Holy Baptism that makes us God’s children – and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, poured out on those first disciples, and poured out on you and me.
It’s Pentecost. So what? I’ll tell you what.
Today is a day to celebrate God’s promise to you and me NOW, that God is with us JUST as powerfully as God was with those first disciples.
Praise God! The Holy Spirit is WITH, IN and AMONG us still – teaching, reminding and leading us, all our days.