June 5, 2022
Genesis 11:1-9 Psalm 104:25-35, 37 Acts 2:2-21 John 14:8-27
Pentecost. The feast of Pentecost marks both the end of our Easter season and the beginning of the Christian Church. Some churches even celebrate it with a birthday cake. In our gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples he is going away to his Father and he tells them to keep his commandments, then says:
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Jesus is preparing them for what is to come, after his betrayal, death, and resurrection.
So, in the Acts of the Apostles, after all these things have happened and after Jesus ascends into heaven, the apostles return to Jerusalem to wait, as instructed, for “the promise of the Father.” Today’s reading, then, is of this promise being fulfilled and it takes place on the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. As people are gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate God’s gift of the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, God gives to the apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as Moses carries God’s Commandments to the people, Peter carries the good news of Jesus Christ to the people that day.
His message of Christ’s love can be heard and understood, even by the Jews from every nation under heaven. They are amazed because they each hear the message in their native language. I suggest it is because the language of love is universal and the message of Jesus is a message of love. It is a message of forgiveness, of redemption, and of new life. It is the message that the light of Christ will guide us along the path that leads to life and that God’s love will triumph the evil and darkness that, at this point in history, today, may fills our hearts with fear.
Fear is not the gift of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus dies upon the cross, his followers hide in fear. With all that is happening in our nation and our world today, it is tempting to do as his disciples were doing – to hide. What Jesus promises to his disciples; however, he promises to us.
After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter and all the apostles, began sharing the Good News despite repeated warnings from those in authority, those who say it was not appropriate to tell others about Jesus. We, as Episcopalians, don’t like to tell others about Jesus because we don’t want to be pushy, we don’t want others to think we are being judgmental of anyone who doesn’t believe as we do – we prefer to speak by example.
The church is born on Pentecost because the fear in the hearts of the disciples is replaced by the love of God, it is filled with the Holy Spirit. The commandments that Moses brings down from the mountain are a gift from God to teach the people how to get along and live in faith. The gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost changes people’s hearts and teaches them to follow a new commandment – to love one another as Christ loves us.
In this time in our nation, this message is the one that needs to be heard. Not only do news stations seek to divide us, Facebook posts are often disrespectful of people whose views are different from our own. Facebook posts and bumper stickers can be divisive. Today more than anytime I can remember in life, we need to share God’s love and respect even as we present our opinions.
When I began my ministry here five years ago, I shared with you a plate my mother-in-law gave to us when I entered into the discernment process to become a priest. It said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your future plans.” It certainly has been true in my life. If anyone would have told me in high school that I would one day be a priest in Batesville, Arkansas I would have laughed. I would have laughed if I had been told that in college or when I first started working in healthcare. But here I am. My life has been transformed by the Holy Spirit and it continues to be transformed.
How is God shaping your life? Are you fighting it as I did for many years? I believe we are all called by God to share the good news of God’s love for each of us. There are many ways we can do this, and more than enough opportunities. On Tuesday evening we will remember those who died in the Robb Elementary shooting. On Wednesday we will demonstrate God’s love for others by feeding whoever comes to our Community Meal. On Saturday we will show our support and love for the LGBTQIA community at the PRIDE celebration on Main Street. What other ways can we show God’s love to others?
The saying on our plate, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your future plans,” can also be applied to what we believe to be the solutions to our nation’s problems: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him how we will fix the problems of gun violence, eliminate the threats of the pandemic, curb inflation, keep our children safe, eliminate poverty . . .”
I believe we all want these things – but none of us have THE ANSWER. What we do have is a commandment to love one another as Christ loves us – which also means we are to work together and never stop trying to change things for the better. To work together requires us to respect one another, to listen to one another, to find common ground, and to affirm one another. It also requires to do as Jesus does and never give up. We are all called to work to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth as it is heaven.
Even filled with God’s love we may be discouraged, disappointed, and hurt as we see others hurt and forced to do without what is needed to support life. We need not, however, live in fear because in our hearts we will know that the love of God is more powerful than death. Ultimately, God’s love will win.
Let us pray.
Loving God, fill us with your Spirit that we might work for peace in our community, in our nation, and in our world. Help us to live without fear and to work to establish your kingdom here on earth as it in heaven. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.