May 28, 2023
Festival of Pentecost
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen
There’s a cartoon that became popular a few years ago
that still crops up every now and then.
It’s a single image of two people walking along a street
talking to one another
and the caption reads
“My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.”
speaking to the anxiety
that arises when the news,
from whatever source you get it,
appears particularly bleak.
And there have been times when for the sake of sanity
I have needed to reduce my news consumption
but I do try to be informed
on what’s happening in the world.
Lately it seems like there has been story after story
about movements where it’s not enough
for people to take a break for themselves
from whatever story or idea is troubling them
but they feel that they must prevent others
from hearing and telling these stories and ideas
which are often about the lives of historically marginalized people.
Books and other forms of media are being banned,
legislative bodies are passing laws
about what can and mostly cannot be taught
and all this is generally being done
with the goal of making only one narrative available,
the overall message seems to be
‘there’s only one way to understand life,
and it is our way’
there is no room for a diversity of peoples in this world view,
one the often uses religious beliefs as justification for these actions.
And yet today in the church
we celebrate Pentecost,
the festival, where God lifts up a multitude of voices,
and uses them to create a larger, more diverse community.
We heard in our first reading from Acts
the story of the first Pentecost,
where the disciples of Jesus,
a small group of Galileans,
are gathered together
and suddenly from heaven there comes a sound
like the rush of wind filling the entire house,
and then tongues, as of fire
appear over each one,
and they begin to speak in other languages.
And we don’t hear them leaving the house
where they were gathered
but at some point they spill out into the street
and the sound like the roaring wind
and the multitude of languages
causes such a commotion
that a crowd gathers
and are astonished when they hear the disciples
speaking not in the Aramaic of Galilee
but in the Greek, and Egyptian, and Arabic, and Mesopotamian,
and all the other languages represented in the crowd.
It’s important to note here
that all of these people have come to Jerusalem
to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost,
fifty days after the Passover,
it’s a harvest festival
where the people are bringing the first fruits of the harvest
to offer to God at the temple,
trusting that there will be more harvest to come.
Diversity in the believers of the God of Abraham is not new.
What is new is the message about Jesus Christ
and God’s deeds of power wrought in and through him.
And now the gathered people are hearing about these deeds of power
in a miraculous way
and we hear that some ask
“what does this mean?”
while others dismiss the disciples as drunk,
and then we get Peter’s famous sermon
where he responds,
pointing out that it’s only nine in the morning
and besides this is the fulfillment of what was spoken through the prophet Joel,
the pouring out of the spirit on all flesh,
and he quotes the prophet who describes what “all” means
including naming those frequently left out of spiritual proclamation,
the young, daughters and slaves both men and women.
God’s saving agenda has always contained
an ever widening audience,
a variety of people blessed by the spirit
not in spite of who they are
but because of who they are.
Our God is a God
who is continually welcoming and bringing more people in,
who does so by crossing the boundaries that have been set in place
to determine who is in and who is out
one of us
or one of those people
We see Jesus do this in our gospel for the day,
we’re taken back to the first Easter evening
where the disciples have gathered together
in a house and locked the doors out of fear
- they are afraid that the same thing that happened to Jesus might happen to them-
so they’ve gathered together and locked the doors,
created a firm boundary between themselves and the rest of the world.
And what happens?
Jesus comes and stands among them.
Jesus crosses the boundary set by their fear,
And offers them peace.
Twice he gives them his peace and then
He gifts them with the Spirit.
He offers them peace because they are scared
and the spirit because there is more work to do.
the disciples are given the gift of the spirit
for the sake of continuing the work of Jesus,
the work of crossing boundaries
and welcoming more people into the peace of Christ,
the first thing Jesus tells the disciples
after giving them the spirit
is that they have the power to forgive.
The spirit is given
and the work of the spirit begins with forgiveness,
the community will expand
as relationships are repaired,
relationships that have been broken
as stories have been rejected as too different
and lines drawn labeling some people as in and some as out.
This is the work the disciples are to continue
That we are charged with at our own baptisms
the work of Jesus
who again and again crossed barriers
offering peace, forgiveness, belonging
and the gift of the spirit for the betterment of all
to a wide variety of people.
And the spirit continues to work in this same way,
As we heard in our reading from 1 Corinthians
the gift of the spirit manifests differently in each person
and the community needs each of these gifts,
“for just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
The spirit is what unites us,
not speaking the same language
or all acting exactly the same way
or even understanding the world from the same view point,
In fact the gift of the spirit
is that there are multiple languages
and ways to pray and serve
and understand the good news of Jesus Christ.
Today we celebrate the gift of the spirit,
the spirit that calls us out of our places of comfort,
out of our places of fear,
into the world
where there is a diversity of people
we are called out to share in the spirit
and with one another the gifts the spirit has given to each of us,
spreading the peace and forgiveness of Christ
to an ever widening community,
a community united in the spirit. Amen