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May 28, 2023

Festival of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:24-35

1 Corinthians 12:3-13

John 20:19-23

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.”[1]

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,

celebrates them

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,

and interestingly,

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

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