A sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost
A sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost
A sermon for the First Sunday after Pentecost
Happy Pentecost! Pentecost is one of the three most important festivals in the church year: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Christmas celebrates the incarnation of God in this world in the person of Jesus Christ. Easter celebrates his resurrection from the dead. And Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, empowering them to go out into the world and be the Church. We tend to think about the first two as being about Jesus and this one being about the Spirit. Though, the reality is that the Holy Spirit is moving through all three of them.
For instance, at Christmas, while we are all focused on the the cute baby in the manager, it is the Holy Spirit working to make it all possible. At the annunciation, when Mary objected to the impossibility of this pregnancy, the Angel Gabriel said that it was the Holy Spirit that was going to make the incarnation possible. The Holy Spirit makes Christmas happen. With God, all things are possible, because the Holy Spirit makes things possible.
At Easter, we are rightly focused on Christ being raised from the dead, but it was the Holy Spirit bringing Christ up from the dead. We heard in our first lesson today that powerful vision from Ezekiel of resurrection, a lesson we normally hear at the Easter Vigil, the first service of Easter, the first service of the Resurrection, but it is also rightly read today because it is a reading about the Spirit. In this vision that Ezekiel experienced, it says that the bones were raised, but they had no life, until the breath came into them. In Hebrew, the word breath is ruach, which is also the word for Spirit. It was the Spirit that brought about the resurrection. The Spirit is the Breath of God working in the world, bringing life where there was no life. As true for the vision of Ezekiel as it was for Jesus’ at the first Easter: It is the Holy Spirit bringing about resurrection.
And then, of course, today, we all know that today is all about the Spirit, as the Holy Spirit comes down like a rushing wind, and lights on the disciples like fire, empowering them as we heard about in the reading from Acts. And this amazing thing happens: Everyone begins to understand the message, despite all of their linguistic and cultural differences. The Holy Spirit is working to make sure people understand each other across their differences. The Holy Spirit doesn’t erase their differences, the Holy Spirit builds bridges across their differences so that the Good News can be heard and understood. The Holy Spirit brings this vision, not of unity through erasing difference, but of a unity across those differences. Each person staying the way that God made him or her, but the Holy Spirit working to bring understanding across the divide.
That same Spirit that brought Jesus into the world, that same Spirit that brought Jesus up from the dead, is the same Spirit now pouring out onto the disciples, sending them out into the world to bring the Good News of God’s love to a broken world. So, all three of these festivals are linked to the Holy Spirit; they are all festivals of the Spirit. But they are all also Festivals of the Body of Christ. For while we celebrate God being born in a body at Christmas, and we celebrate that body being raised on the third day at Easter, on Pentecost, the disciples are sent out in to the world to be the Body of Christ. Christ’s body born at Christmas, raised at Easter, is now sent into the world through us. All of which is made possible... by the Holy Spirit.
A few weeks ago, we had a baptism here at St. Mary’s. And as we blessed the water, we said those words that we always say: “We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water…” And we retell the story of salvation through the lens of water, talking about the Spirit moving over the waters at the beginning of creation. And we talk about the children of Israel moving through waters out of their slavery and again moving through waters into the Promised Land. And we talk about Jesus’ own baptism in the River Jordan. We offer our gratitude to God for the baptismal waters, in which we are buried with Christ in his death, by which we share in his resurrection, and through which we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Reborn by the Holy Spirit. Pentecost teaches us that the same Spirit that came down upon Jesus at his baptism and declares Jesus as God’s beloved Son, comes upon us and declares us to be God’s beloved children as well.
Reborn. Given new birth. New life. In the Spirit. The German theologian, Jürgen Moltmann compares this new spiritual birth with our original physical birth. He says of when a child is born: “Life begins, the senses awaken. The child opens its eyes and sees the light. It begins to breath, and feels the air. It cries, and hears the sounds. It lies beside its mother and feels the warmth of her skin.” The same is true when we are reborn by the power of the Spirit. He says, “Our senses are born again too. The enlightened eyes ... wake to the awareness of God. The beating heart experiences God’s love. The experience of God’s Spirit is like breathing the air: ‘God is continually breathing ... upon the soul, and the soul is breathing unto God.” God’s Spirit is life’s vibrating, vitalizing field of energy: we are in God and God is in us.”
The experience of a newborn reminds us though, that this initial awakening is not the end. The senses continue to grow. We continue to grow in life AND in faith. Even as sense of sight awakens at birth, it takes months to develop, as the child learns to distinguish shapes and colors and get depth perception and see far distances. The awakening of our spiritual senses are the same, they develop and grow over time as we grow in our faith. As we train our spiritual eyes to be aware of God’s presence with us, as we train our spiritual hearts to know God’s loving heart, as we train our spiritual lungs to breath in God’s spirit, that ruach, that Breath of God that brings life to this world, even in places of utter death like a Valley of Dry Bones.
As we celebrate today the coming of the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, we also celebrate the Spirit coming into lives every day, awakening our spiritual senses to feel and to know God’s loving presence with us, and empowering us to go into the world, bringing the Good News of God’s love found in Jesus Christ, helping bring up resurrection, new life, to all of dry bones we come upon, transforming the world by helping get our heartbeat to align with God’s. Amen.