The Day We Became One Body: Happy Pentecost Church!
REV. JODI L. BARON – May 24, 2015 – Pentecost, Year B: Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 104: 25-35, 37; Romans 8: 22-27; John 15: 26-27; 16:4b-15
Good morning! And, Happy Pentecost, Church!
Friday evening we gathered with the middle schoolers at Kollen Park for a cookout to mark the end of our program year and welcome the rising 6th graders to the fold.
We feasted on burgers and brownies and had conversation about that day so long ago, that day of Pentecost as told in Acts 2: 1-21. I was thankful to be a part of their conversation. To hear these amazing young people take in what the gift of the Holy Spirit means for us, the Church.
That story of what it was like when the disciples were huddled in that tiny dark room waiting for this Advocate to come whom Jesus promised he would send.
It had been 10 days since they watched their Lord ascend into heaven before their very eyes, before they saw Elijah and Moses with him.
So much had happened, and yet so much had still not changed.
The Romans, who killed Jesus, were still occupying their land. They still feared to even show their face.
Where was this promised Advocate?
And then it happened. There came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.”
Because it was during a large festival, once again, people from all over were gathered and heard this noise and believed these disciples to be drunk. But Peter, being the “rock” he was, reassured the crowd that they couldn’t be drunk, for it was only 9 o’clock in the morning!
What a fantastic story we tell!
Well, I don’t know about you, but I have never had tongues of fire rest upon my head. Not that it couldn’t happen, I just personally haven’t ever experienced it.
I have, however, felt that same spirit fill a community who thought they were dry bones. Who thought they had no hope. who thought God had forgotten his promise.
I think that is why the readings from this morning spoke to me so much. They revealed the experience of the Holy that happens when we are attentive to the way she moves through us, and with us, and for us.
In Ezekiel, God leads him out by his hand (the spirit) to a valley filled with bones. Very dry bones. God tells Ezekiel to preach to these dry bones, to hear the word of the Lord.
And suddenly Ezekiel heard a noise, a rattling (the text tells us) as the bones came together and sinews and flesh came upon them.
Next we read that Ezekiel was commanded to again preach, this time to the breath, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
Ezekiel goes on to explain that the bones represented the whole house of Israel who complained of being dried up and lost of hope. But that God wasn’t done with them yet. Although they couldn’t see the Spirit at work, God indeed was in the process of opening up their graves and bringing them up…All so they would know that God is with them.
And then in Romans, Paul tells us that this gift given us at Pentecost, the gift that Jesus said was coming after he “goes away,” the Advocate, was the same Holy Spirit here, today, to help us in our weakness!
Paul goes on to name our weakness in not knowing even how to pray as we ought.
Have you ever not known how to pray? Ever felt so very dry that even breath would be difficult for you to expel?
Paul tells us, this is why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, not just to act, as she had before in scripture, but to stay. She was our gift for the rest of time. To be our Advocate and guide. Our sense of strength and source of Truth!
This, the 3rd person of the Holy Trinity, THIS Spirit intercedes for us with “sighs too deep for words.”
With sighs too deep for words.
Pentecost marked a day in time, a time of change for that group of people assembled together in fear and confusion.
It marked the day they were no longer scared individual disciples of the Radical Rabbi called Jesus.
They were the community of apostles who had the first fruits of the Spirit and were then compelled to share the gospel and serve the world!
Pentecost literally means the “Feast of the Fiftieth day” and is first talked about in the list of Solemn Feasts described in the books of Exodus and Leviticus.
Pentecost, was one of the Feasts the Israelites were commanded to remember.
These feasts served to retell God’s saving action in the house of Israel through the Passover (Exodus 12), The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23: 6-8), the Feast of First Fruits/Harvest (Leviticus 23:9-14), and Pentecost or the Feast of the 50th day or Feast of Weeks celebrated 7 Sabbaths after the Harvest (Leviticus 23:15-21).
Some scholars like to point out that the feast of Pentecost was never actually celebrated though. Not until Acts 2 when the Spirit came to the disciples of Jesus, signifying, once again, the fulfillment of scripture as manifest through Jesus Christ.
When the Holy Spirit descended upon those first disciples it signified something new.
a new covenant.
God and the Church were entering into a new covenant.
One that would reconcile all of humanity, indeed all of creation, to God ONCE and for ALL!
So for us, the people assembled as Grace Episcopal Church in Holland MI, no matter where we actually abide today, we are celebrated today for being our part of the body of Christ.
We were given the gift of the Advocate too.
Now, this Advocate shouldn’t be mistaken as the lesser of the 3 persons of the Trinity, rather the “last revealed personality” of the Divine.
Although the Spirit has been active throughout Scripture, she wasn’t known like the Acts community testified to. (*See Genesis 6:3; Exodus 28:3, 31:2-5, 35:21-35; Judges 3:10, 34; 1 Samuel 10:6; Numbers 24: 2; 2 Samuel 23:2; and 2 Chronicles 20:14 for witnesses as to the Spirit’s action in biblical history.)
And the Acts community also wasn’t the first to call the Holy Spirit God. (see Isaiah 6: 8,9 and Jeremiah 31:31-34)
What is more, scripture testifies to the Spirit possessing all of the essential attributes of God:
Eternal (Hebrews 9:14),
omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:9-11),
omnipresent (Psalm 139: 7-10),
and omnipotent (Job 26: 13).
But now, NOW, the spirit wouldn’t merely have singular acts to carry out, but become and active testimony serving as God’s presence for eternity.
The game was forever changed!
This is the gift we remember Christ promised his church in John 15 that we heard a few moments ago, who would be our Advocate, Comforter, Truth, Empowerer, and symbol of God’s forever presence of the creator with humanity.
This day doesn’t celebrate the birthday of the day Peter or Paul were born, but to commemorate the eternal extension of Christ in the world, by the Holy Spirit, in the members of the Church!
It’s the commemoration of the day we became communal, the day we became one body, called the Church.
Responsible, together, for caring for each other and the world.
Commanded to remember what Christ did every time we gather.
A community called to action, together, to share the good news and serve the world!
May we, like the 1st disciples, have the courage to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
May we listen to the Spirit–our Advocate & Guide–as she teaches us how to be fully human and with each other!
May we have the strength to share how the Spirit is moving in our community so we can invite others “groaning inwardly while they wait for adoption, the redemption of their bodies,” into this life of HOPE.