ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
So that’s the Easter greeting we just exchanged, right? Well, today is The Day of Pentecost. And The Day of Pentecost is the final day of Easter Season. That means we won’t exchange the Easter greeting again until next year’s Easter Vigil on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
That being the case, I suggest we say the Easter greeting once again, and this time “with feeling”!
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
So, what is Pentecost? Well the term Pentecost comes from the Greek word that means fiftieth. Simple enough. In the Hebrew liturgical calendar, Pentecost was also known as the Feast of Weeks. Originally, it was a festival of thanksgiving for the early grain harvest. Over time, the festival changed. It became a commemoration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, celebrated fifty days after Passover. That’s what Pentecost meant for Jesus and his disciples and all Jews of the first century.
In fact, many of our Christian observances, our traditions and our prayers have their origins in Jewish worship and scriptures. In God’s family, our Jewish brothers and sisters are our big brothers and big sisters. We Christians came along later. If they are the teenagers, we are the nine-year olds.
So, let’s set the stage for our Christian observance of Pentecost. On Easter Day, God raised Jesus from the dead. For the next forty days the resurrected Christ appeared to his followers at various times, in various places, and in various ways. On the fortieth day, Ascension Day (always on a Thursday), Jesus ascended into heaven. But before he left, he promised his followers that he would be with them always, even to the ends of the earth.
Now, this must have puzzled his disciples. He’s leaving us, but he’ll be with us always? What could this mean? Go figure.
Ten days later, on the Jewish festival of Pentecost, Jesus’ followers were all together in one place. Today’s lesson from The Book of Acts gives us a front row seat. “And suddenly from heaven 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, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
Very strange. I guess you had to be there. In fact, many people were.
It was festival time, and there were devout Jews from every nation present in Jerusalem to observe the festival. They were amazed and perplexed when they heard in their own native languages God’s deeds of power.
Peter (never the shy disciple) got up and explained. Being a good Jew, he quoted the Hebrew prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams… everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
For Christians, the gift of the Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost. At the Ascension Jesus promised to be with his followers forever. With the gift of the Holy Spirit Jesus is with us as he promised. He’s with us in our hearts.
If you don’t know who Howard Thurman was, I think you should. Howard Thurman was a 20th century African American theologian par excellence. Several years ago our diocesan Anti-racism Commission offered a Howard Thurman conference at St. Paul’s, Atlanta. Of course, our own Catherine Meeks chairs that commission, and our own Mary Job serves along with her, so I expected the conference to be outstanding. I was not disappointed.
Two things I heard at that conference actually changed my life. One of those things was this. Howard Thurman wrote: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
How about that? What the world needs is people who have come alive. In other words, do what it takes to come alive. And in doing so, you will serve the world.
You know, that’s what happened on the Day of Pentecost. That’s the day when the church came alive. Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church. We celebrate the day we came alive.
And it’s like Howard Thurman said: the world needs people who have come alive.
On this Day of Pentecost 2017 I wonder: am I truly alive? Yes, I’m breathing. But am I truly alive the way God intends me to be? The worlds needs people who have come alive. And perhaps, more importantly, I want to be truly alive.
Are you truly alive the way God intends you to be? That’s what God wants for each of us, and that’s what the world needs. So, what is it that makes you come alive? What does your Day of Pentecost look like?
And do you trust what makes you come alive? Whatever that is, if it also blesses at least one other person, trust it. Go with it. It’s from God.
Trust the Spirit of God at work in you and in others in different ways. No one owns the Spirit of God. We celebrate the Spirit we have been given, but we don’t own it. As Jesus said, like the wind, the Spirit comes and goes as it chooses. The Spirit does not answer to anyone.
In today’s second lesson Pentecost happens. The Holy Spirit takes over, and amazing things take place.
Peter speaks up, and he quotes the Hebrew prophet Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh… then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
You know something? The Lord has many names. As the prophet Joel said, the Lord has poured out his Spirit on all flesh. As the prophet Isaiah taught us, God’s ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. In other words, we human beings are limited. God is not.
And best of all, God’s love surpasses all we could ask or imagine.
What makes you come alive? Whatever that may be, that’s your Pentecost. That’s the Spirit of God working in you and through you. That’s what enables you to serve the world.
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP p 102, Ephesians 3:20-21)
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
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