Pentecost (June 9, 2019)
Today we celebrate one of the “big three” solemnities in the liturgical year: Pentecost. Pentecost stands tall along with Jesus’ birth and resurrection. It is not as “popular” as the other two because our society has not made it a day for giving/receiving gifts or dyeing eggs. You never hear how many more shopping days ‘till Pentecost. Pentecost is 100% spiritual; zero material payback.
As we read further into the acts of the apostles, we find the holy spirit becomes less a spectacular experience and more a guide and problem-solver in the day to day life of the believing community.
The main difference between the disciples before and after the Pentecost experience is not the flames dancing on their heads or wondrous communication skills or that wind-blown look. Pentecost is fundamentally a story about the disciples’ courage, overriding their fear of being arrested, and their fear of those who might angrily – even murderously -- protest their proclaiming the message. They no longer fear Jewish leaders or Jewish followers.
Courage is a language that the world scarcely speaks. We do recognize it when we hear a story of it or we see it.
Jesus’ followers were so filled with the spirit of god that they felt moved to do just what Jesus did: speak life and love into our world. They also left as their heritage a community that would begin to shoulder the burden and the joy of carrying the message of love.
Today, fear is palpable. There are reports of terrorist attacks, rising crime, jobs going out, the undocumented coming in, guns everywhere, losing our civil liberties and the cost of keeping them, plane travel, anthrax, the cost of gas, staying in the war, pulling out of the war, global warming, medications that kill, the rising cost of medical care -- to name just a handful.
Fear is the meat and potatoes of the media, but it is directly opposed to the spirit of Pentecost. Our courage is based on a radical trust in and reliance on God’s grace; that is, his presence in our lives.
We choose either to allow ourselves to live in fear or to live in faith; that is, have a radical trust in our father – just as Jesus did. We can courageously approach life one day at a time. Spirit-driven courage makes our approach to living a challenge, not a dread. We can step up and face a world full of fearsome things and also recognize, primarily, the wind and the fire of god in our souls because it is already there, waiting.
We are tempted at times like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost to think in terms of commemorating historical events that happened long ago and to someone else. We are not called to page through salvation history like a memory book. Just as in the Eucharist when we invite the living Christ to enter us, so on this feast of Pentecost we pray to the Holy Spirit to enliven us, to embolden us, to en-courage us.
We do not simply recall a reported event on this day. Holy memory, anamnesis, recalls the past only to make it live again within our community of faith. The Holy Spirit moves through this worship space this day. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are desperately needed in our world: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The message is in need of messengers. Paul makes it perfectly clear that the greatest gift, the overarching gift of the Holy Spirit, is love. The others, when we stop to think about them, are manifestations of love, shoots off the vine.
The difference between the disciples of the first Pentecost and this one is the balance of our courage.
Red is the color of excitement – from red convertibles and red roses and valentines to red fire apparatus. Red is the color of the badge of courage. Red is the color of Pentecost.
Come, Holy Spirit – enkindle in our hearts the fire of your love and the courage to use our already, God-given gifts.