In preparing for this morning, I went back and reviewed some of my previous sermons from Pentecost Sunday. In one of them, I spoke generally about my experiences of worshipping in a Pentecostal church with my high school best friend, Dena. In this sermon I talked about witnessing speaking in tongues, dancing in the aisles, and altar calls. Dena’s church was a lively place to be. And while I always knew intuitively that the tradition of the Pentecostal church was not where I felt at home, I am grateful for the experiences I had there because it has shaped the way I understand and perceive the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
If in my relatively short life I have had my fair share of dealing with loss, change and forgiveness. Not unlike the disciples, I have continually wrestled with understanding how to continue the work that God calls me to do. Not unlike the disciples, I have moved into unknown places, wondering if I would experience peace or kick the dust off my shoes. Not unlike the disciples, I have experienced the death of teachers, mentors and friends, and wondered how to make sense of it all. And for me, the answer is the Holy Spirit.
Now next Sunday, Marilyn will be with you and I’m sure she’ll do a fantastic job of sharing her insights about the Trinity, so I don’t want to steal her thunder. But when I think of Pentecost, the gifting of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ friends so they could be empowered to do their ministry, I can’t help but think of the Trinity as a whole.
God--our Father and Mother, Creator of all, in whose image we were created--God calls each one of us into ministry. For some this means a calling to ordination, but for all of us it means being called into the further work of the Kingdom. It’s in this work--be it nursing, teaching, accounting, wherever we find our heart’s passion--that we claim our identity as children of God.
Jesus--our Redeemer, our friend, our teacher--Jesus calls us to be fishers of people. This takes our daily ministry and identity as children of God, and shapes it to bring about justice in the world. Jesus offers forgiveness for all, peace for our troubled souls, and balm for our broken hearts.
And the Holy Spirit--our Sustainer, the wind that moved over creation, the breath of life, the burning passion that motivates, inspires, and enables us--the Holy Spirit is the gift that transforms and pushes us to continue to be prophetic witnesses in our community. It is the Holy Spirit that transforms our volunteer service into outreach ministry because we have been empowered to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
The Spirit is dangerous, playful, and daring. It calls us to be truth-tellers and witnesses to the gospel. It calls us to a place that says “All are welcome” and no one is denied access. It calls us to a place that doesn’t allow discrimination for any reason. It calls us to a place to be prophetic in the proclamation of the gospel that gives us the courage to confront the injustices in our world.
In my newsletter article this month, I wrote about change and the tension between wonder and terror that it can bring in our lives. I mentioned Marilyn’s ordination, this being the 40th anniversary of women’s ordination in the Episcopal church, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, and the year when the ban on same-sex marriage was lifted in our state. These changes have been simultaneously wonderful and terrifying for people depending on where you stand in the crowd. And that’s the Holy Spirit at work! The Spirit is present in the midst of that tension to encourage those seeking justice, and to help bring others along to experience a “metanoia”--a turning around or change of heart.
So we need the experience of Pentecost. Not just one day of the year, but every day in our Christian lives. It may or may not include dancing, waving of arms, or speaking in tongues. It may or may not include the laying on of hands and altar calls. But when we are open to the Spirit of Pentecost, we are given the strength, courage, and encouragement to proclaim the Gospel in our daily life, to be truth tellers, prophets and teachers acting in ways of love, peace and justice.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.