Sunday, May 20, 2018
Day of Pentecost
Prayer of the Day
Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones, and your Spirit brings truth to the world. Send us this Spirit, transform us by your truth, and give us language to proclaim your gospel, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Acts 2:1-21 Filled with the Spirit to tell God’s deeds
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:22-27 Praying with the Spirit
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 Christ sends the Spirit of truth
Title: The Fullness of our Advocate
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed alleluia!
For one more Sunday this is our cry. This day as we reach the 50th day of Easter. During these 50 days we have been challenging ourselves, as a diverse community of faith that is seeking to share the love of Jesus with all creation (for Easter we could tweak that to say seeking to share the new life of the risen Christ will all creation), – either way you say it, we have been challenging ourselves to live into this cross-defeating, undying love, this grave-opening, resurrected new life that is ours in our risen Savior, given to us freely by our great friend, Jesus the Christ. We have been striving to make this resurrection event into a resurrection way of life. And as we come to the end — fear not, this is nothing like all the terms that are ending in schools these springs days, there will not be a final exam to see what you remember and what you have been doing to achieve in this new life. But, a quick review (always helpful even without the threat of examination) a review shows that we have talked and explored:
- how we live this resurrected life in community – even as we deal with both faith and doubts, fear and revelation (remember Thomas and the frightened disciples).
- We have been encouraged by lifting up how we experience the risen Christ as we journey in faith.
- We have been comforted and challenged as we looked at life in our Lord’s flock and life on the vine (recall sprawled out in green pastures and pruned for the sake of bearing fruit).
- We were blessed to witness the baptism of Isaiah Jeremiah and be reminded of the radical welcome that God extends even to the likes of us in the waters of the font,
- and that we in turn are to welcome with the same radical spirit.
- And finally, last week, the focus had already started to shift to us as we live in the presence of the ascended Christ and we live as the body of Christ that continues in the world.
That’s a lot to take in. There is quite a bit to embrace in living this resurrected life. How is it going? Surely 50 days is not enough to put it all into daily, life changing, world changing practice. No, it takes a life time. It is the journey of faith. May these 50 days be only the beginning, or perhaps, if living as Easter people is not new to you, and you have embraced this gift before, I hope these 50 days have served as a rejuvenation, a renewal, and a refreshment for your continued living into the fullness of the joy that is ours in the risen savior.
Now, if all this resurrection practice talk looks like just another to do list, just more overwhelming things that you are not going to get done, please hear again, that is not the intention of this practice at all. Remember, we started this because Jesus speaks to us of life without fear, he desires joy for us, and that our joy might be complete. This is about receiving the fullness of God’s grace and mercy that comes to us through the risen Christ. It is not in any way “you have to do this” and “you have to do that.” It is about opening and discovering the gift that is already there before us.
So, whichever camp you find yourself in – whether these 50 days have been refreshment or tasting for the first time, whether renewal or new approach, whether found freedom or awesome responsibility — hear the good news of today. We are not left alone to work out and live into this new life, this new way of seeing the world, this new approach to relationship with God, other people, and creation. For on this day, we are reminded of, renewed in, and refreshed by the wonderful and wild gift of the Holy Spirit.
The one Jesus calls the Spirit – our Advocate – some great and helpful synonyms for advocate are: supporter, backer, promoter, believer, and activist.
- For those in the theatre know that backers make things possible, they provide the resources so that creative dreams might come to fruition. As the church, the Holy Spirit is providing the resources for us so that Jesus’ dreams for us and the world might come to fruition.
- God, through the Holy Spirit, believes in us – sinful and shortcominged as we may be. Empowering us to not just witness the kingdom that Jesus brings to us, but believes in us to work for the sake of that kingdom ourselves, spreading its message of love, peace, and joy for the transformation of the world that too often sees itself stewing in fear, anxiety, and sadness. We are chosen, sanctified, empowered, sent. We are called to do God’s work with our hands.
- The Holy Spirit is our activist -before God, before the world, the Spirit works on our behalf, speaks for us, to us, and through us. The church accomplishes nothing without the Spirit. Now not everything the church does is the work of the Spirit. There are plenty of failings and missteps by this spirit-filled, yet still human institution. But when in tune with the activism of the Spirit, the church lives into its mission because of the Spirit.
St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians reminds us what a compassionate advocate, activist, backer, supporter we have in the Spirit. While we groan, while we wait for the complete fulfillment of God’s promises, sometimes waiting in paralyzing pain, the Spirit gives us the power and the reason to keep hope alive. Perhaps some are feeling more challenged to keep hope alive in these days of political and social upheaval, in an atmosphere of hate speech, fear mongering, unapologetic racism, exposed systemic sexism, and failing leadership in every arena. And of course, yet again, our hearts are broken as more innocent ones are killed while no action is taken to protect because of powerful lobbies and an unreasonable grasp on gun rights. Perhaps groans have never been louder or deeper. But in our resurrected life that is empowered by the Spirit, we can and do find hope. Not hope for things that we have seen and will see again, but hope in what only God can give us, what Jesus wins for us, what the Spirit works in us, through us, and in spite of us.
Be encouraged by the signs of hope around us. Signs that I see as the work of the Holy Spirit, even though they are not always the work of the church. Perhaps some of you have followed the story of the midtown lawyer who was outraged by a restaurant employee responding to a Spanish speaking costumer in Spanish. His racist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, rant was captured on camera and made available on the internet. But the response by the Latino community was brilliant. Spirit-led even. A street party was held Friday afternoon in front of his apartment. Not an angry mob answering his hate with hate, but a gathering of people who displayed with great joy and music that they would not be suppressed or demoralized by his small mindedness.
Another sign does come from a church, an English church. It was yesterday at small intimate wedding, (of about 600 guests and millions watching around the world) as a gathering around and about love saw a wonderful, spirit-filled display of rich diversity, of creativity and joy. Gathered together in God’s name were peoples from different cultures, different races, peoples whose joint history is filled with the shame of enslavement, dehumanizing oppression, and economic injustice. And in spite of the history, two came together as one.
We who are the body of the risen Christ, witness anew that hope is alive, resurrection abounds, the Spirit is with us and working hard. See the light of the fire that guides, warms, enlightens, refines, and inspires. Feel the rush of the wind that propels, refreshes, fills, enlivens, and lifts us up to fly.
Filled with this Spirit again for the first time, we change our cry (I invite you to refer to your bulletin) as the church is born and reborn in the Spirit, as the resurrected community is empowered for the living of our new life in Christ, as the people of God’s kingdom are filled with the hope that will not die. As we proclaim: The Lord is here. God’s Spirit is with us.
The Rev. Mark Erson,