Day of Pentecost
Prayer of the Day
O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our 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
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 Varieties of gifts from the same Spirit
John 20:19-23 The Spirit poured out
Title: Wind Swept Waiting Rooms
The Lord is here. (Response) God’s Spirit is with us.
Waiting rooms. The mere term can stir up strong emotions for many. For most of us who have had experiences with doctor’s office waiting rooms and hospital waiting rooms, we probably feel a wave of anxiety at the mere mention of that place. Perhaps there are memories of waiting for an appointment at which test results will be shared. The waiting is filled with the stressful question: will it be good news or bad news. Or maybe the patient wasn’t you but a loved one. And you were left in the room waiting for news, wondering: did it go well? is everything taken care of? do we get to return to some sense of normalcy now?
For performers, the green room is sort of a waiting room. One waits to go on. Waits to cash in on a great opportunity that could further a career. Waiting steeping in thoughts of inadequacies and fears of failure.
For students, classrooms could be seen as waiting rooms. There they are waiting for the training to be complete. Waiting for the preparatory information to be successfully passed on. So that they can graduate and move on and move out into the world.
Waiting rooms. What waiting rooms have you found yourself in? Do you find yourself in now?
And yet, if today’s readings and today’s celebrations are telling us anything, our life of faith is not about waiting in some frozen, suspended animation, insecure, and anxious state. This life is not just a waiting room for the next life. Yes, we have nothing to fear when facing the end of this life. But until that day comes, the Spirit is driving us out of our waiting rooms to be the living, breathing, serving body of Christ in the world.
In the first reading from Acts, the account of that first Pentecost day, the disciples are sitting in their waiting room. Ten days before the events described in today’s reading, as Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, he told them to wait in Jerusalem and the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon them and they would take this good news to the ends of the earth. What was that pre-Pentecost waiting room like? We can be quite confident that there must have been lots of anxiety and lots of questions. What will this Spirit do when it comes upon them? And us, go to the ends of the earth? Jesus had never really left his own land. He never traveled far from his hometown, and now they were going to be sent to the ends of the earth in his name. What did that look like? No Expedia and Hotels.com back then. (Not even AirBnB.) How would they know what to say and what to do? Who to talk to? Who to serve? They didn’t have any training for this. We can be sure that at least some of them were happy to simply wait and do nothing.
But that fear and trembling that preceded Pentecost could not have even come close to the sheer terror the disciples were feeling when they were gathered in that waiting room that John describes in our gospel reading. It was the evening of that first Easter. They had watched their teacher suffer and die. They had abandoned him. But now they were afraid for their own lives. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, now some of those hysterical women were spreading stories that he had risen from the tomb. A painful, anxious, terrorized waiting room if ever there was one. (Without the mention of Thomas that comes in the next verse, you may not realize that this is the beginning of the story of Thomas’ doubt that we hear read every year the Sunday after Easter. Today, we leave distracting Thomas out so that we focus on the gift that Jesus gives his most fear-filled disciples.)
Even the church in Corinth that Paul is writing his letter to had their own waiting room experience going on. Paul had formed a church while he was there and no sooner had he left, but they were making some really colossal mistakes. They were trying to be a community of faith, a diverse community of faith even, in that cosmopolitan port city of Corinth, but they just couldn’t get it right. Paul sent some correctives in his letter. We could say they were waiting to get it right. Waiting to be a healthy community that had all understanding and all wisdom.
But in all three cases and in countless other sacred waiting rooms through the ages, including one on Christopher Street, God breaks through the waiting room questions of: What’s next? Who’s next? Where next? Are we ready for the next? Do we know what the outcome will be? All those questions that the world tells us we need answers for before moving out of the waiting room so as to be fully prepared, and guaranteed of success. (Whatever that word success means when spoken in the context of faith.)
Yes, God breaks through our waiting with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is breathed out onto those frightened disciples on Easter night and there is a promise of peace. The wind and fire of the Spirit rushes into that waiting room on Pentecost and there is purpose. The Spirit binds together the troubled Corinthians and names them God’s people, forming them as the body of Christ for the sake of the world.
This Spirit of God is wild, fiery, windy and unpredictable. Perhaps it is why, too many times through the centuries, the church has chosen to stay in its waiting room rather than responding to the call to go. But the Spirit will not be tamed, quenched, calmed or necessarily clarified. And so, the Spirit’s call continues, and the call is ours – to go. Not because our anxieties are stilled, or our understanding complete, or our skills perfected. No, we can go because the Spirit goes with us. That promise was made at the font with every baptism. (We will hear them again next week.)
God’s Spirit leads with the same promise of peace, purpose, and unity that drove those first disciples out of their waiting room. And every breaking news story out of London or Manchester, Kabul or Cairo, Philippines, Syria or Somalia, every person in need who is searching for food or good news, tells us that the world needs us to move out of our waiting rooms at the leading of the Spirit; into the new life of the risen Christ. The church is born this day, not with a users’ guide, a manual, or a set of rules. We are born in the wildness of the Spirit and wholly (that’s with a W – wholly) dependent on her, it, him – (all of them work) as we live into life with this great Spirit.
And we are called to venture together. As the diverse body of the risen Christ that is the church. Today we rejoice and give thanks that David joins us in this mission. We rejoice and give thanks that Vicar John (having spent 3 years in a waiting room we call seminary) is with us for this year of internship so that we might learn from him and he from us as he prepares to enter ordained, public ministry. (Public is such a good Pentecost word.)
But most importantly, we venture from our waiting rooms with the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. For…The Lord is here. God’s Spirit is with us. Wherever we are led.
The Rev. Mark Erson,