Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sermon: Pentecost

“Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” And thus, the Church began. Pentecost, literally “50 days,” celebrates this birth of the Spirit upon the disciples, the gathering of the faithful, in God’s name with God’s Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. Since Jesus was no longer among the disciples after his death, resurrection and ascension, it was the Spirit of God that would empower them for ministry.

The same Holy Spirit that breathed over creation at its birth, is the same rushing wind that is poured upon the disciples in the reading from Acts. The Spirit rests on each one, like fire, empowering them to proclaim the Good News in the languages of those who were present in Jerusalem. The people hear about Jesus in their own language and about God’s deeds of power, and they are amazed. The Spirit pours out on the Church, like wind on this day, and the Spirit rested on the disciples like fire.

In some ways, the Holy Spirit is the unsung portion of our Triune God that we take for granted and never quite give its due. Christians, rightly focus on Jesus, the deeds he did on Earth as well as his redemption of humanity through his death and resurrection. Yet, Jesus does not walk among us now. We rely on that Spirit to be with us today, for it is the Spirit that send us out to the world, to all the peoples, and all their languages. As our PB, Katharine Schori recently wrote, “God’s mission has a church, and that mission means we are to speak and do good news. Pentecost would seem to say most clearly that God as Holy Spirit prompts witness in a variety of languages and to a variety of people.”

The Church believes in our witness to the world and relies on the Holy Spirit to guide it, strengthen it, reform it, equip it for the ministry that Jesus has shown us and for which God intends us to live. In Baptism, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. In Baptism, we become part of the body of Christ, for there is one Body and One Spirit.

It is that Spirit that is given to each of us at our baptism for the common good. There are many gifts and ministries as St. Paul tells us but all of them – wisdom, knowledge, discernment, miracles, tongues, and interpretation – are given by the one Spirit for the well-being of the common life. The same Spirit poured upon each one of us allows us to do the ministry that God gives to each one of us. And we do this collectively, for I don’t have all those gifts of God, nor do you. But together as the Body of Christ, we use our gifts and each part of the Body fits together. We need all the parts if we are to function correctly. No member is more important than another. And it is the Spirit that transforms our human relationships and makes us whole.

It reminds me of the creation of a musical instrument…

It begins as a simple piece of wood or a metal tube. Then a craftsman, using skills and tools that have been passed down for centuries, meticulously forms the wood and metal, carefully drills holes in the shaft, devises a system of stops and valves in the metal, installs a an intricate system of strings, tuning keys and hammers. The wood is then beautifully finished with resins and varnish; the metal is polished until it gleams. The craftsman's long hours of detailed work results in a finished flute or violin or guitar or piano. But the completed instrument, though a beautiful work of art, remains just a piece of wood or metal until a musician takes it up and breathes into it while gliding his or her fingers across the stops or expertly manipulating the strings and keys.

Then that piece of wood, that tube of metal is transformed into an musical instrument, becoming a portal for us to a world of beauty and transcendence. We are like the created instrument, beautiful piece of work by God, but it is when the Spirit dwells in us that we become alive with a beauty and grace from God. A solo instrument is good, but a band or an orchestra, a jazz trio is something even more special…working together to create beautiful music.

And so is the Church, the community that God has formed from the baptized. An instrument of God to bring his love and life to the world. And what makes the Church so vibrant, so alive, is the Spirit that dwells in it. God blows his Spirit unto the disciples and they proclaim the Good News to all the people. God continues to blow his Spirit into us and into God’s Church. It gives life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to proclaim forgiveness and reconciliation in God's name, to immerse all of humanity into the life and love of God manifested in Jesus' Resurrection.

In the words of Jakob Boehme, “We are all strings in God’s joyful concert. The spirit of God’s mouth strikes the tune and note on our strings.” Amen.

No comments: