Pentecost Sunday 2017
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Do you ever find that being human is complicated? I do. Layers of emotions influenced and impacted by experiences of all kinds. Some times I find, it can all be, well, just a little bit tiring, even overwhelming. One of those emotions that we all experience from time to time in small and larger ways is grief and grieving. While difficult, to say the least, these emotions are unquestionably part of what it is to be human. For the moment that we open ourselves to the gifts of love, joy, hope (and we must open ourselves to these if we are to be healthy, to find happiness, to find purpose in our lives), then we are also giving our consent for grief to claim us at some future date, someday, in some way. It is inevitable.
There are the large losses of course, perhaps it is saying goodbye to someone to whom we have given our heart, who perhaps has been our rock, our companion, our friend; or the lose of someone who has been there since our beginnings, a part of our growing and developing into who we are today; then there are those large losses that hit us totally broadside, unprepared we must face new and difficult realities; all great losses, leaving us feeling like all the colour and vibrancy have drained out of our world.
Yet in our daily lives there are also other smaller losses: our child awakens ill one morning and we must cancel a busy day full of appointments, a trusted friend moves away, we look in the mirror and are greeted with more and more gray hair, or we awaken each morning to more aches and more pains in our aging bodies. A loved one begins chemotherapy, unexpected repairs deplete our savings, an aging parent receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer, the evening news leaves us feeling like the world around us has gone quite mad or we wake up one morning remarkably unsurprised that our once vibrant and vital faith now feels brittle and dry, too weak to even struggle.
Now I don’t say all of this to cast a shadow in any way upon this wondrous day of Pentecost or on this very special occasion of the baptism of this dear one with us today and her entrance into the family of God, but as we read of Jesus preparing the disciples in the Gospel for his departure, he wants at the same time to prepare them for the grief of the loss of his physical presence and yet open them to the gift of the promise of another helper to come. This will be no ordinary helper, but a helper who can be counted on to speak the truth, and to take what the disciples had already heard from Jesus and to teach them how to move forward with it in their understanding, guiding them into what was to be next, to show them the way forward.
Our first reading, the one from Acts fast forwards us to that very moment of the new “helper’s” arrival, complete with the sound like the rush of a violent wind, tongues as fire appearing to rest upon each of them, and if that weren’t enough, them bursting into great proclamations of the Gospel, but in languages not previously known to them. Put yourself into that scene. Can you imagine!
Then there was the ensuing amazement, with explanation by Peter settling these miraculous events squarely in the middle of prophesy fulfilled. And so the rhythm of gift (Jesus coming to us), followed by loss (Jesus returning to the Father), leading to a renewed gift (the coming of the Holy Spirit), with a renewed understanding, well all of this seems an important part of the message of Pentecost.
While Pentecost is a very important festival in the church, it does not like Christmas and Easter have the same societal familiarity of glad tidings or alleluias, nor does it have any secular celebrations attached to it. And of course the fact that it usually takes place after the ‘May two-four’ weekend, means that for sun-starved Canadians, the allure of finally having arrived at finer weather takes many of us to vacation locations and activities, all this meaning that there are usually fewer of us in the pews to celebrate this focal day in the life of the church, for Pentecost is known as the Church’s birthday.
It is a day that is aimed directly and unmistakably at us, the community of disciples known as the church. It is the story of how through the power of the Holy Spirit, the church is gifted with an identity and an authority centered in the proclamation of the Gospel. There can have be no doubt left in anyone’s mind that first Pentecost morning, that the message of Jesus’ life and ministry, was a message that should, no that must be shared to the ends of the earth. I don’t think God could have been any clearer do you? There is repentance and forgiveness offered to all who call on the name of the Lord, for the heavens have opened, and make no mistake about it, something new is afoot.
It is always especially meaningful on Pentecost Sunday to have a baptism, the official welcoming of a new dear soul into the family of God, a day where we all squeeze over just a bit to make room in God’s kingdom for this new dear one, who is a gift of God in herself. For in the hearing of the baptismal vows, we are all reminded of our own baptisms and what was said on our behalf or said by us. We are freshly reminded to what we have committed ourselves.
On this day we are reminded of just who we are, and what our main task in life is to be … to share as we live our lives, in our words, in our deeds, in our actions and reactions just what the love of God is in his son Jesus, and how it is available for any and all who turn to see it. So while this day of Pentecost may not come with any traditions of gathering around a roaring fire to sing Pentecost carols, or the joy of waking up Pentecost morning to a delectable chocolate-shaped something (what would it be do you suppose) awaiting for us, today, we will sing our songs, and we will celebrate with our sisters and brothers all around the world, for approximately the 2,000th time, the energy and enthusiasm of this day remembering who and whose we are.