- Parish House
Sermon for Pentecost
The Rev. Joyce Hardy
I am not good at saying good-bye. I’ve been known to just disappear rather than facing the pain. I don’t like it, so I avoid it when I can. We all experience saying good-bye to friends, family, co-workers, and members of our church community. We know it’s part of life, but we don’t like it. We say good-bye to the graduates who will be leaving. We say good-bye to friends who are taking new jobs. Here at Christ Church we are in the process of saying good-bye to Scott and Patricia, two of our beloved priests who have accepted positions with other congregations. We most often have mixed feelings about these changes: We’re happy for them because we want what’s best for them, but it’s still difficult to deal with changes and leave-taking with grace.
On top of that we have been hearing throughout Lent and Easter Jesus preparing his disciples and himself for his leaving. “Little children, I am with you only a little longer…Where I am going, you cannot come.” We’re amazed that the disciples don’t “get it,” because we, of course, know the rest of the story. But we also experience the fear of the disciples, “What will happen to us?” amid all the changes. We hear Jesus’s response to our fear, the promise of an Advocate, a Comforter so that we are not left as orphans. We won’t be alone.
Before his Ascension, Jesus tells us not to leave the city until the Spirit comes to us, to empower us. And then Jesus departs from them and blesses them. “And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:53).
And then…we hear that all are gathered together for Pentecost. Suddenly from heaven comes a sound as of a violent wind that fills the room. Tongues of fire rest on every person. All are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak to each other and understand each other even though they have different languages and different backgrounds. (It’s no wonder that Hallmark has not taken over Pentecost.) We celebrate Pentecost each year as we move from Easter to the season of Pentecost, often call ordinary time. It is the time that we celebrate the uniting of all people and the gift of the Holy Spirit for each one of us. On that first feast of Pentecost, all were understood, empowered, and united.
We certainly need that understanding, that empowerment, and that unity in our divided world today. And we have the Holy Spirit to help us live into this vision. The Holy Spirit is not a super-power hero who will save us from all challenges, all pain, all loss. The Spirit will lead us into those places where healing is needed as we try to live out our baptismal promises to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
Many years ago, when I was in another congregation, I processed out with the others at the end of the liturgy. I was in the narthex as the last verses of the closing hymn were being sung; several of the children who had just returned from Primary Camp at Camp Mitchell came to me to tell me about their week; they were so excited! Suddenly, I realized that that the singing was over, and people were looking at me, expectantly. They were waiting for the dismissal. I stood up and began, “Go in peace” …and went blank. I knew that there was something about love in the dismissal, so I tried again, “Go in love.” I saw shoulders shaking. “Just go!”
That, I believe, is the message for this Pentecost: “Just go.” I believe that one of my tasks as a deacon is to move people out of the church, get people out of church. That’s where most of our work as Christians take place. But before we can go out into the world, we need to prepare. We need to come together because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to be Christians without being part of a community of faith. And so, we come together. We hear readings from scripture. On this Pentecost, we’re reminded in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that, although there are a variety of gifts, they are all empowered and supported by the same Spirit. Each person is a minister by our baptism. We are all called to use our different gifts to proclaim the good news of salvation to our sisters who are poor, freedom to our imprisoned brothers and joy to those who are sorrowful.
Then as the bread and wine are blessed, we are reminded of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our mission. Eucharistic Prayer D says it this way:
“Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he lived as one of us, yet without sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy. To fulfill your purpose he gave himself up to death; and rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.
And, that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all.”
We pray each week after we have been nourished at the altar, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”
The work we have been given to do varies, but here at Christ Church I have experienced many with the gift of enhancing our worship through music; with the gift of teaching all our children (those here and those at Rockefeller Elementary School and other schools); with the gift of hospitality at our potlucks, at Stewpot, at St. Francis House, and at Green Groceries; with the gift of inclusion, welcoming all into this community; with the gift of advocating for the marginalized in our community by speaking the truth to those in positions of authority in our government and by advocating for opportunities for people in our community. We will continue to use these gifts because that’s who we are. And we will continue to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. to be with us as we try to use our gifts to make this world a little closer to God’s Vision.
Come Holy Spirit. Open our ears and our eyes so that we may hear and see our brothers and sisters in need. Open our hearts and minds so that we may find creative ways to make this world a little closer to God’s vision.
I recently heard fear defined as excitement without the breath. We don’t have to let fear have power over us anymore. Jesus has breathed on us and has said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Now, we can go in peace, go in love…Just go!