Sermon Day of Pentecost: June 9, 2019
O God the Holy Ghost
Who art light unto thine elect
Evermore enlighten us.
Thou who art fire of love
Evermore enkindle us.
Thou who art Lord and Giver of Life,
Evermore live in us.
Thou who bestowest sevenfold grace,
Evermore replenish us.
As the wind is thy symbol,
So forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenwards.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge our dross.
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I’m usually not one to boast, but I gotta say I’m pretty proud of us. I’m not sure if there’s a word for this so I’m going to call our little achievement a “grand slam.” I’m excited because today, not only are we are baptizing two lovely young ladies but that also means that we have had baptisms on all four of the days most appropriate for them this liturgical year: All Saints’ Day, The Baptism of Our Lord, Easter, and today, Pentecost. Nice job, beloved! I’d say a couple of baptisms is a pretty fitting way for us to celebrate the birthday of the Church, don’t you?
That is, after all, what we read about this morning from the Acts of the Apostles. The promised Holy Spirit, the comforter, the advocate, had come to rest on the church gathered in the upper room. The rushing wind of the presence of the Holy Spirit alighted the disciples, manifesting in what was described as tongues of fire resting upon them. And while this imagery is remarkable and powerful, I have always been interested in the fact that St. Luke, the author of Acts took pains to describe this miracle of understanding, that the Holy Spirit’s power was made known by the fact that people could all of a sudden understand each other. Indeed, that list of nations is a pretty decent sample set of foreign places with wildly different cultures and languages. It’s a poignant way for Luke to describe the differences of the nations being overcome by the power of God and His Kingdom.
And as Peter preached his great sermon, reminding us that, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, ” it helps us to recall that life that we have been drawn into by the Spirit’s tether. A life that for the individual soul means being led into deeper and deeper closeness with God: so close that we can cry to him as Father, as St. Paul recommends. We might even say that life in the Spirit, Spirituality perhaps, is in many ways the process of learning to rely on God as our Creator, Protector, and Provider by our offering of prayer and good works.
We don’t so this alone. To participate most fully in the life that God desires for us is to be part of the people empowered and encouraged by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This strange people, the Bride of Christ, the called out Church of God, with it’s habit of meeting on Sundays, enjoyment of the sacraments, and with it’s message of repentance, forgiveness, and grace, this is the mechanism that God chose to continue the work of the Savior. That might seem strange, given how much we can argue. But make no mistake, the hurting world around is blessed by the love and kindness extended to it by the faithful obedience of the Church.
So just as the Spirit fell upon the earliest gathered Church so that the nations could finally talk to one another with the message of the Kingdom, it shows us that God means for the power of the Spirit to be shown forth in people. Even with all the things that are possible given the immeasurable power of the Spirit’s work, things like the miraculous, things like the mysterious, we can still take comfort in the ordinary working of the Holy Spirit. That which draws hearts together, that which draws hearts to God and His purposes, that which allows us to reach out beyond ourselves in goodness, in truth, and in love, this is the working of the Holy Spirit in each one of our lives.
Therefore, what a blessing and honor it is to invite two more saints into this life in the Spirit. As Elena and Petra are baptized and anointed, marked as Christ’s own forever, I pray that we would all be mindful of the great works promised to us as we are bound more tightly in the charity of God by the bonds of the Spirit’s love.
To God be all glory. Amen.
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
The Very Reverend David Bumsted