The Day of Pentecost
click here for past entries
Sunday, May 15th, 2005
Loving God, you send forth your Spirit and renew your people, strengthening us for service. May that same Spirit be powerfully present among us this day, leading us into your peace, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
These days, it seems really easy to identify with those disciples in the gospel of John who are hiding behind locked doors in a house. After all, there seems to be a lot of anxiety and fear in the air. Some are anxious about the future of the church. Others are worried about family members who have strayed or are ill or are in trouble. Still others don't know what the future holds for them and are anxious about what might happen. It is just so easy for us as human beings to succumb to fear and anxiety and worry and to allow these things to take over in our lives. It is so easy to get to the point where we just want to hide out and simply not deal with the outside world for a while.
Yet, into the midst of our fear and anxiety comes Jesus, who immediately says, "Peace be with you." Don't we long for the peace that Jesus has to give? Doesn't it make such a difference when our hearts actually can be filled with that peace? But the question is how we get to that point. How do we get to the point where we can be at peace, regardless of how many causes for worry might be assailing us at the time? For me, and probably for many of you, too, this is a very immediate question. How does this peace which Jesus brings become a reality in our lives?
As always, we find some clues in the Scriptures! In the gospel of John, especially, the peace which Jesus brings is mentioned a number of times (Jn. 14:27; 16:33). In each case, it is very closely connected with the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we celebrate on this, the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is going to remind the disciples of all that Jesus has told them ahead of time (Jn. 14:26). They will see that everything that Jesus taught them and told them was true, and this will strengthen their faith in Jesus (Jn. 13:19). Because they believe in Jesus, their hearts will not be troubled about the future or about their place in heaven (Jn. 14:1-2). Because they believe in Jesus, they will pray in Jesus' name and God will give them all that is needed (Jn. 16:26-27). With this faith in Jesus and this knowledge of the Scriptures and this prayer in the name of Jesus will come peace, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
I keep being drawn back to Philippians, chapter 4, and the "prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" that is held up as an alternative to worrying (4:6). It is this kind of prayer that leads to the peace that passes understanding and keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Yet, there are times when our minds just don't want to go there. There are times when it seems like a mammoth task to be thankful. Yet, there are always things that are worthy of thanksgiving if we can just open our eyes to see them!
Today, in fact, I am thankful for each one of you. I am thankful for your prayers and your support. I am thankful for the gifts that each one of you brings to this community of faith. I am thankful for the people who were here yesterday, cleaning up the church. I am thankful for the people who will be here tonight, welcoming the youth and the young adults and the people of all ages who will be coming here to eat and to worship together. I am thankful for each one of you who uses your time and your talents and your treasure, week after week, in order to build up the body of Christ. I am thankful simply to have food and clothing and shelter, which many in our world go without.
"Prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" is a powerful way to peace, once again made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit. So... with the Spirit as the source of our peace in Christ and of so many other gifts for the good of the body of Christ, how is it that this Spirit comes to us in the first place? In the gospel, Jesus simply breathes on the disciples for them to receive the Holy Spirit (Jn. 20:22). In Acts, the Spirit reaches out and touches all the believers while they're gathered together for prayer and for worship (2:1-4). But what about for us?
For most of us who believe in Jesus Christ, we would have first received the Holy Spirit on one of two occasions: either at our baptism or when we first believed in Jesus Christ. This is the same as it was in the early church. For some people, baptism comes first and for other people, faith in Jesus comes first. It is the Spirit who enables people to believe in Jesus Christ, and it is the Spirit that is poured out at baptism through the laying on of hands and prayer (Acts 8:15-17). However, just as in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is given to people more than once (Acts 4:29-31). There are simply times when we need the renewal of the Spirit in order to proclaim God's grace and forgiveness with fresh fervor and boldness. And so we pray for the Spirit at the time of confirmation, and we pray for the Spirit whenever somebody is ordained or set apart for a specific ministry, and we pray for the Spirit whenever there is a service for healing, and we pray for the Spirit whenever we gather together for Holy Communion!
The Scriptures promise that those who pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit will receive it (Lk. 11:13). The Scriptures also promise that where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, he will be there in the midst of them (Mt. 18:20) - which happens through the presence and power of his Spirit. So how does the Holy Spirit come to us? - Through prayer and through gathering together with other believers in the name of Jesus.
Now, you may recall that this quest for the Holy Spirit got started as a quest for the peace of Christ. However, that is not where the story ends. Jesus did not give his Spirit and his peace to the disciples so that they could stay behind closed doors and just be peaceful. He gave them his Spirit because they were being sent out into the world. You see, the thing with believing in Jesus Christ is that it never has to do only with us. It has to do with every single person whom we meet and every single person who lives in this world. That other person, no matter where we meet them, is a person for whom Christ died. But unless we are ambassadors for Christ and pass along the grace and forgiveness of God, that other person might never know the love of Christ. Every single one of us who believes in Jesus Christ is given the gift of the Spirit in order to share that faith and that salvation with others.
It is something that sounds scary to many people, but God does not ask us to do things without providing us with the means to do them. God gives us the Holy Spirit for a reason: So that we might be witnesses to the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. We are healed in order to pass on that healing to others. We are forgiven in order to pass on that forgiveness to others. We are given peace in order to pass on that peace to others. We are loved in order to pass on that love to others. May that same Spirit renew our hearts and our minds as we gather together for worship today.
May we be opened to God's grace, strengthened in our faith and empowered for service. May we be constantly in prayer with thanksgiving and filled with the gift of peace. Come, Holy Spirit, come! Amen.
The Day of Pentecost (A) John 20:19-23 May 15, 2005 St. Luke's Zion Lutheran Church Pastor Lynne Hutchison Moore
? 2005 Lynn Hutchison Moore All Rights Reserved