Pentecost Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church
G0ldsboro, NC, 15 May 2016
G0ldsboro, NC, 15 May 2016
RCL Year C: Acts 2:1-211; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17, 25-27
I wonder if Jesus would laugh at the Frank & Ernest cartoon by Bob Thaves that says “Communication Workshop Sometime Tonight in a Room Upstairs”. I wonder if Jesus would say to us: “That’s sooo what happened to me with Philip in today’s Gospel & some reactions you hear my disciples get on Pentecost.”
Beloved Brothers & Sisters, this cartoon reminds us communication can be challenging, especially in a new situation. Please fold your arms as you normally do. Now fold them in a different way [such as left over right or right over left, whichever if different from your norm]. How does that feel? [Different. Uncomfortable. Odd. Difficult.]
Perhaps that’s how the disciples feel hearing Jesus in our Gospel say “I am in the Father & the Father is in me...I will ask the Father, & he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
Perhaps discomfort is how they & some of the crowd feel
as the Holy Spirit becomes active among them
on this 1st Pentecost.
Notice the negative reactions this new experience brings during this very familiar, traditional festival of Pentecost. For centuries on Pentecost God’s people have celebrated the abundance of crops, God’s gifts that nourish us. This festival that comes 50 days after celebrating Passover, which recalls the miracle of God’s saving God’s people enslaved in Egypt, as several sources note1.
Today we celebrate Pentecost as the Birthday of the Church. [That's why we have these red balloons!] On this festive day, how do your soles feel? [Happy? Comfortable? Ready to step out to a new adventure?]
I share joy with you today, yet my soles’ feeling pressured, rough, hardened. This will improve with a good soaking in Epsom salts to relieve my soles that have been through a lot of pressure from all my standing to pack, pack, pack & move stuff & walk up & down, up & down stairs.
Soles – s-o-l-e-s of my feet! You thought s-o-u-l-s, our spirits! Communication is a challenge.
[I set you up for that twist of words.]
My “words” in a text angered our son’s friends after the death of a friend's grandmother. I replied to his text with sympathy, assurance of prayers for all & signed with my usual text brevity: LOL, MOM. His friends felt so angry they threatened to call me & tell me off for being so crass to sign what they read as “Laughing Out Loud” in a situation that was not funny!
Our son knows his MOM & calmed the troubled waters by explaining that to me LOL means “Lots of Love”.
Missionaries have faced the difficulty of speaking the Good News of Jesus’ death for us on the cross, the death of the Lamb of God, his Resurrection & Ascension. Different languages, different cultures have different ways to comprehend the Good News:
God Loves You. No Exceptions. All are welcome.
As I read somewhere long ago, missionaries to Eskimos realized the good news about the sacrifice of the Lamb of God did not speak to souls that had never seen sheep.
The sacrifice of the Baby Seal of God spoke volumes.
God has been overcoming our barriers to God’s Love from the beginning, through many ways, many languages, many people.
Our Patron Saint Francis was one of them. He understood this truth & preached by words, by silent prayer, by actions. I am sure his actions, his peaceful trust in God spoke louder than words to that wolf that had been terrorizing their town. That wild creature became a loving, non-threatening member of the community.
Beloved Brothers & Sisters, we know 2 things:
1. What we say to each other can be heard differently.
2. What we say, hear & experience can be challenging, confusing.
How does the Holy Spirit breathe new life, new words into us?
How does the fire of God’s Love, the Love of our Father – our Abba/our Papa – give us Light to see & new, joyful sounds to share?
We hear of powerful wind & fire today. We know the Pentecost story well & may overlook the powerful, yet quiet ways God acts now.
Look at this quiet wind chime my brother & his wife gave us years ago that still delights & soothes us. How can it work with no wind, no breath blown on it, no hand to move it? [Solar chime demo. See video below.]
It works through the light God has created.
God’s power – God’s fire & Light, God's breathing into & through us – flows in many ways like the solar power that enlivens this "wind" chime. Like tides hitting or caressing the shore, the Spirit flows differently among us & differently in each of us at various times of life, as my Professor of Spirituality at Sewanee, The Rev. Dr. Bob Hughes, describes in his book, Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life.
How do we – how do you – connect with God & respond to God’s gift of the Holy Spirit?
What if Jesus is asking us 21st Century disciples what he asks of Phillip in our Gospel: “Have I been with you all this time & still you do not know me?” Has God’s Holy Spirit been with you all this time & still you do not know?
In her sermon on our Gospel, Jazzy Bostock of Hawaii says: On Pentecost we see: “…God will not be confined by a certain language…[AND] God [meets] us …where we are.”2
Our Gospel challenges us “to be open to seeing the Beloved in new ways. Jesus asks us to open our eyes wider, & see anew where God is in our lives...Sometimes, the new movement of God can be scary... [Even when we see or experience fiery tongues, we can rest in Jesus' words: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled,...do not...be afraid.’ Peace I give to you – my peace I leave with you.’”]3
As we move into a fuller relationship with God & into new relationships in our lives, we can face the challenge of change.
Knowing, trusting we are enfolded in God's Peace, God's Love, Beloved Brothers & Sisters, we can move forward with confidence into the unknown that awaits us. Together, relying on God's Holy Spirit, we can say: “Bring it on!”
Bostock, Jazzy. “Limiting Love, Day of Pentecost (C) -2016”. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/04/29/limiting-love-day-of-pentecost-c-2016/ Accessed: 12 May 2016.Hughes, Robert Davis III. Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 2008.
Tenney, Merrill. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965. P. 116.
Veal, David. Saints Galore: Character Sketches for the New Calendar of Saints. Cincinnati: Forward Movement Publications. 1972. P. 118.
Words of Worship: A Liturgical Dictionary Compiled by Charles Mortimer Guilbert. New York: The Church Hymnal Corp. 1988. P.50.
1 Tenney, Merrill. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. P. 116. Veal, David. Saints Galore: Character Sketches for the New Calendar of Saints. P. 118. Words of Worship: A Liturgical Dictionary Compiled by Charles Mortimer Guilbert. P.50.
2 Bostock, Jazzy. “Limiting Love, Day of Pentecost (C) -2016”.