NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT PENTECOST SERMON:
St. Andrew’s Old Roman Catholic Church
138 Pears Ave. Meeting Room
Acts 2: 1 – 11
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”
GOSPEL OF THE DAY: John 14: 15 – 31a
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?”
Jesus answered and said unto him, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.”
SERMON PROPER BEGINS
In the reading from Acts we learn of a true levelling within our faith—all were filled with the spirit of God, all were able to go into the world and preach the good news. There is no indication of special status, of exclusion, of division—-there was a great and universal commissioning of the believers to go out into the world and talk to others in ways they could understand. Acts talks about language and cultural barriers falling way. Good news was universal; the responsibility for sharing the news rested upon everyone who grasped the fact that love was unleashed into the world.
We are able to share the gospel, the good news, easier today that in the times of the earliest days of the church. We can type a biblical text into our computer and software such as babblefish can translate it for it; other software will read the passage for us. This is one of the good aspects of modern times; unfortunately some things are not good. There are those that share our faith that horde the good news, that believe it isn’t for everyone. Faith justified discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation undermines the universal positive message of our faith. God didn’t suffer and die as one of us on the cross for the benefit of some but of all; the Spirit of God didn’t descend at Pentecost to some of those gathered but on all; the Good News wasn’t heard in the streets of Jerusalem by some people in their own language but by all.
Our faith has a long history, both positive and negative. Christianity brought apartheid to South Africa and Christians worked hard to over come it. We have used our faith to justify treating women as second class citizens and people of faith encouraged women to become educated leaders in our churches and in the world. Christianity is used to justify homophobia and Christian churches are places of refuge and hope to the victims of discrimination. At Pentecost the universality of the love of God and equality of all believers was made manifest and despite those that would use Christianity to foster hate, the loving spirit of God has not been quenched either in the church or in the world.
And the demands on people of faith have not lessened over time either. We are always to show, in ways that makes sense to others, that God is present in our lives and in our world. We are to be ethical in business relationships and in our personal lives; we are to care for strangers and for our families; we are to bring hope to those we share a common heritage with and to those with whom tradition have us see as the enemy.
The gospel refers to the indwelling spirit of God as both the spirit of truth and the comforter. We see these two aspects worked out at the first Pentecost. The gathered faith community, still in grief at the death of Jesus, were given strength and hope—they were comforted both as individuals and as a community by the real presence of the divine in their midst. They became confident of the truth of God’s promises to all of creation and shared this with all they came into contact with. People in Jerusalem were able to see and hear the spread of good news not only within their own ethnic enclaves but across all the divisions of the city.
This spirit has never left the faith community. We all still can become open to the spirit of God among us; we all still can go into the world and share the good news. We don’t even have to speak. Every time we help at a food bank or hold a door open for a stranger, every time we waive someone ahead of us while driving, every time we don’t buy into sexism or racism or homophobia, we are speaking in tongues about the good news.
In the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer found in Luke 1: 46 – 55, we hear:
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me: holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
The spirit that filled Mary, that was unleashed into the world a spirit that feeds the hungry and undermines the powers of the world, is the spirit that filled those gathered on the first Pentecost and is the spirit that moves in the world today urging people of faith to work to seek dignity and justice for all. It is the calling we hear quietly in the night comforting us when we feel alone and the driving force that motivated Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Desmond Tutu, Francis of Assisi, Mary McAllister and others became the inspiration and models for those seeking a more just sharing of the resources of creation.
The Spirit of the Lord is among us and we are the way that Spirit is shown to the world. The Magnificat is made real in the world we weave together. When we leave this place let us be open to the spirit and seek ways to uniquely and lovingly release God’s love into the world—there is good news for everyone to share.