Pentecost is a big celebration for Christians.
It involves a rare color of vestments (red).
It had a rare focus for the morning (the Holy Spirit).
But, there is a (nearly) forgotten aspect: A birthday.
And you say, “But whose birthday?”
We may not think of it in this way,
But Pentecost is the birth of the Church.
So, Happy Birthday Church!
And on this birthday, like any good parent,
the Father gave the Church a gift.
The gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is actually the best gift we could have ever received.
Let’s look at why this is true as evidenced in our readings.
· The Spirit breathes life into us (Ezekiel).
The sermon from Sunday focused on the passage from Ezekiel and the prophecy to those who were exiled. As they languished away from their homeland and lamented the disconnect from their God, they were like dry bones, that is, they were spiritually dead.
The prophecy was that God would breathe life into those dry bones and re-establish them as a people. But, this re-establishment could only be possible through the spiritual renewal brought about by the life-giving Spirit.
For the Church, it is similar.
The gift of this life-giving Spirit, through the salvific work of Jesus,
creates a renewal of life through the renewal of our spirit.
This gives the ability to be different.
It is an ontological change of being that creates the Body of Christ.
This is a breath of fresh air.
· The Spirit is a dynamically creative force (Psalm).
The Spirit of God is a creative force.
On Sunday, I recalled the creation narrative in Genesis and how,
when the earth was formless and void,
the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.
Out of (seemingly) nothing,
the earth and all we know about life is created.
We see this creativity manifest in the Church through the gifts of the Spirit. Although this idea doesn’t get much press these days,
the Spirit of God grants gifts to all the redeemed for the good of the Church and world.
Collectively it gets incorporated in the idea of the Body of Christ. Paul lays this out in the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12,
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.”
“… Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
“…All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
Practically speaking, it is what makes our church dynamic and alive.
Everyone is not like your priest (thank goodness).
There are those that have knowledge and wisdom to share.
There are those who can administrate well.
There are those who have the gift of service.
Those with the gift of encouragement.
All for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ
and bearing witness to the world.
This is powerful.
· The Spirit gives us hope (Romans).
Hope is essential for life.
A life without hope is drudgery.
A lack of hope is like the farmer in a multi-year long drought
looking at a rainless sky.
The Church is not without hope.
The Spirit gives us hope in two ways:
The Spirit reminds us of God’s love for us.
We all need reminders that we are loved.
That we matter.
I remember before entering into this life of faith, I asked the question,
“If I died tonight, would anyone really care or miss me?”
(I know…it’s a little dramatic).
What I learned through the teachings of Jesus
and coming into this life of faith is that I do matter.
And you matter.
Everyone matters to God.
To many, this is a cause for hope.
In a world routinely built upon a perceived value
through expertise, talent, beauty or money,
our real value is determined by God’s love for creation
seen in the work of Jesus:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
At a bare minimum, we can always rely on the fact that God loves us.
The Spirit is our Guarantor of salvation.
In a world that is fickle,
it is good to settle into our inclusion in the family of God.
Somedays, we can question this truth (as a response to the last point).
“Does God really love me?”
“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14
When I was a kid, my brother and I spent a few hours each week at Memorial Park in Grass Valley.
We were there because my dad played softball.
While he practiced or played, my brother and I would look in all the garbage cans for soda bottles.
Because the bottles could be returned for money.
Stamped right on the bottle were the words “Return for Deposit.”
This meant the bottle had value.
It was worth something.
So we valued it.
And got money back for it.
And purchased candy with the money we got for it.
Ephesians reminds us that our value (to God) is sealed in the gift of the Holy Spirit to us. The Spirit is our “return for deposit.”
· The Spirit is the promised Advocate. (Gospel)
In the Gospel reading from John 15, Jesus says that He is leaving.
He says that once He leaves,
He will send the Advocate for us.
The word for advocate in the Greek is parakletos.
It, loosely, means the “Called Alongside One.”
This is the Helper that, “…helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
This is also the Helper that reminds us that we are not defeated.
This world can make us feel defeated.
Jesus says, of the Advocate,
“when he comes, he [the Advocate] will prove the world wrong about… judgment…because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
The one who condemns has been defeated by the work of Jesus,
which is what the Spirit reminds us of when needed.
The Spirit acts as an encourager, a counselor, a helper and someone to stand beside us for our sake.
And when all of these different pieces are taken together,
the different aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit are a real gift to the Church.
The Spirit is:
-Our Creative Force
It is a reason to celebrate.
A is a reason to be thankful.
A reason to be confident.
A reason to be hopeful.
May this blessed gift to us strengthen us in times of doubt,
Rejoice with us in times of celebration,
And enable us to do the very work of God here on earth.