22 May May 20th, 2018 Pentecost
May 20th, 2018
Deacon Blaine Barclay
Today is the great feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, a radical new beginning, the explosive indwelling overflow of the power of the Risen Jesus. Bob Dylan was right, ’The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind’. The wind, the breath of God, the Holy Spirit disrupting our lives and sending us out into the world with holy boldness, armed with the dynamite of the good news of the gospel. Pentecost is a missionary feast. It cancels out fear, fills us with an evangelical boldness, and sends us out to light a fire of the earth.
We have before us today two very different, contrasting stories, of the coming of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the early disciples. Both are instructive for us. The Holy Spirit, is coming to us as well. As intimate and interior as the sweet breath of Jesus, who says to each one of us, ’Peace be with you’. As violent and disruptive as a gale force windstorm, filling us with the fearlessness of the gospel, bursting forth with dynamite power, crossing all linguistic and ethnic boundaries.
In John’s Gospel we have a ‘little Pentecost’, the disciples are hiding in a house, with the doors locked, because they are afraid that the cops are going to come and arrest them for being followers of Jesus. They don’t know it yet, but a new day is dawning, the eighth day, the first day of the new creation. Suddenly the Risen Jesus is standing in their midst. He shows them his scars, his wounded hands and side, so that they know this living Jesus is the same Jesus who was crucified, died, and was buried. No doubt, they are frightened, scared of the authorities, but also afraid of the one now standing among them. Jesus speaks directly to their fears, and to ours, he says, ’Peace be with you’. Shalom. He gives them the gift of his peace, shows them his transfigured wounded flesh, and the disciples ’rejoiced’.
Jesus doesn’t leave it at that however, he gives them another piece of the peace, he sends them on a mission. Again, he says, ’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. And what a mission this is, nothing less than participation in the coeternal mission of the Son. And what will give us the power to participate in this mission, to be ourselves this missionary outreach of the Father in the Son? John tells us, ’He breathed on them and said to them, [and to us]. ’Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained’.
This first gift of the Holy Spirit, given with the intimacy of the breath of Jesus, echo of the breath of life breathed into the nostrils of the first human being at the dawn of creation, is the breath of tender mercy extended to all of humanity.
In contrast, we have the day of Pentecost describe for us in the Book of Acts. The gift of the Spirit, not so gentle, this time, not so quiet, peaceful and intimate. More like a stick of dynamite thrown into the middle of their collective paper flesh.
Again, they are gathered ‘together in one place’. Tradition tells us that Mary was with them. We don’t know if they were still afraid, or, if the doors were locked. We do know that they were waiting, that Jesus asked them to wait, in Jerusalem, a dangerous place for them. Waiting for the second wave of the promise of the Holy Spirit. ’And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind’. Other translations speak of a ‘fierce’, ‘howling’, ‘turbulent’, ‘roar’, a ‘strong’ and ‘mighty wind’.
Some friends of mine recently survived the winds of hurricane Irma in San Martian. They told me stories of houses exploding, cars being tossed down the street like paper toys, the uprooting of trees and lives. The devastation of the aftermath, a social fabric overturned, uprooted, lives never the same.
The wind of the Spirit also overturns, disrupts, uproots, explodes, and completely transforms the habitual patterns of our lives. Tongues of flaming fire, burning bushes, transfigured flesh, not consumed, but filled with Resurrection power and boldness.
Even the pilgrim crowds in Jerusalem know that something powerful has taken place, so powerful that it cannot be tamed or contained. The crowds are, ’bewildered’, ’amazed’, and ’astonished’. What is this transgressive event that has taken place, this Pentecost that kicks down all the normal doors of language and ethnic space? This reversal of the fragmentation, chaos, and alienation of the Tower of Babel, that presumes to gather all the broken tribes of fallen humanity under ’God’s mighty deeds of power’. To become one body, one spirit in Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, animates the Church as a living breathing body. Let us be open to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives, to send us out as missionary disciples, boldly proclaiming the good news of the gospel. ’Come Holy Spirit’.