John 20:19-23; Acts 1:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3 – 13; Psalm 104:24 – 34, 35b. By Sue Berry.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. The story is a very familiar one as recounted in the book of Acts; with images of fire, praying in multiple languages, and attention focused on the church’s prophetic vocation in the world.
Let’s step back into the upper room where the gospel reading takes us. Here we encounter Jesus and the Spirit, and the focus moves to the community and identity of the disciples. The followers of Jesus have secured themselves away from the authorities and fear clouds the situation they find themselves in. They are in lockdown!
As the day is drawing to a close suddenly Jesus appears to them. No warning – a here and now moment. There are no walls, doors, or barriers that can keep Jesus out. Imagine the surprise, the emotions of joy and amazement of the disciples as he comes among them.
Jesus speaks and declares the words and ministers to them “Peace be with you.”
This peace is not an earthly peace; it is a peace that captures the heart, the mind, the soul, the being and the body of each one of them. They are filled with joy and overcome with his presence. He gives them a peace, to provide solace in the face of persecution, the promise of new possibilities and a confidence to overcome the world. Experiencing this peace is deep and goes to the core of our being.
Jesus tells his disciples that it is the Spirit who enables them to bear witness to the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ; His death and resurrection, and all that it offers to be in relationship with the Living God.
A new way of living and being is available to anyone who trusts and believes.
They can set people free – releasing them from the state that they are in. They can be a part of seeing others come to believe in Jesus too. It also comes with a caution. Failure to bear witness Jesus warns, will result in the opposite: a world full of people left unable to grasp the knowledge of God.
Jesus is simply telling them that a church that does not bear witness to Christ, is a church that leaves itself unable to play a role in delivering people from all that keeps them in experiencing the fullness that Jesus offers. In receiving the Spirit, the church received the ability to make God manifest and bring light to the world.
Luke’s description of events in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells of a Suddenly of God; when a greater number of disciples are gathered together in the Upper Room. They have been praying and waiting with expectation for the promises Jesus gave to come to pass.
Suddenly with no warning the presence of God overtakes them. A violent wind moves through the room and tongues of fire rest upon each one of them. The days of waiting are over, and they are propelled into the marketplace where people from different nations are gathered in Jerusalem at the Feast of Pentecost. Multitudes of people gathered from the known world hear the Apostles speaking in their own language. Peter preaches his first sermon and people are shaken the city is buzzing with the news of what is going on. Thousands as a result come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
What is amazing from the two accounts is the change that takes place in the lives of those who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. They become transformed willing to step out in faith. The other striking thing is the breath and the wind of the Holy Spirit a power which cannot be seen but certainly can be felt.
We need the Holy Spirit too to come afresh to renew us and transform us, so we become more like Jesus. It is only as we look back and around us, we become aware of our need. Being vulnerable and available to God opens this door to the infilling of the Holy Spirit who equips and directs us.
In so doing we are more able to share who Jesus is. The world is hungry spiritually there are great needs that only Jesus can meet. Many yearn for belonging and peace in the midst of uncertainty.
God is always creative and invites us to step out in new ways. We need the courage to trust the one who holds all things together.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus – Come Holy Spirit
The words of a familiar hymn can become a prayer as we invite God to work within us and through us.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew, That I may love what Thou dost love, And do what thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, Breath of God, Until my heart is pure, Until with thee I will one will, To do and to endure. Breathe on me Breath of God, Till I am wholly Thine Until this earthly part of me Glows with Thy fire divine. Breathe on me, Breath of God, So shall I never die, But live with the perfect life Of Thine eternity Edwin Hatch 1878