Pentecost, Year B
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
John 15:26-27; 16:12-5
May 20, 2018
Our Easter season draws to a close today with our celebration of Pentecost. To appreciate Pentecost, we need to look at it in the context of the whole season of Easter. In fact, we need to go back to the Easter Triduum and what happened those three days.
It began with the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist to feed us with his Body and Blood. We need the strength that comes from receiving Jesus as the Bread of Life.
At the Last Supper, Jesus also made the Eucharist the Memorial of his sacrifice on the Cross that we celebrate on Good Friday. Jesus died for our sins!
Then comes the empty tomb with the news that Jesus is risen. He appeared to his disciples so we know what it means to rise body and soul. We know that if we follow Jesus as the way and truth and the life, we have a place waiting for us in Heaven.
Forty days after the tomb was found empty, Jesus returned to his place at the right of his Father but he does not simply disappear. He allows his disciples to see him ascend, not for media fanfare, but so we know where he went, to Heaven.
Yet, the Ascension is not the end of Easter. Just before he ascended, he told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit before they began their mission.
It is during the Pentecost event itself that the first disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” After receiving the Holy Spirit, they went out to proclaim the gospel to all lands.
The first disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus proceeding from the Father. This is what we profess in our Creed. If we accept the Spirit, he will continue to guide us to all truth.
Yet, we struggle to live as Jesus’ disciples. We try to “live by the Spirit” yet we struggle against the desires of flesh. Paul lists the “works of the flesh” as including immorality, lust, hatreds, rivalry, and jealously just to name a few. Sometimes the struggle begins with even recognizing these as sin.
None of these are what we seek as children of God but they are tempting. We would rather experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control but we fall short of the fruits of the Spirit.
In thinking of falling short, I turn to our psalm response, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” I emphasize “renew” because we have all received the Holy Spirit in our baptism but we need constant renewal. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us to all truth. We are not instantly transformed to be perfect disciples. We can’t handle that but the Spirit will guide us in steps.
I speak for myself when I say I know I don’t know it all. It is too much but I keep asking the Spirit to lead me to do what I can but we only accomplish what we are truly called to be when we let go of our own desires and allow the Spirit to transform us and to use us to reveal God to the world.
There are those who think the world is getting better because our freedoms are only now truly being realized so that people can choose whatever lifestyle they choose.
If these freedoms are so great, how come there continues to be conflict in the world? I don’t mean just conflict between individuals. I think of international conflict like what goes on in Israel and other parts of the Middle East or the situation in North Korea.
Freedom is at its best when people use their freedom to make good choices. There are lots of bad choices being made.
Just this week there was another school shooting with several dead. Much closer to home, there’s the three year who died in Seneca Falls this week. I think we would all agree that the assailants did not make good choices of what to do with their freedom.
But what about the choices of others leading up to the shooting? Perhaps someone choose not to say anything when they saw a warning sign but didn’t want to get involved.
While such shootings are not justified, what about choices of others leading up to the shootings on how they treat people? Perhaps the assailants felt bullied and/or demeaned. If they have mental illness, how were they treated? Were they given any help?
I don’t know the answers. I feel like I am just taking stabs in the dark. What I do know is that we need to embrace the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
The way to stop all the shootings and violence is to take our freedom and choose not what we want but what God intends. To do so, we need to let the Holy Spirit transform us. We need to let go of our wants and give it all to God.