Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost, 2015: In the unity of the Holy Spirit

Lectionary: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104: 25-35,37; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Preacher: The Rev Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Please take out your lectionary insert and let’s say together our Collect for today: Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. And we responded together saying, “Amen.”

What struck me as I read this prayer was the phrase: “…in the unity of the Holy Spirit…” This is something we hear so often as we gather together to worship.It ends just about every Collect and Prayer we say and it concludes all four of our Eucharistic Prayers.

We’re using Eucharistic Prayer A today, so we’ll hear this conclusion: “By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen."

“…in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”

Though we pray this often, have we stopped lately to think about what it means? Well, today’s a good day to do that because this phrase is, for me, the essence of Pentecost.

In our gospel reading from John, Jesus is preparing his followers to live and carry on the work he began - without him. They are, understandably, sad, and knowing this, Jesus comforts them saying, “It’s to your advantage that I go away…” Then he begins to describe how the Holy Spirit will complete his work in the world – through them!

Here’s how that works… The Unity of God who is Trinity has been revealed as unifying divinity and humanity in Jesus, the Incarnation. Richard Rohr says that Coptic Christians in the first and second century, understood Jesus as “a dynamic and living (interactive) union of human and divine in one person. They saw Christ as the living icon of the eternal union of matter and Spirit in all of creation.”

It was through Christ, then, that the third person of the Trinity could be revealed and only because of humanity’s experience with Christ that we were ready to receive the Holy Spirit. Remember, it was in the resurrection appearance in the Upper Room that Jesus gave the disciples his peace, breathed his Spirit on them, and granted them the power to forgive sin.

But the disciples, like so many of us today, continued to hold this gift of divine presence as separate from them. God was out there – in heaven, in Scripture, in the tradition, even in the Incarnate God who was crucified and resurrected – in whom they finally believed. Still, God was out there, other than them.

And that’s why Jesus had to go. Jesus’ ascension opened the way for those first disciples to recognize the divine presence, the Holy Spirit of God, who abides in them, making them one with God, one with one another, one with all.

In the unity of the Holy Spirit… and that’s what they proclaimed. That’s the Good News they shared.

On this Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, proclaimed by those first disciples as revealed in ways that could be seen (tongues as of fire), heard (a sound like a rushing wind), and experienced (all were amazed). This was the fulfillment of the promise of God handed down through the prophets. In fact, in his sermon, Peter quotes the prophet Joel who said: “God declares, … I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy…even upon my slaves, both men and women… I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy…”

The same is true for us today.

On this Day of Pentecost, the moment has come for us to recognize the divine presence that abides in us and proclaim it so that those who are dry bones in our time can hear of “God’s mighty deeds” as Peter said, so they can hear the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ and be restored to life.

Like Ezekiel, Peter, and the disciples, our call is to hear and do the will of God, then watch the work of God happen through our faithfulness.

How do we know the will of God? How do we hear it? We start by believing – believing that that God is speaking in and through us now just as truly as God was speaking in and through Ezekiel, just as truly as God was speaking in and through Peter and the disciples on that first Pentecost.

It’s important to note that it wasn’t until after Ezekiel had done as God had asked that God revealed to Ezekiel who the dry bones were. It didn’t matter whether Ezekiel thought they were deserving of life, or deserving of God’s mercy. It only mattered that God wanted this people to live and sent Ezekiel to be the instrument, the one through whom God would be proclaimed, and life would be restored.

And on that first Pentecost, the disciples were gathered with people from many nations, races, and languages, Jews and non-Jews, people who practiced religion, and people who didn’t, men and women, slaves and free people. God didn’t ask the disciples to find and speak only to those worthy to hear, or qualified to hear, or even to those ready to hear.

God said proclaim, prophesy -tell the Good News you know and watch me act through your faithfulness. So they did… and the Spirit of God spoke through them and all gathered could hear and understand. No one could explain how or why it happened, only that it did happen.

There are dry bones in the world today, people who are desperate to hear the Good News we have to share. So instead of worrying, instead of separating out and excluding those who we deem unworthy or undeserving, we should be about the work we’re called to do: to proclaim, to prophesy.

We can expect that some people won’t like it when we proclaim this Gospel. It isn’t the news they want spread. They want the certainty of an afterlife filled with folks like them, people they approve of – the “right” people.

I’ll bet the Jews didn’t love it when Ezekiel told them they were the dry bones. No one likes being told they are dry bones especially when they’re trying so hard to get it all right.

But they were the dry bones in their time. Who are the dry bones in our time? Christianity? The Episcopal Church? The Church of the Redeemer? You?

The good news is, God restored the dry bones to life! And God used a faithful prophet to accomplish that mighty work.

So prophesy, people of Redeemer! Let’s breathe in the Spirit of God on this Day of Pentecost then breathe out the Good News we know to all the world.

Prophesy that the promised gift of the Holy Spirit of God dwells in us now, uniting us one to another, and to God. Prophesy that the need to divide our matter from God’s Spirit, to divide worthy people from unworthy people, is sin – because we live eternally… in the unity of the Holy Spirit…

Prophesy, then watch as God works through our faithfulness.

Let’s make this real, though. I challenge each of us here today to honor God our Creator and identify one mighty deed of God in our lives one time when God acted powerfully, miraculously, transforming our lives; then to honor Jesus Christ our Savior, the author of the church on earth, let’s tell one other person in this church about that mighty deed and let’s do that sometime today; then (and here’s the challenging part) let’s honor the Holy Spirit who makes us all one by telling one person outside the church about that mighty deed of God in our lives and let’s do that sometime this week.

Be the prophet. Proclaim the good news you know that it may reach to the ends of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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