Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pentecost & Baptism, 2024-B: Expanding the boundaries of love

Note: You can watch this being delivered live at Emmanuel Episcopal Church during our Sunday, 10 am Rite II service of Holy Eucharist, live-streamed on our YouTube channel.  The sermon begins at 29:22.

Lectionary: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

En el nombre de Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen. In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Amen. 

As I read our Collect for today, I was struck by this 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 we say, and it concludes all four of our Eucharistic Prayers.

Even 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 the story in Acts, God, who is Trinity in Unity, self-divides into tongues as of fire and rests on each person in the gathering. When that happens, each one is filled with God’s spirit. They are now, in their bodies, living in unity with the Holy Spirit. This was God’s choice.

You remember last week, I preached about the power of God being the power of choice, and the power given to us being the power to action. In the Pentecost story, God chose to overtly join God’s self to each person, and the minute that happened, they were empowered to action, immediately sharing the Good News of the love of God in the world.

As they spoke, everyone present could understand them, and this bewildered them. How can this be? It’s the same question Mary asked the angel Gabriel when he told her she would conceive a son by the power of God’s spirit. It’s good to remember Gabriel’s response to Mary as we read this story of the first Pentecost. In fact, it’s a mantra we can all live by: “For nothing shall be impossible with God.”

As our Psalmist says, “O Lord, how manifold are your works…” then he goes on to describe just some of the wonder and diversity of God’s creative love. May we, like the psalmist, sing God’s praise forever.

In our gospel story, Jesus promises to send an Advocate from the Father. I need to pause to mention that each time the word “Father’ is used here, it is plural, and it literally means “father and mother.” The appropriate pronoun, therefore, would be “they” not “he.”

The word Advocate, also faithfully translated as Comforter, Helper, and Counselor (as in a lawyer or an advice-giver) literally translates as one who is summoned… called to one's aid, a pleader who comes forward in favor of and as the representative of another. (Greek translation, Thayer)

Jesus says this Advocate will "testify on MY behalf." This is Jesus’ Advocate - summoned to help him, to testify in favor of his cause as his representative." And when the Advocate comes,” Jesus says, they will show the world to be wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. 

Sin, because there are people not persuaded by me, they don’t trust me and so they are without me; the divine-human relationship is disrupted.

Righteousness, because I withdraw from this world (you will see me no longer) and return to the eternal unity of God. Righteousness literally translates here as, “the state of him who is such as he ought to be” (Greek translation, Thayer)

And judgment... God’s judgment, God’s choice is to separate and distinguish Jesus from the powers and powerful of the world who distract us from our right relationship with God, others, and self. These worldly powers throw us off our true path. Jesus says they have been JUDGED (not condemned, as it was translated here), that is, they have been distinguished from Jesus who is our true path: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus’ Advocate, who is the Spirit of truth, will make all of this known to us. Spirit, btw, comes from the word “pneuma” which is feminine, so the appropriate pronoun would be “she” not “he.” She will guide us into all truth. She will make known the things that are to come. She will glorify Jesus.

And through Her, so will we.

In the story from Acts, Peter says, “Let this be known to you, and listen to (which actually translates as “receive”) what I say. When we open ourselves to receive the power to action given to us by the Spirit of truth, we too will prophesy.

To prophesy is to speak as directed by the Spirit of God. So, prophesy that the Holy Spirit of God now dwells in us, uniting us to God and to one another – actually and intimately, like family. Prophesy that the need to divide our matter from God’s Spirit, to divide worthy people from unworthy people, is a lie – because we live in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Prophesy, then watch as God works through our faithfulness.

The other way to use our power to action is to live it. That first Pentecost was a powerful moment of heavenly inclusion, of building relationships where earthly divisions had been. All nations, all people were being made known to be one body, one family. When we live this truth as a church, the Good News will issue forth from our mouths and our lives like rushing water, satisfying those who hunger and thirst for a Love that includes them too.

As the church, the body of Christ in the world, we are called to communally discover and nurture the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and use them so that the truth that we are all the family of God is made known on earth.

Today we are blessed to welcome a new member into this family of God: Emilia Jane Reinhardt, Emmy as we call her. Emmy has unique gifts to be discovered and nurtured. Her parents and Godparents will pledge to help her grow in her Christian faith and life. We will pledge to do all in our power to support Emmy and her parents, praying that God will teach Emmy to love in the power of the Spirit and send her into the world in witness to that love.

By this Baptism, we will expand the boundaries of love. We will renew our own Baptismal vows, remembering that we too are marked as Christ’s own forever and are called, along with Emmy, to have inquiring and discerning hearts and live lives of grace.

How wonderful is it to know that we are never alone on this pilgrimage of life? We have family everywhere we are: God, one another, and self - in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

I now invite Emmy, and her parents, Godparents, family, and friends, to come to the font for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. I also invite all of the children present today to come forward and help me bless the Baptismal water.

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