Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Holy Spirit everywhere and in everyone

Here is my sermon from today. It is based on Acts 2:1-21 and John 14:8-17, (25-27). Enjoy your Pentecost, and to our University of Virginia graduates and their friends and family, congratulations!

Come Holy Spirit Come
Last week, Associate Rector Ann talked about what she misses most about her previous life as a physician. She got me thinking about what I miss most about my previous life as a journalist. I devoted 25 years of my adult life to newspaper reporting, and ink still runs thickly in my veins.
What I miss most is chasing stories with a pen and notebook.
What I loved most was going out and talking with people from every imaginable background and in every imaginable situation. There is no better front seat on the world than in journalism.
Ann mentioned last week her privilege as a physician was in seeing humans from the inside out. As a journalist, I saw humans from the outside in.
I still do that. Journalism and the priesthood are not as far apart as you might think.
What struck me then, as now, is how God is with people; how God finds people in every circumstance; in the joys and triumphs, in the tragedies and calamities.

And what strikes me over and over is how God speaks to people in their own language, through their own culture, and in ways that will touch them here if they are listening here.
The breadth and depth of humanity is almost too huge to comprehend, and yet I have no doubt that God finds each and everyone one of us no matter where we are from, or who we are, or what we are experiencing. God is in every city, every village, and every room before we get there; and God will be there when we leave.
Today we celebrate Pentecost. Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.
This feast day is really a celebration of how God finds us and speaks to us in whatever circumstance we dwell. It is God who finds us, and not the other way around. God in Holy Spirit finds us and will touch us here (the heart). If we are listening here (the heart) we just might catch it.
Sometimes the Church portrays Pentecost as filled with noise and chaos and clanging gongs – and hordes of people speaking in tongues.
But if you read the story in Acts carefully, what really happens is the Spirit descends on the people and there is a sweeping away of confusion.
The Spirit brings clarity amidst the diversity of the human condition.
The first thing that the disciples mention about their experience of Pentecost is that they could understand each other no matter what language they speak.
Before Pentecost, they couldn’t understand a word each other has to say, even when they speak in the same language. Now on Pentecost they understand each other perfectly even when they speak in different languages.
The chaos and arguments they’ve had no longer matter. All of the pettiness no longer matters.
Whatever their personal failings, whatever faction or clique they belong to, none of it matters.
And they know what they need to do. On this first Pentecost, they leave the safety of their hideout and go out to proclaim by word and deed the healing grace they’ve received from God through Christ who they now know as the Holy Spirit.
From this moment on, they – and we – are born as one with the Body of Christ, and we become the hands and heart of the Risen Christ in the world. We signify that through the words and symbols of our baptism.
The promise to a small group, these first disciples, is now the birthright of all people everywhere – no one to be excluded, each of us to be given the ability to hear the Holy Spirit, each in our own way.
Yet there is a challenge that comes with Pentecost. It is the challenge of our baptism:
To paraphrase the prayer of St. Francis, the Holy Spirit comes not just to console us, but for us to console others; not just so we will be understood, but that we will understand others; not just so we will be loved, but so that we will love others; and not just so we will be forgiven, but so that we will have the power to forgive others.
The Holy Spirit truly comes so we may receive these extraordinary gifts, and comes also so that we will share these gifts with the world around us and beyond us.
That is our task, that is our mission. There really is no other. In the words of the prophet, and proclaimed by Peter on that first Pentecost:
“This is the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.”
That day is ours, my friends. Claim it and be glad in it. Amen

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