June 5, 2022 The Day Of Pentecost

June 5, 2022
“The Day of Pentecost”
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin

Readings: Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27
From the Gospel according to John, “(Jesus said) the Holy Spirit ... will teach you
everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” I speak to you in the Name of
God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In looking ahead to today’s scripture lessons, a sermon began to take shape on the
prophetic and practical merits of Pentecost and its influence on the early church. Frankly, I
think it was a really good teaching sermon. And yet, for the third week in a row now, the
Spirit has urged me to put it aside – to save it for a Christian Education class – and be open
to what the Holy Spirit desires for us to grasp on this Feast Day of Pentecost 2022. To that
end, in the words of the Psalmist, may my words, these words, be pleasing to God and
encourage us all to rejoice in the Lord, the God of our salvation.
The Day of Pentecost is often referred to as the Birthday of the Church. But that is a bit
misleading. The spectacular descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – the 50th Day after
Easter – that empowered the disciples to go forth with boldness to proclaim the grace of
God in Christ Jesus is, indeed, something to celebrate. Yet, it could be argued that the real
birthday of the church occurred when our Lord first invited a motley crew of fishermen by
the shores of Galilee to come follow him, or when Jesus sent Mary Magdalene forth from the
empty tomb to proclaim his resurrection. Whatever you may think about when the church
was officially born, the Day of Pentecost remains a pivotal event in both the beginning and
continuing life and witness of the Church.
And so today, Christians throughout the world celebrate Pentecost usually with great
fanfare. Yes, something astounding happened that day, and yet, in our celebrations of
Pentecost it is easy to get caught up in the pyrotechnics of this blessed event and miss out
on its real message – a message that speaks to God’s people still today. In fact, there is an
urgency to its message today. See, the true meaning of Pentecost has nothing to do with
magical events. The sound of a rushing wind and the utterance of tongues was simply an
introduction – a means of getting our attention. The real message here is what happened as
a result of the manifestation and indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It’s not about
speaking or not speaking in tongues, nor is it about seeking spiritual gifts like a competition,
but rather, as our reading from Acts tells us, it is about going forth with zeal to proclaim the
“great deeds of God” so clearly and powerfully that lives – the very values and beliefs
people hold dear - are truly transformed by that same Spirit.
But that was then. This is now. What impact does Pentecost hold for us today? What does
Pentecost mean to us, and in us, and for us today?
In our reading from the Gospel according to John, our Lord gets to the heart of what
Pentecost should mean, and how it should impact, the life of every Christian. Jesus doesn’t
say, “The Holy Spirit will come and empower you with gifts to impress your friends or help
you feel good about yourself.” No. Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit ... will teach you everything,
and remind you of all that I have said to you.” That’s the importance of the Holy Spirit’s
presence not just at Pentecost, but every moment of our lives. The Spirit comes to teach
and remind God’s people how followers of Jesus Christ should and must live. The Spirit
empowers us to not just remember, but apply our Lord’s teachings so that they continue to
change and transform us. Change and transform us so completely that we go forth with zeal
to demonstrate not just by words, words that so often seem empty, but by how we choose
to live and treat others what it means to be forgiven and marked as Christ’s own, and invite
others to experience and know the same.
We Christians need to be constantly reminded that our faith is not about following rules
or judging others or just being nice people. Our faith is about action not as in telling others
what to do, but rather, embracing and recommitting ourselves each and every day to
uphold and demonstrate what Jesus said and taught. And what was it that Jesus said and
taught? He said, “Love one another as I have loved you”. “Love the Lord your God with all
your heart, soul, body, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He said, “As
you have done to the least of these ... so you have done to me.” “Love your enemies. Do
good to those who persecute you.” “If you love me, you will keep my commandments, you
will feed my sheep, you will serve one another, you will wash each other’s feet.” “You will
preach the gospel to the ends of the earth – in your words and by how you live.” “You will
be my witnesses.” That’s what Jesus said and taught us. And all of it is based in and infused
with God’s love. What is it that our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry often says? “If it isn’t
about love. It’s not about God.” Jesus taught us to love as deeply and as compassionately
and as sacrificially as God in Christ has loved us.
That is what Pentecost is all about. The Holy Spirit through her teaching us and reminding
us of everything Jesus said, taught, and did, comes to daily transform us, and continue to
reshape us into the very image of Christ himself so that how we choose to live, to talk, to
act and respond to everything unfolding around us, reflects and witnesses to God’s
welcoming and unconditional love, witnesses to everything Jesus said and taught. Jesus
sent his followers forth as his light in this world. Pentecost reminds us that this work, this
mission immersed in God’s love, is always before us and that our work is never finished.
There is always more to do.
Fortunately, providentially, Scripture affirms that to assist us in this sacred work, the
Holy Spirit has endowed each and every one of us with spiritual gifts in order that together,
and embodying everything Jesus taught and said, we might carry forth and proclaim in and
through our choices and values and way of life God’s grace in Christ Jesus that welcomes
and forgives all people. And in so carrying forth and proclaiming, we help build God’s
kingdom in our midst and in one another, our communities, and a world desperate for new
life, healing, wholeness, mercy, and love. That is what Pentecost is about and why it
matters, urgently matters, today.
The question and challenge for the Church on Pentecost 2022 is whether it is possible for
us – like the prophet Joel foretold and Peter affirmed – to dare to dream dreams, to speak
up in these days of increasing violence, murder, hatred, and mistrust, and say “enough is
enough” and with zeal hold up God’s vision for this world and actually demonstrate the new
life made possible when people commit to embrace everything Jesus said and taught. Is it
possible? Pentecost says that answer is “Yes” but, once again, that decision, that
commitment, that embodiment of Christ himself, is left up to us to embrace, and us alone.
Friends, on the Day of Pentecost, God presented people of faith with a gift – a gift that
changes and transforms lives. Now, may God grant us the courage to accept it, open it, and
most of all, embrace and live it. Amen.