Friends, today with the feast of Pentecost, we officially end the Easter Season. Now, even though that is true, I hesitate to use the word “end” because I don’t want us to get the notion that we can now coast. What Pentecost really signals is a beginning.
Just as in our Mass each week—we purposely don’t say, “The Mass is ended, go in peace” as in previous times, as that signals, we are done for this week! No, we say, the Mass is ended, or this part is over—“Let our service either begin or continue!”
Jesus’ sending of the Spirit was always meant to give us strength for the service that continues; the Mass is for “revving” us up! Pentecost signals the end of the “strength-building” (for now), 50 days (the Greek meaning of Pentecost)—to the time of going out, sharing so completely what we have been so graciously given.
This past week, the Winona Interfaith Council, of which I am a member, worked and put out a letter that shows our commitment as a group of religious people from all different faith backgrounds to stand in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers in the most recent attack on them in Portland, Oregon.
Our faith in Jesus of Nazareth, or Buddha, or the Great Spirit, or in the tenets of the Ba’hai faith, whatever it might be, calls us to be about action and in each manifestation of belief; we are showing a different aspect of the face of God! We cannot say we believe and not act! I see this action in present day as the same as what happened on that first Pentecost recorded in Acts—people from all places heard what those first followers of Jesus had to say, “in their own tongue.” This happened because the message was big enough, inclusive enough, for all of them, in the Spirit.
Friends, this is what we as Pentecostal people have to realize too—Jesus, the Christ includes us all as we spoke of last Sunday. Part of our letter of solidarity includes the teachings of our prophets which clearly show how we are more alike than we are different. Any church rhetoric that states that in order to be saved, one has to believe “all the tenets of our faith” are clearly not being led by the Spirit of that first Pentecost! We look to Jesus’ own prayer the night before he died, “That all may be one” for evidence of this.
Some 9+ years ago on Pentecost Sunday, we at All Are One were celebrating the first Mass after my ordination—it was May 11, 2008 that year, a bit earlier than today. We could truly say that was a “Pentecostal moment”—just as Jesus’ young band were being “birthed” into the world of Palestine, All Are One was being “birthed” too into our community of Winona, MN. Coincidence? I don’t think so! The Spirit can do in us what we cannot do alone!
Pentecost is one of the real times of celebration that the Church gives us—Joan Chittister calls these “firework moments.” They are times that call us to go deeper, such as Christmas and Easter and recall what these holy times in our faith really mean—times when our God moved in mighty ways among us in the person of Jesus and his Spirit. Pentecost, Joan goes on to say, “Is a time of holy hilarity when the Church points again and again to the empty tomb.”
Let’s reflect on “holy hilarity” for a bit. Jesus, in his earthly life was always doing something in his earthly life that hadn’t been done before. He shows us truly how we are to live. Our world often gives us the message—stick to home, don’t get involved—it’s easier that way—we are the best—let’s be great again, us over everyone else. The trouble with this kind of thinking is that it is contrary to everything that Jesus ever taught! I think “holy hilarity” is a good way to think about what the Spirit does in our world, calling us to new beginnings. The Church (hierarchy) says “no” to women priests–RCWP (Roman Catholic Women Priest)s and other groups say “yes,” in the Spirit and move forward in that same Spirit.
The new beginning that Jesus’ Spirit calls forth from each of us is about living passionately. It has been said, “Passion is the heartbeat of life.” In this we get the sense that living passionately is about living fully—we can’t let ourselves become stagnant—Pentecost calls us a be ALIVE, not just breathing! A passionate person is not lukewarm. As followers of Jesus, lukewarm is the last thing we want to be—the book of Revelation tells us that the lukewarm, neither hot nor cold that is, are fit for nothing but to be spit out of the mouth of God (Rev. 3: 15-16)!
A story I’ve shared with you before from Joan Chittister that bears repeating is of a seeker who went to the monastery to gain enlightenment. After much prayer, nothing seemed to happen. Preparing to leave, the disappointed seeker asked the master, “Why has my stay yielded no fruit?” “Could it be because you lacked the courage to shake the tree,” asked the master kindly?
On this feast of Pentecost, it is good for us to spend some moments trying to get our heads and hearts around what happened to these first followers of Jesus—the manifestation of the resurrection, however that was experienced, followed by the coming of the Spirit, the very Breath of God upon them!
Scripture scholar, Diane Bergant tells us that what these first followers experienced was a theophany or an “experience of God.” These phenomena— the tongues of fire, the violent wind blowing, the speaking in and understanding of foreign tongues were all manifestations that accompanied such a heavenly vision, as Scripture tells us. These phenomena can be likened to God speaking to Moses through a burning bush or to Job through a whirlwind. Something marvelous had indeed happened!
So what did all of this signal for them? For us, also baptized and confirmed in the Spirit as followers of Jesus, the Christ? For them, it called for courage to go out and boldly proclaim the message of love, unity and care that Jesus proclaimed so boldly concerning his Abba God. I believe it calls each of us to a passionate walk with our brother Jesus—it calls us to get angry when we see people in positions of power, whether in Church or State, abusing that power for their own advancement when it was actually given for others, to make our world better. It calls us to look lovingly on our beautiful earth and to do all we can to protect it for the use and enjoyment of generations to come. It calls us to slow down, now, to see the beauty that the month of June gives us in the explosion of growth and color all around. Joan Chittister speaks well of the beauty all around us and suggests that “flowers confront us with our responsibility for beauty.” Do we bring beauty into our world through our actions, our speech, our very thoughts?
Pentecost is about being touched with the very Spirit of God to be our absolute best selves, always striving to show forth the divine that lives within each of us. Being our best selves, striving for that, means that we must, absolutely must, be accepting of all that come to our table and here I mean not only our table at All Are One, but the universal table of the Church. We must invite everyone to be part of this universal community and not wait until they believe as we do, but in the diversity that Paul speaks of to the Corinthians today—we will look with honor and privilege upon the gifts of all to show us the greater, grander face of God. That is why I am a part of the Winona Interfaith Coalition because their vision is all about how much we share and how little divides us.
One of the aspects of Pentecost that we are all called to in this celebration is to remember that the gifts each of us is given are not ultimately for us, but for the building up of the kin-dom of our brother Jesus. Pentecost calls us to shake things up a bit—to be people of passion, fully alive and fully about love. Pentecost calls us my friends to be prophets—to see visions and to dream dreams (Acts 2:17). May God bless us all as we truly contemplate the Spirit’s indwelling within us and begin to join more fully in her work of renewing the face of the earth! Amen? Amen!