My friends, this is Pentecost Sunday in a time of pandemic. We know Pentecost is the beginning, really, of the Church—for simplicity sake, we call, “Christian” as it forever tries to follow our brother Jesus, whom we believe to be, “the Christ”—the anointed one. The times in which we live call us to be “Christian” as never before—to be honest, truthful, filled with justice, merciful, compassionate and loving—as was Jesus. May we be, as the first disciples, “enabled” by Jesus’ Spirit to be his true followers in our world.
This week Pastor Dick Dahl has gifted us with a homily—enjoy! –Pastor Kathy
P.S. And as always, please be in contact by email, firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 507-429-3616 if I can be of service to you.
The love of our God has been poured into our hearts by God’s Spirit living in us, Alleluia!
Let Us Pray
God of Light, from whom every good gift comes; send your Spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind, and by the flame of your wisdom open the horizons of our minds. Loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words beyond the power of speech, for without your Spirit, we could never raise our voices in words of peace or announce the truth that Jesus lives and loves us with you and this same Spirit—one God, forever and ever—Amen.
- Acts 2:1-11
- 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7, 12-13
- John 20: 19-23
Homily–From Pastor Dick Dahl
Today’s readings speak to us with the power of a tornado and the gentleness of a whisper. They speak about the outpouring, the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit hovered over the abyss at the creation of the universe. The Spirit of God has never been absent. If that were the case, nothing would exist. But the coming of the Spirit into human life after the departure of Jesus has special powerful meaning.
A powerful force is the root meaning of the Hebrew word that is translated as “spirit.” It is related, however, to breath as well as wind. In Genesis, God is pictured as creating the universe by simply speaking, “Let there be….” Then God breathes life into dust from the earth and human life begins.
But, as I said, today’s readings are about the gift of the Holy
Spirit at Pentecost and what this means for us and the world. So, let’s look at one of those readings. I prefer to start with the one from John’s Gospel although it is usually read last.
It may surprise you, but this reading gives us, as it were, the first Pentecost story. The evening of his Resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples. They are in hiding for fear of capture, so twice he reassures them, “Peace be with you.” In place of wind or fire, he delivers the Spirit by breathing on them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
(Some biblical scholars think the following words, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you retain are retained,” refer to baptism through which the Holy Spirit is given.)
Next, in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes the disciples gathered in the same room when the Spirit whom Jesus had promised comes to them through the sound of a strong driving wind and flames of fire: “They were all filled with the holy Spirit….”
The sound had drawn a large crowd of Jewish pilgrims who had come from all parts of the then known world. When the Apostles spoke, the audience understood them, although the people listening spoke many different languages. The Spirit enabled the Apostles to speak, so that those hearing them were able to understand what they were saying, namely about the amazing things God had done through Jesus.
Intentionally or not, Luke presents a reverse picture of the story of the tower of Babel from chapter 11 of Genesis. In that account early humans who still spoke only the same language, out of arrogance tried to build a tower to the heavens. God punished their pride by confusing their language so that they did not understand one another and then were scattered over all the earth. Now in Acts those scattered and diverse people were drawn together and could understand the Apostles across the barriers of different languages.
In the other reading for today, from Paul’s first letter to the Christian community in Corinth, we see an aspect of this event that had special meaning in the time of Roman rule as well as now. The Roman Empire was a very stratified society. But Paul writes to the Corinthians, “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
Imagine that! Through the gift of the Spirit, the slave had equal worth to the emperor! This was the first religion to teach such a message. The sense of radical egalitarianism drew many to the early Christian community. Note also, how instead of wind, fire or breath, Paul used the image of water to describe the Spirit’s action, the living water promised by Jesus to the Samaritan woman.
Jesus told his followers, and that includes us, that he and his Father would send us a gift, the Spirit. The Spirit would be our advocate, one who knows what we need before even we do. Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit would teach them everything and remind them of all he had told them (John 14:26).
My sense, and perhaps I’m wrong, is that instead of letting the Spirit teach us, open our vision to all of creation, there is often a tendency to minimize and mentally limit the Spirit’s dynamic and permeating presence. For example, how much do people see religion focusing mainly on church-related concerns or even specific moral concerns (usually about sex) rather than the call of the two Great Commandments—to love everyone with no exceptions. Many have been taught consciously or unconsciously to think of the Church in narrow terms, as if it were confined to the hierarchy and the clergy.
This amounts to having blinders on to God’s outpouring of his Spirit throughout the world, in fact, through all of creation. So to think of God only in the Catholic Church, or even only in Christians is to distort and grossly minimize God’s presence and actions through the Spirit. On Pentecost the Spirit flooded the world, was poured into all living things, in all of nature, in all creation. This is why one can often regain a sense of peace, of the beauty of God’s presence, when one has the opportunity to spend time outside–in the yard, by the river, in the woods.
I am suggesting that there is a tendency to restrict our sense of God to a place, the tabernacle, a church building, or to people like us, people who believe what we believe, who share our culture, who act the way we think others should act.
Jesus, however, taught us by his example to get rid of such restricted thinking. He offended the religious leaders of his time (and I suspect would do the same today) by reaching out to those considered “outsiders,” lepers, Samaritans, tax collectors, gentiles, prostitutes, “sinners.” Who are the “outsiders” in our community or wider world today?
These are concrete, not abstract ideas. The murder and riots of the past week in Minneapolis puts a spotlight on an individual act of cruelty and violence, but also on a system of brutality and disrespect which has left many of our fellow citizens enraged and discouraged beyond their ability to hope. I read that Martin Luther King Jr. once said or wrote, “Riots are the language of the unheard.” So when Jesus repeatedly connected with the outsiders, he gave us an example—namely that there are no such thing as outsiders in his eyes. He gave us his Spirit by which the slave is equal in God’s eyes to the emperor, as is the black man under the knee of an arresting officer to you or me, or to the President of the United States.
In one of his daily meditations last week Father Richard Rohr wrote: “We see in the Gospels that the people who tend to follow Jesus are the ones on the margins: the lame, poor, blind, prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors, and foreigners. He lived in close proximity to and in solidarity with the excluded ones in his society. Those on the inside and at the center of power are the ones who crucify him: elders, chief priests, teachers of the Law, scribes, and Roman occupiers. Yet we still honor people in these latter roles and shun the ones in the former.
But when the Bible is read through the eyes of solidarity—what we call the ‘preferential option for the poor’ or the ‘bias from the margins’—it will always be liberating, transformative, and empowering in a completely different way. Read this way, Scripture cannot be used by those with power to oppress or impress. The question is no longer ‘How can I maintain my special and secure status?’ It is ‘How can we all grow and change together?’ I think the acceptance of that invitation to solidarity with the larger pain of the world is what it means to be a ‘Christian.’”
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
- Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Spirit among us—help us to always remember that in this gift you fulfill your promise to always be with us, we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
2. O God, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
3. Jesus, you who said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend, give us hearts that strive to love unconditionally, we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
4. Jesus, give the gift of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel for those suffering from job loss or any other set-backs at this time, due to the coronavirus, we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
- Jesus, you have called us friends—enable us to extend that relationship in our world to those who most need friendship, we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
6. Jesus, you no longer have a body in this world except through us—help us to be your hands and eyes and ears and heart for our world , we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
- Jesus, your words in Scripture today remind us that we are sent forth—give us the strength to follow your lead in our world and speak truth to power through your Spirit, we pray it your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
8. Jesus, in your loving Spirit let us as members of this community, All Are One, always find room at our table for all your people—we pray too that our community can remain strong during this time of Covid 19, we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come!”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week,—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray in your Spirit—Response: “Come, Spirit, Come”
***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—(pause) we pray, then response
Let Us Pray
Jesus, be the strength we need each day to be Pentecost people –true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world. Let us look at your people, always with love, remembering that you have called us friends—that you have given all that we might have eternal life with you. Let us always remember your never-failing love for each person and that because you have loved us so fully, we too must love fully in return. We are grateful for the gift of your loving Spirit in our lives. Through that same Spirit, give us renewed hearts, strong in our commitment to speak truth to power wherever needed. Be with the black community now—give them strength in this most recent assault by Minneapolis policemen—be with the white community and help all of them, to address the issue of racism in this country. Give us what we most need today so that we can more effectively be your body in our world. We ask all of this of you, our loving Savior and with the Creator and your loving Spirit— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again, we remember that we are “Jesus,” if we choose to be, for our world. Ask him to be with you, now, in a special way, and he will be!
Prayer after Communion
Loving Jesus, may the food we have received today in this Eucharist keep within us the vigor of your Spirit and protect the gifts you have given to your Church—we ask this in your wonderful name—Amen.