20 May 2018 at St. Peter the Apostle and St. William Churches in Naples, FL
Acts 2, 1-11 + Psalm 104 + Galatians 5, 16-25 + John 15, 26-27, & 16, 12-15
Today it all comes to an end, and today it all begins. That’s often the way it is with endings. Most of the time they are really the beginning of something else. Graduation can feel like an end, but it’s really just the beginning of a new life. A marriage may seem to the parents like the end of parenting, but it’s really the beginning of a whole new life. I have discovered what many of you have discovered. Retirement is no end at all. It is really just a beginning of a new time, a new life, a new sense of self, of purpose, and of mission.
Today the whole story of the Incarnation is revealed. Now we know why a child was born in Bethlehem. Now we know why he did the things and said all the things he did, why he suffered, rose, and ascended. Today we see what comes of all that. It was all for us, and now on this day, our remembrance and celebration of all that is complete. It’s over for the time being. Yet, something new is beginning, and we can see what it is by looking at what has been. A careful look at the story of Jesus Christ is the pattern and the future of a Spirit filled people.
There is often a tendency to think that Pentecost is all about the coming of the Holy Spirit as though it was the first time but think about that for a minute. The Holy Spirit was there at creation, hovering over the chaos, lifting the dry land, and stirring life into human kind. The Holy Spirit was there in the desert as a pillar of fire leading the Israelites to their beginning as God’s People. The Holy Spirit came upon a young woman in Nazareth beginning the new creation. That same spirit descended upon her son at the moment of Baptism, initiating his ministry, and revealing his relationship with the Father and announcing salvation.
Today is about us as much as it is about the Holy Spirit. It is about our salvation, affirming how the providence and the will of God has united us as a people and as a church when sin would have driven us apart. Today we listen to one of those ancient stories that describes the consequence of sin, the disintegration of unity and community. Today celebrates the restoration of our nature as social, communal people who belong to a single family, the human family, humanity. Having created us with free will, God permits us to use that will permitting evil for us to choose or refuse. If we chose to commit evil, we are allowed to. We did, and we were. God permitted the sin of one man – the sin of Adam – to affect all other people. And then, God used that very same feature of our human nature to restore our nature – and more than restore it, to bring it through complete fulfillment to super-fulfillment to the life of glory. One man’s sin affects us all. One man’s love and sacrifice redeems us all. In fact, it makes us better than we were before.
This is what we see happening at Pentecost. The life of the Holy Spirit who, stage by stage, had filled humanity for Christ with all its powers, from the Annunciation through the Baptism to the Resurrection, was at Pentecost extended to the disciples of Jesus, his Church, which from now on was to be his very body, his very presence. Because we were made to be social beings, bound to one another and mutually dependent as described in those people called; Adam and Eve, this is the way God has chosen to restore and redeem us, not as individuals, because that’s not our nature; but as a people, a family, a church. Rejoice today, Church. We have been saved because we have been incorporated into the living Christ – call it Baptism. We gather around this altar now as the people of God, not as private individuals fragmented into Haitians or Cubans or Parthians or Mead, Mexicans or Germans; not right or left, blue or red; but as a Holy People, a Chosen People. The Spirit we acknowledge today has filled all humanity with its power and its gifts among them is the gift of peace which will finally be ours forever when we once embrace the truth of our social and communal nature and stop acting as though we were independent, isolated beings with pumped up Egos who can do what we want without a thought about how those decisions might affect everyone else. Adam and Eve did that, and we still live with the consequences. Yet, God is still creating and breathing that Spirit into us, restoring us, healing us, and enabling us to live with dignity and nobility sharing in God’s very own life through Christ Jesus. This is the Day the Lord has made!