Acts 8, 5-8, 14-17 + Psalm 66 + 1 Peter 3, 15-18 + John 14, 15-21
MS Massdam Passanger and Crew Mass
In many ways, our gathering here is always like the gathering of the faithful disciples of Jesus in that Jerusalem upper room. They picked up the pieces of their lives, their failures, sins, and denials and came together because they knew, once they were with one another, that they were acceptable and forgivable. These gifts of acceptance and forgiveness experienced in Christ could be shared with each other as Jesus had accepted and forgiven them time after time in his great mercy. This assembly is never more like that than when we approach the celebration of Pentecost, because every Assembly of God’s people on the first day of the week ought to be a time when the Spirit promised by Christ would renew us to continue the new life we have found in Christ. What we read and hear about in those communities must be a description of us, or we have strayed from the zeal, the love, the hope, and the joy that so marked those communities always recognized by their love. What clearly startled those who observed this love was not just their love for one another, but their love for everyone. It is no great accomplishment to love people who love you. It is something remarkable to encounter people who love those who have no love at all.
So in the readings for today, which tease us into readiness for Pentecost, we begin to see some very real and obvious characteristics of those who followed the “Way”, who had in faith begun already to lead the life promised by Christ at Easter. That life is manifest within a network of relationships where cooperation, reconciliation, unselfish sharing and real concern for one another reveal who we are.
Aristotle once said that “As a thing appears and acts, so it is.” Such profound wisdom so simply stated reminds us that who and what we are is revealed in what we say and do, in the way we carry our bodies, and express our feelings. If we are angry or depressed, in doubt or confusion, this will be evident in our appearance and body language. Conversely, when a person is in love, they cannot long hide it from others. When someone lives their lives with hope and with joy in the face of everything this world can throw at us, people will notice. They will wonder, and sometimes they will ask, and we owe it to them to explain it and profess our faith.
Hope and Joy are clearly evident in the faithful communities we read about in today’s scriptures. Of all the signs of the Spirit, these two are the first that receive attention. Joy is an undeniable and unmistakable sign of the Spirit’s presence. You can hear it! It is the sound of laughter and the result of good humor – of not taking one’s self too seriously, which is a mark of humility. These people, filled with the spirit make good companions. Their hope raises all kinds of questions when in the face of bad news or a tragedy, they do not give in to blame or denial, anger or despair, but move forward confident that with the help of their fellow companions, Christ will lift them up and dry their tears.
Other marks of life in the Spirit we can identify are the great signs worked by these faithful ones. A sincere and deep examination of our life in the Spirit calls for a careful look at this mark of the Spirit. It is still present, but for some reason, our privatized and “personal” style of living our faith obscures the truth and the fact that such great signs continue. There is healing, and we can do it. The pragmatism of this age and our exaltation of science leads some to scoff, but the power to heal through love and forgiveness is still at work in us. It may be untested and untried, but it’s there. We are often too narrow in our thinking about healing. It does not always have to be physical. We block the power of God by our easy assumptions that: “God doesn’t work that way.” When we are alive in the Spirit, we are a conduit for the power of that Spirit given to us by Christ without reservation or condition. We can work great signs and wonders by the power of love and forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and generosity.
Finally, as we hear these rich stories that describe not communities in the past, but the signs of Life in the Spirit in every age, there is one more that is probably the greatest challenge and test. It is that “bold speech” we read about so often. That confidence, and that zeal to share what we have with those who are alone, without hope, without joy, without the very relationship with Christ that gives us the Spirit he shares with the Father.
We are too shy. We are too reserved and too private about our faith. There is nothing private about faith, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not a private agent. The Holy Spirit is a Public Agent, a Public Event, a Public Person that stirs and motivates, encourages, prompts, and blows through us like the wind.
The Holy Spirit is a “person”, not an “it”. One great writer describes the Holy Spirit as the consequence of the Love between the Father and the Son. Their mutual love is the Holy Spirit. They look at each other, and in their love they “sigh” as lovers often do. That “sigh” is “SPIRITUS”, the holy sign of love between the Father and the Son. In Genesis God speaks in the plural. “Let US make”, God says. The love between the Father and the Son is the power that makes the world. We are invited, called, and created to enter into that great mystery of love. A real “spiritual life” is living in that Holy Spirit; living in that love, in that hope, in that joy, and it’s not a secret! If we believe it, we must proclaim it.