The Pas Pentecost Sunday
20 May 2018
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
make the dry bones of our lives
live and breathe and grow again.
Pour out your Spirit upon the whole creation.
Come in rushing wind and flashing fire
to turn the sin and sorrow within us
into faith, power and delight. Amen. Amen.
When I looked at the texts for today, what struck me was the idea of endings and beginnings. After all we all face both endings and beginnings over, and over again in our lives, although we tend to look more to endings than we do beginnings in the grander scheme of things, it seems.
And then the refrain of the Frank Sinatra song “Love and Marriage” leapt into my mind, specifically the phrase “you can’t have one without the other.”
Now, to pull everyone back from those infectious lyrics, the refrain is absolutely correct, and today we’re talking about endings and beginnings.
You cannot begin absolutely anything at all without something else coming to an end. We conclude one activity and begin another. We end one process, such as the end of winter, and the long-anticipated beginning of spring. The end of frost, and the beginning of the ability to plant things, and expect them to survive.
The end of an academic year, and the beginning of the summer holiday. The end of holidays and the resumption of a job, an occupation, a vocation. Or, the end of one job and the beginning of another.
Then there is the end of one phase of existence, as we move from childhood, to adulthood, and then the phase of becoming seniors, and through all of this, through all of these changes, and so many more, we often get so caught up with ends that we don’t often recognize beginnings.
So, when we look at endings and beginnings, we realize that we can’t have one without the other.
Today we look at, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, into the world, into our lives, into our hearts.
We look at how the work of Jesus ministry is placed into our own hands, with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, to carry on what Jesus started during his lifetime, during his ministry.
And this, then, brings to mind those hair product commercials from the 1970’s where the punchline was “I’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, …” You remember the one, and all of a sudden, we, the people are selling hair products because we talk about what we enjoy and how it makes our hair feel. We talk about the low cost of the product, etc.
And in a similar way, we share the life, the teachings of Jesus with all those around us. We talk about it with those around us. We tell people how a life of faith has inspired us, feeds us, encourages us, and fills us when we’re in need of being filled.
So, Jesus tells us: “26 When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (Jn 16:26-27)
Endings and beginnings – we can’t have one without the other.
So, with Jesus departure, at Ascension, as he returned to the Father, as he ascended into the heavens, the Holy Spirit is able to come to us, to bless us, to guide us, and to encourage us.
Jesus tells us: “7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” (Jn 16:7-11)
So, we, with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, with the tacit permission of Jesus, are able to carry on the work that Jesus began during his lifetime. We, being more numerous than Jesus himself, are able to carry on Jesus teachings, to the ends of the earth.
So, we wind up using the same strategy that sold much of the Faberge hair products in the 1970’s, we tell our story.
We tell two friends, we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, to fill their ears, their hearts, and suddenly, they’re telling two friends.
At the same time, Jesus issues the challenges that the world presents to us, still today.
He says: “8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” (Jn 16:8-11)
And this is where we are, still, today.
In our every action, as were the first recipients of the Holy Spirit, we are still guided by the Holy Spirit.
We are still proving the world that Jesus and his teachings are better than the perceptions of the world.
But, as Jesus tells us, its not you and I who are doing the proving, but rather the Holy Spirit working through each one of us, through our words, through our actions, thorough the needs of the world around us to hear and see the love of God, through each one of us who follows Jesus.
And from Archbishop Michael Curry’s sermon, yesterday, in Windsor Chapel, “love is the way.”
“13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (Jn 16:13)
So, today, we are facing another beginning, riding on the ending of Jesus time amongst us. We are looking at the uncertain future from the anxious security of watching what we’ve known and become comfortable with fade into this uncertain future, except for the certainty that we are guided by the Holy Spirit. But its not just the effort of the Holy Spirit. Rather the Holy Spirit is like the spark to dry tinder. Its like what we see in the reading from acts, for today.
One thing has ended, and another begins. We mourn the departure of Jesus, because with Jesus, its easy. He leads, we follow. He does the heavy lifting, we applaud the effort.
Without Jesus, with the urging of the Holy Spirit, then it is each one of us who leads the way in loving the world, in loving the lord our God with heart, mind, soul, and strength, loving our neighbour, and loving ourselves.
“2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)
We are guided by the Advocate, by the Holy Spirit, by the one who is sent, the one who is coming to prove to the world about Jesus, about the love of God, and about the nature of righteousness.
“the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (Jn 15:26b-27)
And this is where we find ourselves, today.
We find ourselves between endings and beginnings, we find ourselves realizing what it means that Jesus has left, and at the same time overwhelmed by the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
We find ourselves gifted with abilities and talents from the Holy Spirit. We find ourselves mourning the loss of Jesus who did all of this ministry, this encouragement, this teaching as easily as he walked on water.
At the same time, if the spread of the Christian faith were left solely in the hands of Jesus then it would be contained to the middle east. It would be caught up in the geographical turf wars of Palestine, Israel, Syria, Turkey, and all the rest.
So, Jesus returned to the Father. An ending, and now a beginning.
Jesus left so that the Holy Spirit would be able to come to us, be in us, to work through us to spread the love of God, to live into the promises that Jesus continues reminds us are ours because we are the children of God.
And so, we face an ending and a beginning. An ending of being able to live on the sidelines cheerleading the efforts of one or two, and the beginning of the Holy Spirit encouraging each of us to fully love the lord our God with heart, mind, soul, and strength, to love our neighbour, and to love ourselves.
We are entering the time when we realize that it is through love that we are able to change the world. That love is what motivates us to go where God needs us to go, to be what God needs us to be, to carry on with the work that Jesus began.
Because when we tell two friends, then they, too, can tell two more, and the love of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the teachings of Jesus carry on, today, and tomorrow, all over again carrying the flames of Pentecost to all who have ears to hear, and hearts that are open to the love of God.