Sermon Sunday May 31, 2020 Feast of Pentecost
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ. Today is the day that the penny dropped, and they finally realized who they were, that they were in fact the Body of Christ. Today is the birthday of the Church, it is the day the church began its explosive growth throughout the world.
Although Jesus drew great crowds in his day, the number of his committed followers was actually quite small. We read that on the Day of Pentecost there were only about 120 people gathered in that place. But those 120 women and men were filled with such conviction, with such joy, with such faith, with such a radical, inclusive love, that they became an unstoppable force. The whole Book of Acts is one long story of how nothing could stop the spread this community of love, and history tells us that even the brutality of the mighty Roman Empire could not slow the growth of the Jesus Movement.
The power of the Holy Spirit was, among other things, the power to disrupt old ways of thinking. The disciples were Jewish followers of a Jewish teacher, living in a Jewish world. They knew without thinking that they were God’s own people. It would never have occurred to them that the Jesus movement was not just for them, but was for outsiders they had always considered to be unclean. But the disruptive power of the Holy Spirit moved them to think outside the box, and realize that their movement was not just for them, but was in fact for all the peoples of the world. This was a radical disruption of their whole way of thinking.
Time and again the Holy Spirit led these people to do things they never thought they could do. It led them to associate with people they never thought they would associate with. It led them to love people they never thought they would love. It challenged their assumptions about whom God loves, and about what they were capable of achieving. These were, after all, ordinary uneducated people. The Greek word that St. Paul for them uses is “idiotae.” (Which is where we get the word idiot.) These were ordinary people, who possessed neither wealth nor learning, but what they did have was a quality of love that the world had never known.
Now, down through the ages the church we know has not always gotten it right. We can bring to mind the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, or of the Crusades, or the time when there were two Popes in Europe, whose loyalists regarded one another with fanatical hatred. But it is a testament to the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirit that there is a faith filled, radically loving church alive today. Truly the Holy Spirit springs eternal with every breath.
Today our Church is living through the biggest disruption in living memory. All our habitual ways of doing things have had to be put on hold. And I will be the first to admit, it isn’t fun. But through it all I know that the Holy Spirit is challenging us to rethink our assumptions, to question yet again what it means to be followers of Jesus, and what it means to be Christ’s Body alive and active here today.
It is certainly too soon to discern the future of our own particular expression of the Jesus Movement in the Anglican Church and here at St. Margaret of Scotland, but let there be no doubt that God is blessing God’s people in this place, with a new outpouring of the Spirit today, and that there will be lasting blessings. Someday far in the future, we will look back on 2020 and identify this as the time when some beautiful and grace-filled developments had their origins.
So in this time of discomfort and distress, let us open our hearts and minds to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, who is prompting us to explore new ways of sharing Christ’s love, and empowering us to be the Body of Christ in ways we’ve never thought of, sharing Christ’s love with a world that needs it more than ever.
So may we be blessed. Amen.