It’s Pentecost. Happy Birthday, Church! Since we are a liturgical church, with our liturgy and worship organized around the events of Jesus’ life, and our lectionary selections deliberately chosen to set a traditional and historical paradigm for our celebration of Christ’s life, we can say, ‘of course it’s Pentecost’ because the liturgical year is part of our worship. But if we allow ourselves to get comfortable in our liturgical cycle, and congratulate ourselves on our (generally) well-chosen readings, we may miss the call our Lord extends to us. Now, granted, there are Propers for some weeks that may leave us wondering what the folks who formulate the lectionary were smoking, but we usually draw inspiration and guidance from our readings. If we’re stuck, then sometimes, the Collect will provide clarification. But if not, just maybe, the obscurity is meant to lead us further into Scripture, and maybe, conversation with one another. Not at all a bad outcome.
But in this Season of Easter we have just come through, we can clearly see the joyous possibilities to which we have been brought. The readings for today encapsulate this journey!
Last Sunday, Deacon Dan spoke to all of us about God’s call on each of our lives. Our Deacon spoke eloquently about what our God expects of us – lives of love and service to God, through love for, and service to, all of God’s creation, especially our sisters and brothers. Transfiguration is truly amazing at this kind of love and service. That’s a good thing. We take very seriously Jesus’ admonition in 1 John, that we can scarcely claim to love God, Whom we cannot see; if we turn away from those sisters and brothers we do see, or from those of whose existence we are at least aware.
Now, even when we have an objective, we humans can, and sometimes do, bog ourselves down in conversation over Who, Where, What, and How we make that love and service happen. So we pray that when we like sheep start to go astray in that manner, the Holy Spirit is standing by with a VERY loud wake up call. Perhaps that’s part of what we do for one another; and perhaps we can extend our prayer to the Holy Spirit that we may have the grace to hear God’s call on our lives, however it comes to us.
In the reading from ACTS which we heard this morning, Peter astounds us. We all love Peter. He is US. The fisherman we meet in the Gospels often doesn’t know what to say, let alone what to do. But that never keeps him silent, and Jesus is very patient with Peter. Even after Peter denies Christ three times, Jesus states forgiveness three times. Peter finally gets a little cranky with the three times our hero Jesus asks if Peter loves Him, but his answers are always affirmative. And our Lord says “Feed My sheep,” “Tend My sheep,” “Feed My sheep.” Here again, Jesus makes clear our instructions on how to live. And we see that God’s love for US is a “No Matter What” kind of love. Peter is US.
Then, on Pentecost morning, when Jerusalem is full of all sorts of people from all sorts of places, the Holy Spirit, the Advocate promised by Christ, descends upon the disciples. We are NOT surprised when those gathered around begin to accuse the disciples of drunkenness, because after all, do we humans not often ridicule what we do not understand? Do we not fear what we do not know?
No, we are not surprised at the crowd, but when our beloved Peter, who so often appears clueless, speaks up to defend the disciples, we ARE surprised. Peter is a devout Jew, and he does know his Scripture. Quoting the prophet Joel, his defence of Jesus’ Disciples is wonderful. And we recall that after the Resurrection Peter has boldly critiqued the Temple Establishment – “This Jesus, Whom YOU guys crucified. . .” Peter is given the words he needs in the moment he needs them. Peter is enabled by God to do what God calls him to do. Peter ultimately speaks and writes glorious theology. Look what God does. We LIKE Peter. He IS us. In Peter we see hope for what God will do with us!
In the passage from Romans we are reminded that human history has always been painful. We have no trouble relating to the groans of all creation for redemption. One newscast, a little television, a little conversation with our friends and neighbours, and we KNOW through reading Scripture that we humans are still pretty much doing business at the same old stand. And STILL the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Still our hope is in God. Because in today’s Gospel, Jesus promises us all the help and support we could ever need, if we heed God’s call to us. Just like Peter and all the followers of Christ.
And thus we understand what the Lord our God asks and expects of us. We know that God does love us amazingly, and we respond to God’s love with love for God and all God’s creation, all the days of our lives, hopefully. We know that God can and WILL use each of us, clueless or not, whatever our supposed weakness. We know What, we know Why, and we know How and When. If we think we don’t, we just need to ask. So, Happy Birthday, Church! THANKS BE TO GOD! Preacher: Susan Smith-Allen