The Feast of Pentecost…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (June 4th ,2017)
Text: Acts 2:1-21
Title: Veni Sancte Spiritus!
VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS…Come Holy Spirit…fill the hearts of your faithful people and, once again, set us on fire with your love…
I want to begin my homily on this Feast of Pentecost the same way I have begun almost every homily I have ever preached on this most important day…by reminding you that the Holy Spirit…the Advocate…the Comforter…the third person of the Blessed Holy Trinity is NOT IMPORTANT in the Life of the Church…(pause)…the HOLY SPIRIT IS THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Church…No Gospel of Grace to proclaim…no mission and ministry to a lost/hurting and broken world. The Holy Spirit is INDISPENSIBLE! And the only explanation for the survival of the Church of Jesus Christ for all these years…the only explanation for why the Church is still around…still in business in spite of the frequent thresats from a skeptical and unbelieving world to destroy it for the outside…and our best efforts to destroy it from within…the only explanation for the survival of the Church of Jesus Christ for more than 2000 years that is reasonable/rational/that makes any sense to me is the presence…the power…the energy…the creativity of the Holy Spirit…the 3rd person of the blessed Holy Trinity. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church would long ago have disappeared!
If you listened carefully to the readings of Holy Scripture this morning (especially the first reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and the reading of today’s Gospel from the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John) then you probably noticed that is that there is a fundamental disagreement between the way the Evangelist Luke (the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles) and the Evangelist John (the author of the 4th Gospel) answer the question: “When did those first Apostles receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit?”. . In the first reading for today (taken from the 2nd chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles), Luke tells us that the great gift was given on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which occurred each year exactly 50 days after the Passover Feast. But the Evangelist John disagrees…John tells us in our Gospel for today, that the great gift of the Holy Spirit was given on Easter evening, when Jesus made his first post-Resurrection appearance to the Apostles, and he breathed on the Apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
And the way that I (and most preachers I know) have resolved this apparent contradiction is to say that the evangelists Luke and John were both describing the same event but in very different ways and for very different reasons. You see, the evangelists, when they wrote the Biblical texts, were not writing history…they were not journalists trying to preserve an accurate and detailed description of what actually happened. What they were doing was the work of theologians, and for Luke, the story of Pentecost was the perfect introduction to his story of the growth and expansion of the church after Jesus ascended into heaven, 40 days after Easter… but for John, writing in his Gospel about the life and ministry of Jesus, the story of Pentecost was the dramatic conclusion, the thrilling culmination, the post-Easter/post-Resurrection climax and the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to ask the Father to send another of Jesus Christ …another Comforter…another Helper…another Fiend to be with the Apostles forever…until the end of time!
So, regardless of how you answer the question, “When did the Apostle’s receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (on Easter evening or, 50 days later, at Pentecost) what both the evangelist Luke and John agree is that until the gift of the Holy Spirit was given and received, the Apostles were SILENT…VOICELESS…hiding out in the Upper Room…immobilized by fear…afraid that the Jewish religious authorities would do to them exactly what they had done to Jesus on Good Friday. But when the Holy Spirit arrived…everything changed, and the change was dramatic, indeed!. It was the invasion of the Holy Spirit that drove those first frightened and half believing Apostles out of the safety and security of the Upper Room and into the streets of Jerusalem, to announce and proclaim (for the very first time) the improbable and surprising message of Easter and the Resurrection to a skeptical and unbelieving world.
And, my friends, the great God News that we celebrate on this Pentecost Sunday is that the very same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave on Easter…the same Holy Spirit that drove the Apostles out of the Upper Room on Pentecost…the same Holy Spirit that enabled those simple, uneducated farmers and fishermen to turn the world (their world upside down…that same Holy Spirit is the great gift and legacy of our Baptism into Christ (and it will be the great gift given to Lilly Ann Moore…born on Easter Sunday and baptized on Pentecost Sunday)…and that means that, by virtue of our Baptism, God, the Holy Spirit (the 3rd person of the blessed Holy Trinity) has taken up permanent residence in your life and in my life…we have the Advocate…the Comforter…the Helper…the Friend living within us. And friends because this s true…because we have the Holy Spirit living within us, we have everything we need to do what God is calling us to DO (to continue Christ’s reconciling and redeeming work in our world)…and we have everything we need to be what God is calling us to BE (the Corpus Christi…the Body of Christ)…
VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS…Come Holy Spirit…fill the hearts of your faithful people and, once again, set us on fire with your love…AMEN!