The Day of Pentecost
May 19, 2002
The Gospel: John 20:19-23
Sermon: "Pentecost 2002"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
The Day of Pentecost - May 19, 2002
The evening class had gathered around the large table. Everyone had a cup of coffee or a soft drink. Some of them had a cookie or some form of refreshment. As they began to take their seats the leader called the group to order and offered a prayer for the evening. Then the leader asked everyone a question. Where have you seen the work of God in your life this week? Everyone
was still for a moment, and then one of the men cleared his throat. He was a family doctor and he had been quiet most of the evenings. Everyone was a little surprised that he would speak first. He said," I've been a family doctor for a long time now. I've helped people with coughs, infections and such. I have helped bring many of my patients into this world. The other day I was thinking. I have all of this medical knowledge. I help women through their pregnancies. I check on the mother and the unborn child at regular intervals. I can tell if everything is going all right. I can help if there is a problem. I even wait with the mother and father for their child to be born. I take the child and I check them over. I clean out the mouth and the nose. I do everything exactly right. There is one thing I cannot do. I cannot make that baby take its first breath. I might pinch the baby or pop it on its behind to try and shock it a little. No matter what I do I cannot make the baby take the first breath. This week as I delivered a healthy child and that baby took its first breath I realized something. I've always believed in God, but this week God became real. I realized as I held that child that something bigger than me was in control. I realized that baby's first breath and every breath there after was through the grace of God. Breathing, life is a gift. After he spoke the room was silent. Yet, there was something mysterious in the air. The feeling from everyone was that they had unintentionally stumbled into one of the greatest mysteries. The silence was not a pregnant pause as if waiting for someone else in the room to speak. The pause was holy time. The pause was time to ponder the mysteries of God. It was as if everyone expected God would suddenly speak further on the matter.
And yet, that silence was part of the mystery. God has spoken on this matter or rather, God has breathed. From the beginning of time, God's Spirit hovered over creation. The Spirit moved over the face of the waters at the formation of the earth. The Spirit, the breath of God, moves where it will. Sometimes the Spirit moves silently as in a gentle breeze that doesn't even rustle the leaves. Sometimes the Spirit moves forcefully and suddenly. The Spirit of God moved through the waters of the Red Sea forcing the water back and allowing God's people to walk on dry land. The Spirit moves gently. When we hear the still small voice of God calling to us and saying follow me. The one constant is that the Spirit is always moving.
Sometimes I think we take the presence of the Spirit for granted. We read about the parting of the Red Sea. We read about tongues of fire over the heads of the disciples. We hear about the incredible gift of speaking and hearing in tongues where three thousand are converted on a single day. We tend to think God's Spirit moves in grandiose ways. In order to see God's Spirit alive
and well, we want to see immediate grace. We want large actions. We want instantaneous conversions of people before us. We would like to see addicts cured immediately of their addictions. We want to see people near death stand up and walk cured and whole.
But in looking for the grandiose, the huge, the improbable, we miss the wonder, the beauty, the possible.
In the reading from John there is no great fanfare. The wind does not come rushing into the room. Tongues of fire do not appear over the heads of the disciples. Jesus appears before them. He offers them the peace of God. He offers them shalom. Shalom is more than feely hugs and kisses. Shalom is oneness with God. Shalom means being in love with and being loved by God.
Shalom is feeling the presence of God coursing through one's own spirit, one's own body, one's own mind. Shalom comes as we open ourselves and receive God's Holy Spirit into our own lives. Shalom comes as we live in the presence of God's Spirit. After offering the disciples peace, Jesus breathes on them. No great wind, No flames. Jesus simply breathes on them. He breathes the Spirit of God onto them. The Spirit of God comes upon them, and moves through them. The breath of God enters their souls and bodies. They are forever changed. In that moment they experience shalom. They are empowered. They are empowered to go into the world and tell people about Jesus Christ. They are empowered to go into the world and share God's love with others. They are empowered to go into the world and share
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples so long ago. We celebrate the breath of God empowering the disciples to go into the world sharing God's Peace. Today we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming upon us. We are the recipients of the peace of God. God's grace gave us our first breath. Through water and the Spirit we were empowered at our baptism as members of Christ's Body. At our confirmation we are empowered to go into the world sharing in the ministry of God to the needy, the broken hearted, the poor, the sick, and the hungry. We are empowered to share God's love, God's shalom. Our empowerment comes from the breath of God that lives in our heart, mind and spirits. We are forever changed. We see the beauty of God in every sunrise and sunset. We feel the love of God in the wind that caresses our bodies. We hear the wonder of God in the rustle of the leaves, in the singing of the birds, in the first intake of breath at a baby's birth. In all of these ways we experience the power of God's Holy Spirit, subtle, moving, forever present.
In a little while we will be a part of two baptisms, three confirmations and one reaffirmation in our church community. These events will be powerful events in the lives of Blake, Reid, John, Kristen, Michael, and Elisabeth. They may not feel a giant rush of wind. They may not see tongues of flame over their heads. Still, God's Spirit moves within them. Their receiving of God's sprit, their confirmation of the love of God in Christ, their reaffirmation of the work of the Spirit in the world, reminds us of our own baptisms and confirmations. We are reminded of the power and love of God through the Son and the Holy Spirit. God's Spirit, the breath of God, the first breath every one takes at their birth, fills our lungs, flows through our hearts, and moves our
wills. Through the Spirit we are forever changed. With the Spirit, we carry the love, the shalom of God to everyone we meet.
Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew
That I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure,
Until with thee, I will one will, to do or to endure.