June 4, 2017 Pentecost Sunday
Living with Spirit
Today we celebrate the gift of God’s spirit. God’s holy Spirit fills us and empowers us. There are many images for holy Spirit …
The wind of God blows through us and around us. The breath of God revives us. The light of God shines in us to brighten the world. The fire of God inflames our passion for God’s good news. God’s life courses through our veins, strengthening us to share the good news of God’s powerful love and loving power in the world.
Holy Spirit … wind … breath … light … fire … God’s very life. This is how God is present.
The classic story for Pentecost is found in Acts 2. About 120 of the early followers of Jesus are waiting together, praying, wondering what might come next. Suddenly they hear the sound of a gale -force wind blow through the room. They see what appears to be tongues of fire dancing over their heads. These are ancient symbols of God’s presence … God is here! God is present!
Holy Spirit spreads through them like wildfire, sending them out into the streets to tell whoever will listen about God’s love for the world. They are so filled with Spirit that people think they’re drunk!
Peter starts to preach … “We’re not drunk. It’s only 9 o’clock in the morning! We haven’t had time to get drunk. This is God’s spirit. God’s holy Spirit fills the world with joy, sets the world free, reaches out to the world in compassion and makes the world whole. This is so much better than being drunk.”
John 20 tells the story much more quietly. On Easter evening, as the disciples huddle together in fear, Jesus appears. “Peace,” he says. “Shalom. As the Father sent me, so now I’m sending you. Go out into the world.” Jesus breathes on them, whispering, “Receive holy spirit. Whoever you forgive, I will forgive.” God’s breath fills them with life. And then Jesus is gone.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul lists some of the gifts God’s holy Spirit gives to the church. All kinds of gifts—teaching, wise counsel, simple trust, clear understanding. Each of us, given gifts of the Spirit. All of these gifts are to help the world know just how deeply God loves the world.
“All of us,” says Paul, “all of us have been baptized into one Spirit. All of us have received God’s holy Spirit.”
One of the ways in which we can read these stories is to say that they are about vocation.
So let me ask you a question. By a show of hands, how many of you have a vocation?
Now, let me ask you the same question in a different way. By a show of hands, how many of you have been baptized?
I know those questions sound different. They are—but they both point to the same reality.
When we are baptized, God gives us a vocation. God calls us to reach out in love to the world.
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare — which means “to call”. Too often, we think of priests and deacons as having a vocation—and we do. But we’re not the only ones. All of us in the church are called to live for God. God calls all of us to live out the good news. All of us. Not just priests and special ministers. All of us.
That’s what those questions at baptism are all about: “Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?” “I will with God’s help.” Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?” “I will with God’s help. We are talking about being called. We are talking about vocation.
Frederick Buechner is very helpful in helping us understand this. He writes,
“There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work; the problem is to find out which the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-interest.
“By and large a good rule for finding this out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve probably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
“Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Thomas Merton deepens our understanding when he writes, “Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ telling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given to me by God.”
Vocation is about becoming our deepest, our best selves. This is God’s gift to us, and this is what we celebrate today.
Archbishop John is inviting all of us in this season to think about where God is calling us to serve.
What do you love to do? What is your passion? Is it to be with other people? Is it to do something about homelessness? Is it to do something about our public life? Is it to teach? Is it to reach out to the poor? Is it to help those who can’t help themselves?
That’s step 1. What’s your passion?
Once you’ve thought about that … the second question is where does your passion and the world’s need meet. If you love to be with other people—perhaps you can visit. If you are passionate about a social need, perhaps you can volunteer on a committee or a task force. If you have a passion to teach, perhaps you can work with children or adults. If you have a passion to help the less fortunate, perhaps you can volunteer. There are all kinds of ways to breathe that kind of life into your passion.
Now I hope you noticed something … I’m not talking about working in the church. Yes, absolutely, some of us have a calling to work in the church—as priests, or deacons, or lay associates, or lay ministers, or servers, or coffee time hosts, or maintenance people.
But many more of us are called to work in the world, to live as people who know God’s love and have a desire to share that love with the world. We are all called to proclaim the good news of God’s love. We are all called to seek and serve Christ in all persons.
We are all called.
And today, on Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of God’s holy Spirit who empowers us to work out our vocation.
So … Happy Pentecost! We are all empowered. We are all gifted. We are all filled with the breath of God. We are all set on fire with God’s love. We are all living with Spirit.
God’s holy Spirit is active in us all.
So let me ask those questions again.
By a show of hands, how many of you have been baptized?
By a show of hands, how many of you think you have a vocation?
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
June 4, 2017 (Pentecost Sunday)
Acts 2: 1–21
John 20: 19–23
1 Corinthians 12: 3–13