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    May 31, 2020

    Pentecost Sunday 2020

    Pentecost Sunday 2020

    Passage: John 20:19-23

    Speaker: Fr. Ben Helmer

    Series: All

    Category: All

    Keywords: pentecost

    How are we to imagine the Holy Spirit in our time of trial? This past week has seen increased cases of Covid 19 with NW Arkansas listed as a hot spot. The continuing saga of death and racial violence in many of our major cities flashes across our TV screens, and the refusal of some to practice even the basic safety recommendations are disturbing. So, how are we to embrace the Good News of the coming of the Holy Spirit ?

    Each of the readings and the Psalm provide us with choices. But let’s begin with that powerful story from Acts: The disciples, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Jesus’ mother, and others are again assembled in the room where they have been waiting for the promise of another “comforter.” They have been saying their prayers, sharing their stories of Jesus, and waiting. Then it comes, like the sound of a rushing wind with tongues of fire. This is the fulfillment of a promise Jesus makes in John 16:20-22 where he tells them as part of the farewell discourse...

    “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.”

    He goes on to compare this to a woman in childbirth. Keep in mind
    the message from Jesus is, you will rejoice!

    And that is what happens – there is a sudden outburst of rejoicing that is so intense that people outside hear it and gather out of curiosity, which leads to the breaking out of speaking in tongues as the rejoicing is poured out in the languages spoken in a diverse population.

    Another choice: the Good News is for everyone. There will be a new community, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and it will go out into all the
    world, to the ends of the earth. People will see those who differ from themselves as gifts, not threats. And Peter’s denial of Jesus will be turned into proclamation of salvation for everyone.

    Another choice: The Good News is for everyone, especially for those who suffer long because of their race or economic status, those who are afraid and unable to work to provide for their families.

    Next we come to the Psalm where we are presented with the Spirit of Creation that moves over the water. We hear how God takes joy in creation, and that means God takes joy in each of us.

    Another choice: The Spirit of God is planted in me and God loves me, and those whom I meet.

    In the epistle reading, we encounter the choices that are the genuine activity of the Spirit in community. The gifts of the spirit here are not talents, but powers to all who confess the faith of Christ crucified and risen. They are the gifts that are holding us together even now as we are scattered from one another.

    They are God’s grace, working in the Church with countless stories of love and support, of ministry outside the faith community that is so intense that the lines are blurred between the faithful and those whom we serve.

    Jerry, who doesn’t have a penny to his name, who lives in a little frame house owned by his mother and who walks everywhere, Jerry comes to help cook breakfast every Sunday at our church, and volunteers at our local food bank at least two days a week. Jerry doesn’t attend Sunday worship, but he is part of our community and we would be poorer without him. He is a gift to
    us and from the gifts of the Spirit, and a sign of God’s grace to us all.

    So, another choice: to see the Spirit at work among us and those whom we serve.

    And now to the Gospel reading: This is yet another choice. Jesus breathes on the disciples and they receive the Holy Spirit. I imagine this as a sacramental action portrayed in the hymn, “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.”

    But there is one caveat, one requirement, and that is the willingness to forgive
    others as we have been forgiven. The work of the Spirit can be kept from our view if we retain the sins of others. We have the power by our own bitterness to block the work of the Spirit through our failure to forgive. God takes no joy in this, and we are separated from Jesus’ own rejoicing. The willingness to forgive others as we have been forgiven, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing,” are some of the last words he speaks.

    SO, to recall our choices of imaging the Spirit at work today, May 31st, 2020 in the midst of a pandemic and all of its consequences:

    Rejoice, knowing that this time of weeping and mourning will not last. The God of creation created each of us for joy and takes joy in us. The Spirit breathes community into us, and brings the diversity among us together as strength.
    And, the Spirit moves through us in forgiveness, redeeming us as we forgive one another.

    Which brings us to the ultimate Spiritual action of healing of ourselves, our
    community, our nation, and the nations of the world. That is our hope, and because of the gift of the Spirit, even in this time of dreadful pandemic, healing by the Spirit will one day become our joy.

    Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash