A sermon preached by the Rev Linda Harrison
Pentecost Sunday; June 9, 2019
Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-27
The Day of Pentecost! The celebration of Holy Spirit!
Celebration of the breath of Wisdom, and the fulfillment of the Easter promise. Holy Spirit is the life-giving breath of God, the creative and animating force that blows fresh life into all creation.
When Spirit descended upon the disciples locked away in that upper room together, they were re-animated in a sense. Spirit created a new community of witnesses for Christ. Those who followed Jesus were forever changed. Once unsure and fearful, keeping a low-profile, Spirit blew new life and they were emboldened, filled with wisdom and eloquence to preach to the gathered masses – natives and foreigners – who were in Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Pentecost.
They were indeed forever changed, living into this new life of Spirit.
Change. Spirit brings change and change is scary because at the heart of change is loss … to experience change means also to experience loss. Something has to move over or will be done away with in order to make room for that new thing.
Those who followed Jesus, those who preached Christ crucified and raised, did indeed experience loss. Many lost their families who did not approve or agree with this new Jesus movement. All of them lost their faith and worshiping communities as those who followed the Way were put out of the synagogues. And, I suspect, that many lost a sense of secular security and safety as they were brought before religious leaders and Roman magistrates.
To experience change means also to experience loss.
The flip side is that something is gained: new friendships, new communities, renewed sense of purpose, clarity, direction … and the peace that surpasses all understanding poured out by Christ through Spirit.
The psalm for today is a glorious celebration of God’s magnificence and creative activity in this world. It is awe-inspiring to reflect on all that God has done, and the beauty and the mystery God has created. The psalmist is awe-struck by the power of God to create and animate life in and through Spirit – the breath of God: “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”
Seven years ago, on the Day of Pentecost, I preached a sermon filled with hope and encouragement for this new faith community. I encouraged us to let Spirit blow where she will, guiding and directing us, to participate in Spirit’s prodding to ‘re-invent’ church, to bring something new.
Seven years. We have been meeting in this space for seven years: praying, worshiping, being fed at this table, sharing joys and concerns and potluck meals.
Next month, we will meet as a parish to discuss the future of EFC: what do we envision, where will we go, what would we like to do as community? In what direction is Holy Spirit blowing the winds of change? Will there be fresh empowerment and creative action brought by Spirit?
What changes will Spirit’s fresh winds bring?
As a church body, Old Catholics hold fast to the idea of ecclesia semper reformanda: the church must always be reformed. We need to allow Spirit to blow where she will in order to re-examine itself, to keep reforming, evolving, assessing practices and doctrine. Ecclesia semper reformanda asks the Church: What changes need to take place in order to be true to or return to the Gospel message and bring that message to the world.
Ecclesia semper reformanda holds true at the congregational level, also. As a parish, we cannot hold to the deadly last seven words of the church: we have always done it that way.
What new way is Spirit directing us at this time? What changes are we being asked to make? What are we being asked to give up in order to make room for something new?
We have to be honest with ourselves: Are we willing to lose something in order to change? What are we willing to lose in the midst of enacting the changes Spirit may be guiding us to?
And we are likely to be discomforted. Remember, God is with us wherever we are directed to go, whatever changes Spirit prompts. So, in the midst of listening to Spirit’s murmur’s, in the midst of thinking about and experiencing change and loss, we put our trust in Christ who has promised to never leave us.
Indeed, and ironically, the power of Holy Spirit – the Divine breath of change and creativity and new life – that power is the very fulfillment of the Easter promise. That breath transformed everything in an instant. That breath changed the rules, turned every human expectation on its head. That breath shook the world with God’s awesome, abundant, ineffable love. That breath brought life out of death in raising Christ and promising us that new life – not just in the beyond, but here every day, over and over again.
Let us trust that life-giving, creative breath of God to guide Emmaus, whatever change it brings.
Blessed be God forever.