Today is Pentecost Sunday the day, Ryusho Jeffus suggests, “Like a pebble dropped into a quiet lake, the Spirit created a ring in the water.” Pentecost, like other major festivals, are not just days on a religious calendar or festivals that signify one off events, events that have an historical date and place but are a part of the fabric of faith. They are then, now and future events directly connected to our everyday existence, as real and experiential now as they were by those who witnessed the very first event.
Pentecost is no benign event. Peter’s speech makes it very clear, the coming of the spirit is a powerful interruption to the way things are. It is disturbing, it will disturb us and the world we live in. We will not be the same. It comes not quarantine us from the dangers abounding all around us, but to empower us to remain faithful in the midst of such turmoil.
The truth about Pentecost is very simple, both for the writer of Acts and John, the coming of the spirit of Jesus into the life of the world is not about power for powers sake, knowledge for knowledge sake or presence for comforts sake.
Rick Morley suggests that “At the very least our spiritual lives are meant to be a pilgrimage, where the dangerous place is the place that gets too comfortable: stagnant.” For the disciples who are need reassurance all would be well in both stories, there is no such thing if we require it to be experienced in power to have our way, knowledge to control all things or an unending comfort that protects us from the vagaries of life. It simply won’t happen.
Pentecost is the pebble in the world, the reverberating presence of the spirit stirring up life and engaging with the chaos we live amongst. The reverberating presence is a power for unity’s sake, a wisdom for compassion’s sake and a presence for struggle’s sake. The spirit empowers us to life our life to the full, reminding us our lives matter, not for what they give us as individual people but our lives matter to others and for the possibility of life for them. We do not live in isolation and Pentecost empowers us to live for others. Thomas Merton reminds us that “We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”
Pentecost reminds us love, or compassion, the deep care for self and another, is vital if we are to live full and vibrant lives. This is not about me first violence, I grab all for myself at your cost, I win you lose. This is truly about living a life empowering others to win, to achieve a fulfilled life, a life as full as ours. Thomas Merton writes: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbours worthy.”
Pentecost is available to us in the midst of the struggles we encounter as we work to help others gain life, as struggle to maintain a liveable world, and as we move forward together in a world that so often feels like it is falling apart. Pentecost is not a fair-weather experience. It is an experience that holds up in the roughest weather. When we feel the most powerless and out of control we are to remember we hold within us the oneness of God n the form of the spirit of Christ. We are not alone and never can be if we are directed toward the love and compassion of God in the world. People often ask me how to be sure they are doing the will of God. The answer is simple, do the loving, compassionate act, especially the costly act, the act that leaves you changed, broken and renewed.
Merton’s signature prayer speaks for us clearly on this Pentecost Sunday:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Today we come for a baptism. What a great day for a baptism. We will remember the vows we make and the hopes we have. We will make a confession of faith and confession of the kind of faith we hope this young person will, at some point in their life embrace faith for themselves, live out this their feast day. May the fire of Pentecost illuminate theirs and our lives land the wind of Pentecost blow freely through our living. Amen.