Feast of Pentecost

Sermon for Pentecost 2005         Acts 2:1-11

We might remember that in the Epistle reading for last Sunday (Seventh Sunday of PaschaActs 20:16-36), we heard that St. Paul was eager to travel quickly in order to be in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost.  It would seem that in the early Church already they were commemorating the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles  – an event we Orthodox have celebrated annually in the Feast of the Holy Spirit which we are keeping today in our parish.

It was God’s bestowing the Holy Spirit upon the disciples that gave them the courage and power to be apostles of Christ and to speak to the world about God revealing His love for the world through the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

2]         Note in the lesson, they were speaking to JEWS from many different nations, not yet to the Gentiles.  And these JEWS are further identified, they were not secular Jews, nor lapsed Jews, nor Jews in name only, but they were devout men.  They were people who were conscientiously concerned about God’s laws and promises.  It is the beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel to all the world, yet it begins with a particularly fine and believing group of men.     Maybe that is where evangelism must always begin with the best spiritual element of society.

3]         Brothers and Sisters, pray to God that He continually gives us His Holy Spirit today as well, so that the people of our times might here our message in their native languages, in languages that they easily understand.   For our mission to the world, to be witnesses to God’s love, has not changed from the first day of Pentecost.

4]         Remember also the reaction of the crowd to the fact that each could understand the Gospel message in their own languages.  First it was amazement, but then it turned to ridicule, “They are drunk.”     To believe in God means to believe not only when one is filled with the Holy Spirit, but also when one is being ridiculed.  To believe in God is easy when everyone in society also believes in God, but what if everyone of  your friends denied a belief in God, would you hold on to  your faith?   

I am sure that the apostles filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, expected the attracted crowd to recognize the event as God acting anew in their midst.   Instead, the crowd did not see the hand of God in the disciples’ behavior, but rather mocked them for being drunk!   It is not witnessing a miracle that makes you into a believer – you really have to believe in order to see the miracle.  St. Peter wanted to proclaim to the gathered crowd the miracle of God they had just experienced, but found himself having to defend the inspired apostles from charges of public drunkenness at 9 in the morning!

Brothers and Sisters, we are to strive to find the Holy Spirit in life.  For the Spirit who gives life to all believers, can teach us how to pray and can empower us to be faithful in the world.  We also need to be prepared for how the world may react to our lives and our witness.  We as witnesses to God’s saving activity in the world, also need to the patience, wisdom and humility to deal with our neighbors’ disbelief, cynicism, distrust, incredulity, and disdain.

See also my post on the Holy Spirit

An American Success Story and the Unexpected Pain

There has been a lot of doom and gloom news lately – the U.S. economy is bad, unemployment is way up as are rocketing gas prices.  Worldwide there is a food shortage while food prices are soaring.   We all are feeling the pain at the pump and at the grocery store.

 There is a population explosion which is driving the world’s fuel and food shortage and inflation.  But it is not just an increase in numbers; it is the kinds of people who are growing rapidly throughout the world which are causing the strain on food and fuel supply and demand:  a rising middle class throughout the world.  On the radio this morning commentator Robert Reich offered this explanation:

“You see, hundreds of millions of people in China and India and the former Soviet republics are ascending into the middle class at a rate never before seen in history. And the two items this huge, rapidly-growing middle class want most are cars and meat.

That’s the problem. Cars use enormous amounts of fuel. And meat uses up enormous amounts of agricultural land, because animals that provide it require lots of feed grains. And supplies of both are limited.

This means global prices for fuel and food will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. And these increases are likely to generate the biggest threats to global peace.”

America whose leaders so aggressively wanted to bring an end to communism and propagate free enterprise throughout the world, have in fact succeeded.   But this success of spreading “American” capitalism throughout the world came with a unanticpated cost.   Population growth among the world’s poorest does not put the strain on the global fuel and food supply that growth in the middle class does.  For the middle class has money and they want more goods and consume far more food and fuel than the poor.  So the American success in spreading free enterprise through the world has exceeded the world’s capacity for sustaining middle class consumptive life styles.   It is going to put even further stress on the demands for the world’s limited resources and is going to put much more stress on the world’s poor who cannot afford the basic necessities of life. 

The gloom and doom of the news was met this morning in my daily reading of the Bible with this passage:

Though the fig tree do not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation. 

(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The Prophet Habakkuk says even if food crops fail, and animal production disappears, he will still rejoice in the Lord.   In the doom and gloom of the news it is hard to feel so piously trusting in God as to be joyful.  As America deals with its worldwide success in exporting free enterprise, will we feel so joyful in God as prices soar through the roof?   We have convinced the world to embrace capitalism, and it has brought an unbelievable boom to the world’s population and economy.   Now will we be able to practice what every household family with kids has to teach and learn –  how to share?


Being an avid reader, I also am a lover of words.   I came across two words this week, one old and one new to me, which tickled my logophilia.  First the old:

Prevaricate,  which The Free Dictionary defined as “To stray from or evade the truth; equivocate” and as “be deliberately ambiguous or unclear in order to mislead or withhold information.”    We can all hope that the OCA’s Special Investigative Committee will not prevaricate – especially if there is a goal in the OCA to demonstrate that things have really changed in church administration.

The totally new word (though labeling a very familiar concept):

Chirality  (Pronounced ki-ralty) which is just a way of saying that there is “handedness” in living beings – our right and left hands are mirror images of each other, rather than being identical to each other.  If you attached your left hand to where your right hand should be, it would never be correct.   Some scientists think chirality is a characteristic by which we can recognize living things.  I have no specific use for this word, but find it interesting that there is a word for this phenomena.