Thus says the Lord God: . . . A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:26-28)
Pentecost is said to be the birthday of the Christian Church. From the time of the crucifixion of Christ until Pentecost, the Apostles had not gone into the world with the Good News. Despite the Resurrection of Christ, the Apostles were mostly in hiding, avoiding any public attention. But then the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11) occurred and many diverse peoples in Jerusalem took notice – people, non-believers heard the same noise of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles heard (Acts 2:6). The Apostles could no longer stay in seclusion as the Holy Spirit revealed them to Jerusalem and the world.
And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. (Acts 2:2-6)
The sound of the Holy Spirit was not just heard by the Apostles in the upper room, it was heard by a great crowd of people in Jerusalem who became part of the Pentecost event. The pouring forth of the Holy Spirit was a cosmic event, not limited to the Apostles. The Apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit, the mass of people who witness the event are bewildered. All those who heard the force of the Spirit became witnesses that something happened in Jerusalem which changed the Apostles into preachers of the Gospel. The world itself, not just the Apostles and believers, was changed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And all of these peoples heard the Apostles speak in their own languages as the world itself was being changed by the Holy Spirit.
Our parish was also born at Pentecost. This is true because we are also part of that outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the world that began 2000 years ago on the first Pentecost and continues to be at work in the world to this day. Additionally, our Parish was born on Pentecost. We were conceived as a mission, but that mission grew and was born as a parish. On Pentecost Sunday, 33 years ago I came here to help give birth to the parish. The parish was born as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit inspiring people to want to continue the work the Apostles in spreading the Gospel. You all are here as a result of the birth of the Church 2000 years ago, and the birth of the parish 33 years ago. On the grand scale of the Church, our parish is still in its infancy. We have to continue to nurture and grow the parish. Our purpose has not changed. We have much work to do and much yet to accomplish for the Lord. And we will need to do what the Apostles first accomplished in continuing their work in the world. We are here to speak to any and all who will listen to us, who will hear the Gospel as the Holy Spirit inspires them.
We hear in today’s Apostolos reading: Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? … we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
We Christians inspired by the Holy Spirit are to speak today in the languages that people can hear and understand. We need to speak as 21st Century Americans, we need to speak to teens, to Generation x, to post-moderns, to imimigrants, hillbillies, PhD’s, feminists, engineers, retirees, mothers, computer scientists, blue collar workers, and to Democrats and Republicans.
Our task is daunting. We will only accomplish it if we stay faithful to Christ, and do not allow ourselves to get caught up in all the values and concerns of the world. Our country is like the people of Babel after God came down and visited Babel to get a closer look at what the people were doing. We speak a multitude of languages, even when we all use English! The Holy Spirit allows us to speak to all of the people present around us. There is no language, no culture, no political view which cannot hear our message in terms which they can understand. When we reach out to the victims of the tornadoes, we speak the language of love. We can find ways to convey the Gospel to all people around us.
In today’s Gospel lesson (John 7:37-52, 8:12) the people say of Jesus: “No man ever spoke like this Man!” . . . Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
If we are faithful to Christ and offer the Gospel message rather than a political view of the left or right, people will hear Christ and say, “No one has spoken like this man, Christ!” They will be convicted by the One who is the Light of the world. Today as we celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of our parish and of the entire Church, we rejoice in all that has been accomplished here, and we commit ourselves to continuing the work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have the words of St Paul to contemplate and inspire us:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
I do not believe any of us can accomplish this alone. I don’t know how to be all things to all people. But when we act together as the body of Christ, then we have a better chance of fulfilling St Paul’s own words. Together we can speak to all people in the universal language of God’s love. We will each find that we speak to some portion of the people in our surrounding community. But to do this, we have to continue to work together and be committed to one another and to Christ.
Jesus said: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another. (John 15:16-17)
We have been commanded by Christ to continue to bear fruit, to continue to grow in the faith, to bring new people into the Church. And when we are faithful to our spiritual calling we fulfill the words of St. Peter:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
It is the Holy Spirit who makes us Holy, the Holy ones of God, the saints. Holiness comes in community, just as the Holy Spirit came on all believers. God’s Holy Spirit creates communion between people. Only in community can we experience love for one another, peace with one another, service to others, forgiving one another.
The Holy Things are for the Holy ones. God’s spiritual gifts are for us.
Christ is in our midst!