“Pentecost continues! Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit;”
So begins “A Pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church” (2 June 2010) [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_122615_ENG_HTM.htm], issued this past week by Presiding Bishop and Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori.
“Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit, rather than a limitation or quenching of that Spirit,” writes the Primate. Her letter comes in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion (28 May 2010) [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_122553_ENG_HTM.htm] concerning current struggles within the Communion. Bishop Katharine expresses concern that the text of that letter “seems to equate its understanding of the Spirit’s outpouring,” as she puts it, “with a single understanding of gospel realities. Those who received the gift of the Spirit on that day all heard good news,” Jefferts Schori continues. “The crowd reported, ‘in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power’ [Acts 2:11].”
I love cities. They can be so full of life and excitement: but they can also be suffocating, claustrophobic. I was once staying with my brother Michael in a small apartment in the middle of Manchester, England, one August weekend. It was hot and oppressive. So we took off into the country, the lovely Peak District, which is a bit like the hills of Vermont. We climbed for hours up to the top of one of the highest hills called Kinder Scout. We were exhausted, but wonderfully exhilarated. We drank in the air in great thirsty gulps and as we breathed we felt intoxicated by the fresh air and the amazing views…and we started leaping around and shouting and screaming with sheer delight. A couple of hikers below us looked up and I think they probably thought we were drunk.
Today is the Day of Pentecost. On this day the gift of divine power came down upon the disciples, and there was no mistaking it, for it was accompanied by an experience which pounded their senses. Divine power was invading them. An intense catastrophic experience; a rushing wind, tongues of fire; a power beyond human lives invading human lives. Tongues like fire rested on each of them and they then began to speak in other languages. It must have been an extraordinary scene, the disciples as amazed as everyone else. Perhaps they were leaping around in their ecstatic state. No wondered some scoffed and said, “They are filled with new wine!” (Acts 2:13)
Well, beloved, it is a blessed day to celebrate. It’s hard not to know oneself beloved in the midst of a community gathered in love, enfolded by the warmth of the sun/son and the tender wind of God. The greenness all around us is evidence of the promise of resurrection to restore all creation. The greenness within us is equal evidence of connection with the source of belovedness.
We opened by praying those remarkable words about Jesus, who drew the beloved disciple into deep intimacy, giving him the grace of resurrection in his inmost being. That is also the prayer for each one here.
The mystery of the beloved disciple is his identity, and the blessing is that it’s not quite fixed. The debates over whether it’s John bar Zebedee, or Lazarus, or even Mary Magdalene make a place for others to enter in. As Jesus is ‘the son of the man,’ the beloved disciple becomes a way we may be the human disciple, beloved of God.
Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11, Ephesians 1:11-23, and Luke 6:20-36
We’re not alone here today. Do you realize that? We know, first and foremost, that we are in the presence of God, the God in whom, as St Paul says, “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28); God is here with us. Today, on All Saints’ Sunday, we also recall that we are in the presence of all the saints, those men and women and children who have gone before us in the faith, who have shown us the way by their words and their actions.
Acts 2:1-21/1 Cor. 12:3b-13/John 7:37-39
A few chapters back Jesus tells a woman at a well about water that he would give that would become a “spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” You’ll never be thirsty if you drink this water. Here he goes further: not only will we not be thirsty if we drink this water, but out of our own hearts will flow rivers of living water!