May 23, 2010: Completing Easter, At Least for Now

The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Pentecost Sunday

What we are about to do in here, stays in here. Is everyone with me? If you’re into Holy Spirit stuff, raise your hand and wave it around. If, as a traditional Episcopalian, you believe waving hands in church is a bit excessive, quietly nod your heads. Those who are already asleep – please don’t bother them. Now, here’s what’s up. I have researched words that mean “spirit.” For instance, spire means spirit or breath. We say that Handel and Bach were inspired to compose music, or Van Gogh to paint. Something from outside fills hearts and imaginations: an inspiration. When someone dies, they do what – expire? They breathe out for the last time. Conspire, con meaning with, is to “breathe together.” What we’re about to do I learned from professor and preacher Barbara Brown Taylor. We’re going to intentionally breathe to get us thinking, “Holy Spirit.” On three, breathe in and hold until I say, “Release” Then breathe out. Ready? One, two, three – breathe and hold; “Release.” Don’t let this get out, especially to Homeland Security. You and I just created a conspiracy.

Have you ever thought of Pentecost as a conspiracy? Jesus promises the Holy Spirit is coming, “Go wait in Jerusalem.” One morning his friends gather to wait and pray for what only God knows what. The house starts to shake. A sound of violent winds blows. Divided tongues like flames dance among them and rest on their heads. Suddenly they start speaking foreign languages fluently. His followers pour out into the street, encountering devout Jews from all over the world who’ve come to town for the Pentecost reunion. Startled pilgrims hear these lowly, uneducated Galileans talking about Jesus in their own languages. Confusion reigns. How did this happen? Have they been listening to language tapes? A prominent theologian-pastor refers to the Holy Spirit as the “shy member of the Trinity.” If she’s shy, she sure had a rowdy coming out party that day.

Luke says the crowd is bewildered and confounded. “What does this mean?” they ask. Other devout Jews decide what this means, “They are already into Happy Hour. They’re drunk.”

Peter calls them the crowd to order and explains what’s been going on. Whatever took hold in Peter that morning is miraculous. He preaches with confidence, and he even gets his words right, so right that when he steps down from the pulpit that day, three thousand people are baptized. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that – makes my preaching look rather anemic.

What does this mean – for us? You and I have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism. We’re co-conspirators with God. Baptism is our Pentecost. God indwells us with the life He shares with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. Pentecost puts the final touch to Easter, at least for now. The Spirit, as we breathe with God, exhales us into world to breathe good news of love and life for all – a conspiracy against worldly powers, religion and governments. God draws us in, fills us, and blows us out of this house and into neighborhoods and streets, offices and parking lots, clubs and pubs to proclaim God’s reign of love to everyone, no exceptions. We come here to worship, read scripture, pray, sing hymns, receive Sacraments, welcome the stranger and one another, build a different community than the world knows, and to grow in grace. We take God’s breath and fill the world. This new life is God’s to give, not ours to contain.

Look at the conspiracy the Holy Spirit brings through Jesus’ early followers. They tear down barriers, welcome Greek and Jew, male and female, rich and poor. It must have quite exciting. No one any longer has to believe they’re excluded from God’s love. But then the church bogged down arguing and writing creeds, checking credentials, and becoming distracted from its mission – just loving people into God’s new life.

Some, who run from the church, must think God ran out of breath long ago. Often they don’t see much evidence of an alive, loving, transforming and divine mission-directed life from the church. Oh, the Spirit still blows, though not in the dramatic way we celebrate this day. It’s more subtle – so, do we notice where the Spirit is blowing among us? Do we believe it does?

Here’s how it might work. You begin to think about a person you’ve written off, because of some hurt they did to you – or who wrote you off. You’re tired of hauling around hurt, anger and making like you’re a victim. So you ratchet up your courage, call the person, and say, “Why don’t we meet for coffee?” Could the Holy Spirit be making you into an instrument of healing, peace and reconciliation where there’s been estrangement? Or you decide you’ve been pew sitting long enough. You’ve want to learn more about feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, getting directly involved with hurting people. You’ve caught on – it’s about love, and now you want to bring the love and life you’ve found in God to others. That’s the Holy Spirit stirring in you. Or, you might invite a friend who is lonely or bereft to come to church, because you want that person to experience God’s love, healing and salvation that you know is here. One day you are feeling blue, and out of the blue a card arrives from a friend that picks you up. You walk by the lake and for some reason, this time you notice a gull effortlessly floating on air. I don’t know – I just believe Pentecost keeps popping up and if we look, we’ll see evidence.

So if you do decide to pray for the Spirit, watch out. The Spirit might start breathing down your neck, filling you with divine love, inspiriting you to bear God’s love, exhaling you out into the world – drafting you into a holy conspiracy. When we get this breathing together thing right, Easter is complete – about as complete as it can be for now, here on earth. So – relax, enjoy – because we’re in God’s hands.  God will figure out the ending. And it will be good.


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