Sunday, July 06, 2014

8 June 2014 - Pentecost Sunday

First Reading:
Acts 2.1-11
Second Reading:
1 Corinthians 12.3b-7. 12-13 (12.3-13)
Gospel Reading:
John 20.19-23

Once we have been touched by the Spirit, we are changed.

The first reading recounts that the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages. Some people in the crowd asked, “how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” In the verse directly following today's reading, we are told, “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine,'” meaning, they're drunk.

I remembered this last verse and looked it up to make sure, because I was reflecting on Pentecost as the birthday or inauguration of the church. As I reflected, I thought that gifts of the Spirit were not just bestowed upon the Apostles but upon all who were present that day. But as with all gifts of God, when our hearts are open and receptive we can receive them.

And so I wondered, did those who sneered and thought the Apostles were drunk, only hear gibberish? Were their hearts closed and non-receptive, so that they could not understand the words of the Apostles like the others? Did they think that God's self-revelation was finished and the suggestion of anything new was not worth hearing or were they just unwilling to change their lives by following the gospel? In other words, did they refuse to receive the Spirit? Because, once we have been touched by the Spirit, we are changed.

So in a sense, those who heard the Apostles in their own languages, represent those of us all over the world, all throughout time, who open their hearts to receive the gifts of the Spirit. In the second reading, Paul tells us the Holy Spirit gives each of us gifts from the variety of gifts and services that God makes available to us. God activates these gifts, these manifestations of the Holy Spirit in each of us, to be used for the common good.

The Holy Spirit does not limit her gifts to Christians or to people of faith but bestows them on everyone. These gifts are limited only by our refusal to accept and use them. The Metro Vancouver Alliance provides an excellent example of collaboration between people from different Christians denominations, from different faiths and people who would say they have no faith. They build relationships over and across individual and group differences. While some would put it this way and some would not, this collaboration allows them to put their gifts of the Spirit to use for the common good.

Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit after he returned to God is also meant for us. So as we celebrate and commemorate the Day of Pentecost, perhaps we should also remember, as we are strengthened and transformed with the Spirit's gifts, we, in turn, are sent to strengthen and transform our world. Like his promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' commission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”, was also meant for all his disciples, including us.

Those are a few of my thoughts. I'll conclude with something borrowed from another tradition, which seems appropriate for Pentecost and say, “Namaste”, the Spirit within me greets the Spirit within you. Amen.

Please add your thoughts.

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