John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
In the name of the Holy Spirit, our Guide and our Hope. Amen.
On the day of Pentecost, when the followers of Jesus were gathered together in a room, the Holy Spirit came among them, and inspired them with the truth that would sustain them through the days ahead – a gift that would be shared throughout the church, for all time.
It’s the story of what happened on that first Pentecost after the Resurrection, but it’s not lost on me that it’s sort of the story that’s happening right here, right now. Of course, our whole community isn’t gathered in one room – our church is still spread throughout our communities, and even in far-flung places that are physically out of our reach. But this return to being able to gather together, in one room, is a huge step back in the right direction for this community. And, if this season of distance has taught us anything, it’s that while we appreciate and value being together in one room, that’s not the only thing that defines us as a congregation, and certainly not as a church or as Christians.
So, to those of you who are worshipping with us outside this room, know that you are still a valued part of this community. You may make your way here to worship with us in the church at some point, but no matter what, you won’t be forgotten. And today, even as those of us here in the church share our joy in being able to worship together in-person, our worship is enriched knowing that you are there with us, and we hope that your worship is enriched knowing that we are here united in prayer and witness.
It’s all of us – gathered here in this room, and gathered more broadly around the world – that make up the fullness of St. David’s Episcopal Church: a new fullness that we couldn’t have really imagined before this past year, but one that we now know makes us more completely “the church” than we ever have been before.
And the message of Pentecost – though particularly acute today – is really a simple one for all time: when we come together, when we unite together, when we rely upon one another and when we support one another, the Holy Spirit will be in the midst of us. And when the Holy Spirit is in the midst of us, we can be more and do more than we ever could alone – more than we ever could have dreamed before. And now, through the joy that we share in having many of us here, together in the same room, we remember that “together” now means more than we knew it could before.
In some of the accounts of this event that we read, scripture tells us that on that first Pentecost, not everyone was in the same room. Thomas had gone away when Jesus first returned and gave those followers the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the fact that they were divided didn’t make them any less of a real community. Thomas was still “one of the twelve”. And, in time, he, too shared in the experience of the resurrected Christ, and in time, he, too, received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The love of God is more powerful than our separations. The love of God is what truly unites us – even when we’re pulled apart by the forces of the world. The love of God remains. No matter what.
Last week, Bishop Hughes talked to us about the gift of the Holy Spirit. She testified about her own experience of the three times she was ordained – a deacon, a priest, and finally a bishop. And she spoke of the power she felt in each of those times when the people of the church were united in prayer for the intervention of the Holy Spirit. I can attest to that, too. I’ve been ordained twice – first as a deacon and then as a priest, and the power and grace that inevitably flows in those moments of invoking the Holy Spirit can’t be fully described.
And, as was described in the first lesson this morning, when the Holy Spirit shows up, we are empowered with the tools we need to do the ministry to which we’ve been called. For those first disciples, it was the gift of clearer communication that gave them the ability to spread the Gospel of Christ throughout the world, in places beyond the reach of their little room. We already have that. We’ve gotten good at that this past year. Thanks be to God! But what gifts do we need going forward to lean into our truer selves? What gifts do we need to better accomplish the ministry that God is calling us to? Those are the gifts we need to be praying for. And if we don’t know what to ask for, we should first pray for the discernment to know what we need.
But here’s the real secret: if you ask for the Holy Spirit, you get the Holy Spirit. I can’t explain it to you. I can’t describe it for you. I can only tell you that it’s the truth. And when the Holy Spirit shows up, we are given the tools we need.
That doesn’t mean the work will be easy. It doesn’t mean we don’t have to work. Again – look to the wisdom of that first lesson today: when those followers got the Holy Spirit, everyone around them thought they were drunk. They weren’t taken seriously. It didn’t make sense to their community, so they were laughed off.
But even so, they got the gift and they got the tools they needed to use it best. We will, too.
For now, rejoice that we’ve been reunited. I do!
But next, we have to pray, and we have to work. So let’s go.