Whitsunday (Pentecost)

May 20, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

I want to begin this morning with some of the words from the Sacrament of Holy Baptism as found in our current Prayer Book.  In this liturgy we say:

“We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

And then as the priest touches the water, the priest says:

“Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and forever.”

I wanted to begin this way, because we can see that in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we become people who have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is asked sanctify the water, and it is through the Holy Spirit that we are reborn in Jesus.

We are people of the Holy Spirit.  This is an important point to be made, before we turn our attention to the Epistle reading for today.  Today is the Feast of Pentecost.  The great fifty days of Easter are over.  We now remember the day in which the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles so that they could go out into the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ and bring others into the Body of Christ, the Church.

We were given the Holy Spirit in baptism.  Other than the Feast of Pentecost, I do not think that Episcopalians talk much about the Holy Spirit.  And on the Feast of Pentecost, I have often spent time thinking about the Holy Spirit in the past, on that great day.  But I think that I spend little time thinking about the Holy Spirit in the present – in our lives today.

This is why I found the Epistle reading interesting to think about.  Let’s look at what it says and think about what it means for our daily lives in Christ.  St. Paul writes:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as children, the redemption of our bodies.”

St. Francis of Assisi reminds us of the truth that when Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead, He not only saved us, but all of creation.  This idea that the whole of creation was “groaning in travail” is an interesting one.  We are redeemed by Christ with all of creation.

St. Paul refers to us as people “who have the first fruits of the Spirit”, and as children adopted by God through Jesus.  Through the work of Jesus Christ, the world is saved.  Through our baptism, we are made a part of this saving work of Christ.  In the waters of baptism we die to self and are born again in Christ.  We participate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

St. Paul also writes that “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness…”  We are people who are given the first fruits of the Spirit, and the Spirit is there to help us.  Without God in Christ we are nothing.  Without the Holy Spirit, we are weak, fallen and sinful creations of God.  But the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

St. Paul also says that “…we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”  I love this idea that the Holy Spirit can intercede through us with sighs too deep for words.  These are powerful words.  I often find myself overwhelmed by the world in which we live, so overwhelmed that I do not know how to pray, or what to say?  How about you?  It is then that the Holy Spirit can intercede through us.  God Himself praying through us for a broken world.

And how are we to live?  St. Paul writes, “And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  If we live through the power of the Spirit, we live according to the will of God for our lives.  This again is power stuff.

But I feel the need to say something about our lives and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I am convinced that in today’s climate, we have become so afraid to be like the televangelist Christians that we allow them to claim the Holy Spirit. 

The truth is that all people who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit.   But, do we live as people who have the first fruits of the Spirit?   Do we act as if we have the power of the Holy Spirit, or do we act as if we have to serve Christ with our own power? 

Do we feel so overwhelmed by the world that we do not both to pray, or do we allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for us in our silence?  Do we act as people who have the mind of Christ or ones who are (in the words St. Paul uses in his letter to the Ephesians: “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit.  We have received the Holy Spirit in Baptism.  The question is, do we live as if this is true?  And if not, when will we?  AMEN.