Preaching and prayers for Pentecost, 2017, at the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio. “Praise & picnic” moved indoors because of unpredictable weather conditions …
The Holy Spirit is as unpredictable as the weather! One minute she is described as the sound of a rushing wind; the next sounds more like the sun, as flames as of fire rest on each of the disciples’ heads. I think it goes to show what lengths God will go to in order to reach us, to reach out to us, to reach God’s arms around us.
I like the image of the Holy Spirit as the sun. It gives light for us to find our way. It warms our hearts and lifts our spirits. It is an essential condition of our life – without it, life as we know it would not exist. Even in the darkness, in the night, the sun does not go away. It is, as much as any created thing can be, steadfast. It is we, with our little planet, who turn our backs for a time; and when in the morning we complete our rotation and return to the sight of the sun, its apparent rising brings us new hope, a new day.
No metaphor for God is sufficient; and it is unwise to try to divide God into separate parts. Divine vivisection is not a recommended practice. Nor is it the done thing to multiply by three.
Nevertheless, today we celebrate the Holy Spirit: the ruah, the breath of God.
Jesus had told his disciples, when you look at me, you see my Father. We know Jesus as our only mediator and advocate, but he promised that the Holy Spirit would be our Advocate and guide.
When the Holy Spirit blew through the room on Pentecost, it was with the fullness of the power of God. This was not an emissary, an angel of the Lord. This was the wind that whipped up the waters of creation. This was the breath that Jesus breathed over his apostles, speaking, “Peace.” This was the fullness of God, reminding and reassuring those apostles and the others that God is not gone away.
So what do we mean when we celebrate Pentecost today, and pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”?
I think that we are asking, once more, for God to let us know, in no uncertain terms, that God is not gone away, has not forgotten us, or closed the doors of heaven on our troubles, our dilemmas, our terror, or our love.
We are asking for that comforter, advocate, and guide whom we were promised, upon whom we can rely, even in the darkness.
The Holy Spirit does not always come in dramatic fashion, with a rushing wind and tongues of fire. Sometimes, she comes in that still, small voice in the darkness, so quiet that we wonder if we are imagining her presence. Do not be fooled by her quietness; she only has the full power of God reigned in.
Do not be alarmed by her unpredictability. She knows what she is doing. She speaks your language. She knows your name.
She is not confined to dramatic events or unexplained experiences. She who brooded over the waters of creation and breathed it into life is as close to your life as your beating heart, and as concerned for your heart as your own hidden hopes and fears.
It was when the apostles were gathered together in one place, as we are now, that the Holy Spirit came with the fullness of God, goosing the apostles into life, and setting them loose on their unsuspecting neighbours. It is when we come together that we have the power to do greater things in the name of our God, in the name of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our voices become stronger; our reach longer. When we inspire – literally in-Spirit one another; when we encourage – literally give courage to one another; then we know that power in all of its fullness and its glory.
But do not forget, in those quieter, still moments, and in the silence that follows the storm, and in the darkness, that the Spirit is still with you, as close as your breath, always there to remind us that God is not gone away, that you are not forgotten, but that the Spirit of God broods eternally over you, her beloved child.
Prayers of the People for Pentecost (with musical response)
Spirit of All Holiness, fill your holy Church with the breath of life, with the words of prophecy, with the humility to seek your kingdom come. Response
Spirit of God Almighty, guide this nation. Impart your Wisdom to those in authority, so that all may become agents of your kingdom. Response
Spirit who brooded over the waters of creation, protect and preserve your work, we pray, and bend our wills to yours, to create and not to destroy. Response
Spirit of Life, in you we live and move and have our being. Be among us, as we live and move and have our being in this community, and let us love our neighbors as ourselves. Response
Spirit of Peace, give rest to the victims of gun violence, and turn the hearts of those who choose to study war. Spirit of Truth, shine your light on the lies that breed terror, and relieve the grief that oppresses us. Response
Spirit of Salvation, bring your compassion and mercy to bear upon all those who suffer in mind, body, or spirit, and give rest to those who are in trouble. Bless and keep all who contribute to the comfort of others. Response
Spirit of Reconciliation, we confess that we have too often failed to follow you into the way of love. Forgive us, and renew a right spirit within us, we pray. Response
Spirit of Resurrection, bring to perfect peace those who have died, that in your new creation they may worship you in spirit and in truth. Response
Heavenly Spirit, help us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that God’s very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26, para).