This is the sermon the Rev. Dr. Robert Pace preached on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021, at Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth.
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
This is quite a day in the life of our church. It’s a great day of celebration. The feast of Pentecost is one of the historic seven principal feasts of the Church.
One of the great things about this particular feast is that we really get to think about and talk about and BE about the Holy Spirit. We wear red vestments and red clothes to represent the Holy Spirit.
So what are we really celebrating? What is Pentecost?
We heard from Acts that the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ closest followers at a point when they were pretty low. Jesus had been with them. He had taught them. He had loved them. Then Jesus had been killed, brutally, on a cross. Much to the shock, surprise, and utter joy of these followers of Jesus, he then rose from the dead to walk among them again. But he did finally ascend, leaving them to be only with each other. He told them to go into all the world and spread the Good News of God’s love.
This scared bunch of disciples had no real clue as to how they might go about this important task. They huddled together in confusion and fear, wondering what to do. We can picture that scene, right. We’ve been there time and time again–frozen into inactivity by our own doubts, our own fears, our own concerns about whether we are worthy or not.
But then, gathered in that room, on the day of the Shavout–the Jewish Festival of the Weeks, or in Greek, the Pentēkostē–the Holy Spirit of God came upon them. It came with the sound like the rush of a violent wind.
The rush of a violent wind.
The very beginning of Genesis tells us: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
So, think about how powerful that is! In other words, the same Spirit that brought forth creation. The same Spirit that was present from the beginning of all that has ever happened. That Spirit was now present with those first, terrified followers of Jesus gathered in that place.
This is what we celebrate today. We often talk about this feast as “the beginning of the Church.”
This is when the followers of Jesus… the followers of the Way… received the Holy Spirit… They became the Church… or in the Words of St. Paul, became “the Body of Christ”… to go out into the world and to complete God’s redeeming mission.
I think we do have one potential problem with this feast day.
That problem is when we make it more about the “event” of the forming of the church, and less about the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And let’s be honest, it’s more comfortable to have a celebration of a specific event.
We mark our calendars. We dress up. We party. Then we clean up. Then we’ll do it again next year!
And what makes this particularly attractive is that the Holy Spirit is somewhat difficult to comprehend. People talk about the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways…
Some people invoke the name of the Holy Spirit to justify a wide variety of actions and beliefs.
So how do we get a handle on this? What’s Jesus talking about in the Gospel when he says: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf”?
I think we start with the knowledge that the Spirit of God… the Holy Spirit… did not just get “created” on that Day of Pentecost.
We start, in the words of Richard Rohr, with the idea that we should not be thinking of God as a being. Instead, God is larger, greater, more than that. God does not decide to love. Instead, God is love itself. God’s very nature IS love.
In the “farewell discourse” in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” and “he will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Jesus concludes, “All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
This Spirit… this Holy Spirit… IS the love relationship between the Father and the Son.
And it is that relationship that is freely and wholly given to us.
Or, as Richard Rohr puts it, “We are included inside this love…. This is salvation in one wonderful snapshot.”
But how do we experience the presence of this Holy Spirit…this divine relationship of love?
One definition I love is that the Holy Spirit is always the “third force” happening between two dynamics.
Whenever we work to “stay in relationship” or “connect with others,” it’s the Holy Spirit that mends, heals, warms, seals, and softens the broken places between us.
Envision the story of Pentecost through that lens… with that understanding of God’s Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ followers, imbued and empowered with the relationship of the Spirit… the connectedness to God’s love that knows no bounds…. These followers stand before the crowd and can now speak out without fear and without shame and without doubt. Devout Jews from the far reaches of the known world can now all hear the Good News that God has redeemed us all.
You see, Jesus’ disciples were no longer stuck. They connected to God’s very nature… That’s the Holy Spirit. And through them, so too did those around them.
Today we celebrate Pentecost… a Principal Feast of the Church. Later today [at noon and 2:00 PM] we will have baptisms, [in this service] we will recite together the Baptismal Covenant.
We recommit together to participate in the Holy Spirit… in that relationship of Love…
In this parish… in this diocese… in this Episcopal Church… all part of the Jesus Movement… we welcome the Holy Spirit…
Let’s commit ourselves that we will engage the Holy Spirit as the central and healing power of connectedness and relationship.
It’s in that Spirit of Love that we uplift those who are in broken places by the grief of loss or hopelessness or hurt.
It’s in that Spirit of Love and relationship that we confront the damaging and unchristian forces of Racism and misogyny… that we reject discrimination against people of color or women or our LGBTQ siblings or people with disabilities or the growing number of those living below the poverty line.
It’s in that Spirit of Love that we come together and proclaim that God is love… beyond all other things… and THIS is the Good News that Christ came to tell all…
God’s Holy Spirit of Love builds us up. It unites us. It grows us into the image of God.
This is what we celebrate today. The God, who is love,
Come, Holy Spirit, Come.
 The seven principal feasts of the church are: Easter, Ascension, The Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day (November 1), Christmas Day (December 25), The Epiphany (January 6). See the Book of Common Prayer, page 15.
 Genesis 1:1-2 (NRSV)
 Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (London: SPCK, 2016), 185-86.
 Ibid., 186.
 Ibid., 187.