RCL-A May 28, 2023
Pentecost is prismatic. It is the one Sunday we really truly focus on the facets of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, which is everywhere and surrounding all things: it is fire and it is breath, it is a million languages and absolute Unity, it is tender comfort and it is knocking over everything. The gifts of the Spirit are not limited to the ones that make it into the Epistles: they are also courage and resiliency, they are collaboration and rumbling. The language from the Hebrew scriptures that we associate with the Holy Spirit it's about wisdom and indwelling presence - it's feminine. The language of the tradition around the Holy Spirit is about power and change - it's been masculine. The traditional color for Pentecost is of course red, but does one color begin to illustrate the infinite spectrum that emanates from the fire of the stars? Does it begin to suggest the multitudes of skins and brains and bodies that make up the beauty and diversity of God's creation? Pentecost is prismatic: all the colors on the ribbon wands are Pentecostal.
Today we have four important things going on. This is a weird and kaleidoscopic Sunday morning in the life of Christ Church. It is Pentecost the church calendar marks it so. It is Memorial Day weekend, because the worldly calendar marks it so. I chose this Sunday to be graduate recognition:; getting in before all the other celebrations start. Three things that do and do not go together, and now it is also the first Sunday in which we come together knowing that all of us are in a time of transition, neither here nor there yet: All together this might feel a whole lot like more unknowing than we tend to appreciate.
Part of the reality of Pentecost is competing voices and feelings and movements; but the wonder of Pentecost is in the understanding, the hearing. I love Pentecost I love the chance to spend more time thinking and praying and wondering about the third co-equal co-eternal co-operative modality, person, face of the Holy Trinity. I love focusing on the Spirit of God, and today we will share in a special Eucharistic prayer one that we have (with permission of the Bishop) borrowed from our Lutheran siblings. I bring it to you again because it dances in the fullness of the experience of the Holy Spirit; of the way in which it is comfort and it is wildness and it is love and it is revolutionary and unexpected. I hope on this Pentecost Sunday you will lean into the indwelling presence of the Spirit, and perhaps wave your many colored streamers every time we mention wind or breath or fire or love or energy, or even Holy Ghost. Move that wand enough to make the bell ring - or bigger if you feel it. Maybe as you do so - the motion will touch on words and feelings that point us toward the Spirit of God.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It is a holiday that began after the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day. it was a day on which graves of fallen soldiers were decorated. Part of the mission of the church is to stand on the threshold of life and death to be people that recall that just because someone has died does not mean they are far from us. We are people who remember the real cost of bravery and duty. To my mind this is one of the two most appropriate secular holidays to celebrate in Christian liturgy, the other being Thanksgiving. So let us take a moment today and tomorrow to remember the courage of those who voluntarily (or not) confronted fascism, worked together for a greater purpose, and those who have perished caring for strangers on the front lines of natural disasters. May they rest in peace.
Perhaps Pentecost is the perfect time to honor graduates. it has that same prismatic quality in that we're so proud that our young people have made it this far and we are anxious about the changes that the threshold of graduation lay bare. So caregivers - breathe. find a practice of breathing or walking or dancing or prayers that helps you connect with the comforting colors of the Holy Spirit. You are not all alone as you make this journey. And graduates, all of you, but especially those of you launching into adulthood miles from home find an intergenerational community of service and prayer. The parts of what comes next which raise the blood pressure of your caregivers: the data is clear they will all be better (not perfect) when you have a religious community that is not just your peers, that cares for others and the world and connects to the divine - the indwelling presence of God.
And finally on this Pentecost Sunday we have entered again a season of strange farewells and upheaval. You are in a transition phase, I am in a transition phase, because I am becoming the transition coordinator for this diocese, which means I will be transitioning my own transition. The weirdness and depth and complexity of this new reality, the multitude of feelings:l ove and anxiety fear and confusion hope and wonder are all either works of the Holy Spirit or difficulties that are met by the presence of the Holy Spirit: sometimes both. The number one thing you can actively do to meet this time in our life becoming together apart is to not pull back; is to not crawl into a wait-and-see position. Increase, don't decrease your commitment to religiosity. Deepen, don't loosen the prayerful curiosity that the Holy Spirit is calling out in you. Give your energy to the activities that make Christian practice real: show up, learn, play. It may be summer but we are going to keep going with adult formation and a soft schedule for Godly Play. We're going to keep having fire pit nights or game nights and doing the holy work of service as a Spirit-led community for the well-being of the world.
Pentecost is always prismatic, always a weird mash-up of intentions and realities. It is never ever really about one color, or occasionally invoking the divine name when we feel like it. The Spirit of God is about duty and courage, about presence and power, wisdom and comfort. It is the activating, motivating, and coloring-outside- the-lines energy that is the difference between changes being a crisis; and transitions being a creative threshold - further up, further out, and further in.