Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Days after Pentecost

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
May 24, 2015

Year B: The Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

The Days after Pentecost
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            Today is one of the great feasts of the church year: Pentecost.
            It’s fifty days after Easter – fifty days after the Resurrection – and ten days since the Ascension when Jesus was taken from our sight.
            And now, as promised, the first disciples in Jerusalem have received the gift of the Holy Spirit – transforming them from bumbling, fearful and confused off and on followers of Jesus into bold, courageous and eloquent Christian disciples and witnesses.
            On Pentecost, thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Church is born.
            One of the things I love about Pentecost – yes, I love our church picnic but even more important than that – one of the things I love about Pentecost is that it isn’t a one-time event.
            The other big feasts: Christmas, Transfiguration, Easter, Ascension are all onetime events – Jesus was born only once, was transfigured with Moses and Elijah only once, was raised and ascended only once.
            But, Pentecost…Pentecost happens all the time.
            God is constantly pouring out the Holy Spirit on us – offering us the same gift that the early disciples received back in Jerusalem, 2000 years ago.
            Here are two times and places that I’ve seen the Holy Spirit lately:
            As many of you know, last Monday night there was a big community organizing meeting over at Old Bergen Church.
            As you also know, St. Paul’s has been part of the effort – along with about 30 other congregations – to get a new community organizing movement started in Jersey City – to allow the voices of people like us heard in the halls of power.
            I was so moved by what I experienced at that meeting last week.
            First, there were so many St. Paul’s people there – thank you – about thirty of us connected to this church took the time to care about our city. And, our own resident miracle worker, Gail Blache-Gill once again practically created a choir on the spot!
            And then, one by one, representatives of all these different Jersey City congregations – people of different faiths, colors, ages, and languages – all stood up and told us what they heard from people in their communities, in their neighborhoods, on the bus, all over the place.
            Finally, near the end, my friend, The Rev. Frances Teabout, got up and preached a mini-sermon calling us all to action – challenging all of us to allow ourselves to be sent – she cried out, “Send me!” over and over – challenging us all to not pass the buck to others but to take up this great work.
            For me – and I think for many of us there – it was another Pentecost.
            And then, in just a little bit, we’re going to have another Pentecost right back there at the font, when Koren is baptized.
            In and through the water of baptism, God is going to pour out the Holy Spirit on Koren – making a bond with her that is indissoluble, can never be broken no matter what she does or doesn’t do for the rest of her life.
            And God is going to pour out the Holy Spirit on us – right here, in just a few minutes – reminding us of our own baptismal promises – that was us back there once – and giving us the strength to try, with God’s help, to keep those promises.
            We’re celebrating Pentecost – and in a few moments we’re going to experience yet another Pentecost.
            It’s Pentecost.
            But, you know, almost as important as Pentecost is what comes after Pentecost.
            Back in Jerusalem, two thousand years ago, the disciples had a remarkable experience, filled with the Holy Spirit, giving them remarkable abilities, making them so joyful that some people thought they must have been hitting the wine even though it was only 9:00 in the morning.
            But, what about the next day? What about the day after Pentecost?
            Those first disciples could have woken up with a kind of spiritual hangover, thinking to themselves, wow, that was an amazing experience, but then it’s the next day and they can’t speak foreign languages anymore – it’s the next day and they feel pretty much the same as always. The disciples could have easily just gone back to their same old ways of living.
            And the same is true for us.
            What about the next day? What about the day after Pentecost?
            For those of us who were at Old Bergen Church last week and had that amazing experience did we wake up on Tuesday morning with a kind of spiritual hangover, thinking, wow, that was an amazing experience, but then went back to our same old ways of living, with the once-powerful words “Send me” softening to just a weak echo in our heads?
            And what about tomorrow - for Koren and us?
            We are having a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit here today, but what about tomorrow?
            Will we wake up with a kind of spiritual hangover, thinking, wow, that was an amazing experience – witnessing a baptism, being reminded of our own baptism -but then go back to the same old, back to our old ways of living.
            Well, we’re told that Pentecost wasn’t just a day for the first disciples – it transformed them permanently.
            They continued to share the Good News – continued to break bread together and to pray together – began spreading the word about Jesus out from Jerusalem to the rest of the Mediterranean world and eventually even to Duncan Avenue.           
            There would be more special days when they really felt the presence of the Holy Spirit but there would also be plenty of seemingly ordinary days.
            Yet, even then, God was pouring out the Holy Spirit.
            And the same is true for us.
            Tomorrow is a holiday, but most of us will more or less go back to our usual lives – we won’t be dressed in red – or get to hear phenomenal music – or watch a baptism – or have a picnic with a 100 or so other people.
            It’ll be the day – the days - after Pentecost.
            Yet, God will still be pouring the Holy Spirit onto us giving us the strength to be the Body of Christ in the world.
            Pentecost didn’t happen just once.
            Pentecost isn’t only one day.
            Pentecost happens all the time.
            In fact…Pentecost even happens on the day – and the days – after Pentecost.
            Come Holy Spirit, stay right here with us, and fill us with your love.