Lectionary Reflection, Day of Pentecost, Year C
May 15, 2016
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. John 14:15-17
Yes, it’s Pentecost again, that festival commemorating the “birthday” of the church. There will be confirmation rites and affirmations of baptism, folks dressed in red, and a lot of talk about tongues of fire, mighty winds, and the Holy Spirit. It’s a Sunday when, traditionally, the church gets so pumped up in worship that it might even be akin to a giant liturgical pep rally.
This year I’m not feeling all the hoopla so much. Even though I enjoy and find real meaning and hope in the story of that first Pentecost, I’m not so much ready for business as usual and forced jocularity. Maybe it’s because my own life and work have been so hectic and scattered lately, or maybe it’s because of all the meanness and uncouth banter that’s been the airwaves and social media outlets. Whatever the root and reason, I find myself drawn this day to the lesson from John’s gospel. It’s here that Jesus is promising his disciples (and the rest of us, too) the gift of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
Yes, it’s the same Spirit that shows up in Acts with fire and wind and wildness, but in John we also get a glimpse of the Holy Spirit as teacher, equipper, reminder, and guide. The Advocate will abide with us always, as surely as will the Creator of the universe and the Messiah–the three intertwined, inseparable, and complete in love and mercy. But it gets even better.
Jesus also speaks some beautiful words of hope and comfort: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus’ promise of this Spirit gift is not a promise of an easy life, and we know when we’re told to believe and keep his commandments that we have our work cut out for us. Loving God, loving our neighbor, and caring for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger require both effort and sacrifice, but in Christ we have no need to fear, no need to worry, and the promise of peace.
Like Peter, we may desire proof and need to see for ourselves that this Jesus is believable and real. “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied,” he says. You’ve seen him in me, Jesus responds. We, too, have experienced the Father in our encounters with Jesus in the Beloved Community, in the proclamation of the word, and in the bread and wine of communion. We received the gift of the Spirit at our baptism, and through that gift we continue to encounter Jesus throughout our life’s journey. Not just me. Not just you. All of us.
We may not have visible tongues of fire hovering over our heads, we may not experience a wild and woolly Pentecost, but as the church of Christ in this time and in a particular place, we will have occasion to experience renewal and rebirth. We will have cause to share the good news about what God has, is, and will do to reclaim, repair, and restore this good creation and all that is therein.
Hey, maybe this good news is worth something of a party on Pentecost Sunday. Perhaps we should celebrate that God continues to do a new and amazing thing through ordinary folks who abide with an extraordinary Advocate.
(Photos: Pedro, Waiting for the Word, and hickory hardscrabble, Creactive Commons. Thanks!)