Pentecost 2020

Pentecost 2020

Peace be with you. Peace be with you! The disciples are hidden behind locked doors. Frightened. They have watched as their Saviour has been hung on a cross and died. They buried him in a tomb. Then, without warning, Mary comes to the tomb and discovers it empty, she runs to tell Simon Peter – who then (with another disciple) runs to the tomb to find it empty. 

The two disciples leave, and Mary is left alone at the tomb. In this moment Jesus appears and speaks to Mary… He tells her to run to tell the disciples that ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’.

She runs. She tells the disciples ‘I have seen the Lord’ and she tells them what she has seen. 

The disciples meet that evening. You can imagine how they feel. Confused. Shocked. Worried. They were locked in the room out of fear. In their very own lockdown if you like. What did Mary mean? What did the empty tomb mean? 

And then it happens. Jesus is there amongst them with no fanfare, no noise or crashing of thunder. He just appears without explanation and says to them ‘Peace be with you’.  He shows them his wounds and then – again – he says, ‘Peace be with you’. 

These words are said to bring comfort in an atmosphere of horror, fright and confusion. They are a deliberate echo of the words Jesus said to them at the Last Supper – ‘Peace I leave you; my peace I give 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.’

But the Peace Jesus shares with his disciples in that room – that evening – is not the same as that shared at the Last Supper. At the Last Supper Jesus is faithful and threatened. He knows what is to come and He knows he is about to be betrayed – the disciples also know that something is very wrong. 

The Peace offered in the room on this evening – after his betrayal, his death and his being placed in the tomb – is the Peace offered by the resurrected Jesus. The peace that is not offered by the world now makes sense. It is the peace that comes from the knowledge that – in spite of all the hurt and pain and harm the world inflicted on the disciples – and continues to inflict on us – God’s compassion & love is right there in front of them in the risen form of Jesus. And it is still with us today.

There is no delay between Jesus saying to the disciples in that room ‘peace be with you’ and him them commanding them to start their apostolic mission. ‘Breathed on’ by the Holy Spirit – recalling of course that great Breath of God that brought life to the world in Genesis. 

And there’s an important lesson here about the Holy Spirit. We can, I think, sometimes fall into the trap that this is the moment in history where the Holy Spirit comes – that the Holy Spirit has been absent in the world and through history before this point. But that is simply not true – the Spirit has been with us since those very first moments. Aiding us, comforting us, being called in by all in trouble or those who need.

You must be sick of me going on about calling in the Holy Spirit at this point. I have – since The Ascension it seems – preached about nothing else than the calling in of the Holy Spirit. Of how the Paraclete is always called in to help those in need. 

It is no surprise that today – on Pentecost – our Gospel talks of the moment of utter despair of the disciples and that the Holy Spirit is called in to aid them in their next steps. Called in by the risen Jesus and offered in Peace – a Peace the world can not give. 

The Holy Spirit will aid and comfort them as they walk from that first appearance of the risen Jesus to his last at The Ascension and the thunderous coming of the Spirit on Pentecost. 

Commissioned by the risen Jesus – to go out into the world and to preach the Gospel – empowered by the Holy Spirit. This of course is the birth of the Church as we know it. The people of God empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel in word and deed. So powerful in fact was the action of the Holy Spirit on that first day – through the powerful testimony and exhortations of Peter – that over 3000 people were baptised! 

Peter promised them that if they were baptised they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, that their sins would be forgiven and he said to them that this promise was for them – for their children and “for all who are far away – everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Him”. 

Jesus – and the gift of the Holy Spirit – is for everyone. There is nobody too far away to receive His forgiveness, love and comfort. 

And that word – gift – is so important – because the gift of the Holy Spirit to each of us and to the Church is a gift that has to be accepted in order to be enjoyed. But how do we do that? How do we accept the gift of the Holy Spirit – both as individuals and as a Church? How do we… call in… the Holy Spirit?

Firstly – we are baptised. We repent of our sins – they are forgiven through the church as Jesus commanded the apostles – and then we dedicate our lives to understanding Him more. Through scripture, through the sacraments, and always… through the Holy Spirit. 

In the earliest days of the church it seems that anything was possible, anything was achievable, and the action of the Holy Spirit was so tangible and easy to understand. Then, as time passed and the church grew, we started to heap human structures upon it and perhaps, over time… forgot about how important it was to read our scripture through the Holy Spirit, to come to church strengthened in the Holy Spirit, to listen to our enemies through the comfort of the Holy Spirt… to pray for our friends in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The pitfalls in not doing these things is that we confuse the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of the Age – or how we might be feeling that day… or if we like the person who is telling us a difficult thing to hear. By meditating on, by praying with and to, by calling in the awesome power of the Holy Spirit in our lives we are open to understanding the path that God puts in front of us to follow – and following that path is a gift that is accepted – or not – by us. We make the decision to follow, or not. 

But my gosh… the rewards if you do follow that path. If on Pentecost, you renew your dedication to calling in the Holy Spirit… the rewards are not money or success in a way the world can give. But peace, peace beyond understanding, beyond that which the world gives. A peace that the risen Jesus gives, offered as a gift in the Holy Spirit and tended to by God the Father.

Come Holy Spirit. Enter our Lives today. Renew us in your love and power.

Peace be with you.