The combination of readings on Pentecost offer a variety of gifts and encouragements if we hear them humbly, allow them to do their work within us and move to action to renew the face of the earth.
We know that there was some fear involved. Some people wanted those early apostles and disciples to go away. The authorities wanted to quiet the apostles because the Good News Jesus they were proclaiming didn’t sound like good news to everyone. There was enough fear to go around for all.
The movement of the Spirit caused lots of fearful people to come together face to face. What they notice is astounding. Not only did they exist without hurting each other, they could actually understand each other. Imagine that.
The Spirit gave them a language so that everyone could understand, but they had to get past their fear. With fear, they are behind locked doors but with the Spirit comes understanding. How does that happen?
Combine the gifts of the Spirit, the grace of God and the various gifts of the human family and you’ve got a powerful combination. This is not a chemical formula where you can measure out exact amounts or predict a certain outcome. In fact, we don’t even possess all the parts to make this happen. The gift of humility, a shedding of arrogance and a purification of self-righteousness will help us understand exactly how this works.
The gifts of the Spirit are given to us to help God accomplish the renewal of the earth. They are gifts, so we are not in control of them as a possession. They are given to us to be used in their proper place and in the proper way. So we pray today and every day for an outpouring of the Spirit’s gifts upon us. We wait, we endure, we hope and we notice how God’s Spirit gives us the gifts we need to be a blessing to others and to accomplish God’s work in this world. We hold these gifts, not as possessions that we deserve, but as a treasure that we hold with open hands and hearts. We ask God how we are to use these gifts. We ask for guidance. We act according to the promptings of the Spirit of God.
But how do we endure and how do we live in constant hope? When Jesus showed His disciples His hands and side, they were able to see proof that what they thought was true really wasn’t. Jesus stood before them to show them that death does not have the final say. Have you had a chance lately to contemplate your own life and possible death? If we have gone through this entire COVID-19 experience and not taken that opportunity, then we are poorer for it. I hope that you have had an opportunity to look sickness and death in the face. Feel the fear that goes with it. None of us want to suffer and few of us wish to die. We have things to do and people to see. We have events to look forward to in the future. None of us will get out of here alive, but will we live toward that moment with hope or fear?
On Pentecost Sunday, notice the hands and side of Jesus. Bring your own fears of suffering, loneliness and dying to the Risen One. Walk through that passageway from fear to hope and freedom. His wounds and His Resurrection give us the foundation to stand on and the hope to live with. Now go and use the gifts of the Spirit for the renewal of God’s earth.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.