May 23: Pentecost

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for May 23, 2021, Pentecost Sunday was preached in response to John 15.26-27; 16.4b-16. The sermon was based on the below manuscript, typos and all.

Today’s gospel passage,
like the last few weeks’ from John,
is from Jesus’ farewell discourse.
Jesus spends a lot of time
on the night before he dies
soaking in the company of his disciples,
teaching them even more about himself,
even more about God’s Reign.
Knowing that he is going away,
both to the crucifixion,
defeating death and the grave,
but also returning to the Father,
Jesus takes his time.
It’s an intimate goodbye party,
complete with sorrows in the disciples’ hearts.

When we read these chapters of John,
particularly paying attention to Jesus
as a living, breathing person,
his love, care, and tenderness come through.

Jesus and John
are telling the disciples a lot,
there is teaching to be done,
but they’re all together,
abiding in the Love through whom
all things were made.
This happens in the context,
where Jesus knew he was going to die,
and wanted to show his love
to those he loved
and who had come to love him.

It’s been almost a year
since George Floyd was killed.
Mr. Floyd
didn’t get to have a goodbye party.
He didn’t, like Jesus,
give his life voluntarily
for the redemption of the world.
Even so,
his death jump started conversations,
conversations that had been happening
for five years for some of us
and our whole lives for others.
His killer has been convicted,
and maybe some police reform with teeth,
will take place nationally.

From his death,
the church has been called
to keep having
our own tough conversations.
The Covenant to Root Out Racism,
which we’ll pray together
in place of the Prayers of the People
has come from Floyd’s death,
last summer’s demonstrations,
and the church listening a little closer
listening a little deeper.

In the movement of the Spirit,
the Advocate to help
which Jesus promises the disciples,
we hear the rustling of history
calling for our lamentation.
“We lament the places
in which we have been spectators and participants
in the public and private
lynching of people of African descent.”
“We lament the systems
of white supremacy,
white exceptionalism
and white privilege
present in the Church
that have condoned people –
particularly people of African descent –
being viewed as
less, inferior or unworthy
rather than as beloved children of God,
made in the image of the Divine.”
“We lament
the resounding silence
and the crippling fear
that often infects the Church
in matters of racial reconciliation
and social justice.”
These are just a few of the things
this covenant to root out racism
calls to our lamentation.
These are just a few of the things
Where the Advocate
the Holy Spirit
proves the church and the world
wrong about the sin we commit.

In the text today,
Jesus tells the disciples
that he will send them an Advocate.
The advocate
will prove the world wrong about sin,
and share even more with them.
In Jesus’ love for the disciples,
he’s held off on what he’s told them,
giving them what they could handle.
The one who comes after him,
the Spirit of Truth,
will share even more with them
and guide them into all truth.

Writing about the experiences of the church,
John has seen the Spirit at work
in the church’s development
since Jesus’ Ascension and Pentecost.
John has seen
the Spirit of Truth in action
from its arrival at Pentecost
to its guiding Paul’s writing
to it helping the Church
through its early struggles.

Jesus promised the disciples an advocate,
a helper, a Spirit of Truth,
and that Spirit has come.

That’s what we celebrate and remember today:
the Advocate has come,
and Jesus has not left us
to our own devices.
As the Spirit speaks in new voices —
voices that we’ve ignored
or chosen not to elevate,
voices that are demanding to be heart,
the Spirit is leading us into all truth.
As we lament our shortcomings in a few moments
and promise ways to do better
we won’t be doing so
on our own.
Jesus promised the disciples an advocate,
a helper, a Spirit of Truth,
and that Spirit has come.
After we offer our lamentation,
we’ll make our promises
the same way we make and renew promises
at our baptisms:
I will with God’s help.

Acknowledging and bewailing
our manifold sins and wickednesses,
as the Fire of the Spirit
burns off historical, collective sin,
and new voices of the Spirit
rush through our ears
like a mighty rushing wind,
we’re not left alone.
Our job is not to be Good Christians
who seek to right the wrongs of the world,
through our willpower
or our best intentions.
We promise to do better
with God’s help.
Jesus promised the disciples an advocate,
a helper, a Spirit of Truth,
and that Spirit has come.
On all who put their trust in you and receive you in faith,
shower all your gifts.
Grant that they may grow in you and persevere to the end.
Give them lasting joy!
Veni Sancte Spiritus

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