By the Rev. Darren Miner
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the Day of Pentecost, and it’s an important day in the Episcopal Church for a variety of reasons. For one thing, today is one of only seven “principal feasts” in the liturgical calendar; these so-called principal feasts outrank all other celebrations or commemorations. For another, today is widely considered to be the “birthday of the Church.” (Of course, one can make a good case that the Church was born when Jesus called his first disciple.) Today also has the distinction of being one of four “baptismal feasts” on which baptisms, or the renewal of baptismal vows, are appropriate. In any case, one thing everyone can agree on is that it is a day to “pull out all the stops.”
Now, let’s move on to the appointed readings for the day. The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, recounts the story of that first Pentecost, when the disciples encounter wind and fire and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They miraculously find themselves able to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in languages that they do not know. The heart of their message to the crowd is found in the very last line of the reading: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” So far as we know, this miraculous gift of tongues did not remain with the disciples, but even so, they were not left bereft of spiritual gifts.
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he reminds the Christians in Rome that the Spirit of God continues to lead and guide the faithful, so that they can live as God’s children are meant to live in the world, with courage and with confidence. He reminds his readers that in a real sense it is not they who pray but the Spirit of God who prays with, and through, them.
Then, we come to John’s Gospel, which somewhat confusingly takes us back in time to the Last Supper, before the disciples had even received the gift of the Holy Spirit. There, Jesus makes this promise to his disciples: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” Now, that word “advocate” is a bit problematic. Every time I hear it, I think of a trial lawyer. But that is not exactly the kind of advocate that Jesus is speaking about. What he means is that the Father will send someone who will stand by the disciples throughout the trials and tribulations of this world. That someone is, of course, the Holy Spirit. Jesus goes on to promise that the Spirit of God will continue to teach the disciples long after Jesus has returned to the Father and will guide them further and further into Divine Truth.