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Homily Notes Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Sunday/Are We Brave Enough to Move with the Spirit?

            We might be surprised that the full story about the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost told only in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Spirit comes to the Apostles forty days after Easter.  After the Spirit comes, the Apostles go out to preach in the streets, but what are they preaching about? What makes them so excited?

            We might reflect on the situation that the Apostles were in.  The Gospel of John describes it well.  The Pentecost event does not happen 40 days after Easter in John’s Gospel, but it happens on Easter night.

            The Apostles are locked away.  Where they are located is not described. Perhaps it is not so much the place that kept them behind closed doors, but it is the frame of mind they were in.  The Apostles felt ashamed.  In Jesus’ moment of need they had all run away.  When we feel guilty or cowardly don’t we want to avoid people? We do not want to face them.  Especially, if we have been publicly humiliated. If everyone knows our sin.

            In John’s account of Pentecost there is no dramatic wind that blows.  We have no tongues of fire.  Perhaps the Gospel writer felt if we get to caught up in the supernatural we will not be able to recognize the fact that the spirit is with us at every moment.  The spirit is as real as the air we breathe.

            Someone one once estimated that we take six hundred million breaths in our life.  We do this unconsciously.  We do this to stay alive.  The ancients realized the significance of breathing for life.  One way that they shared a sign of peace would be that they would breath in a person’s face saying peace be with you.  The other person would take in that air.  It was as if the person being greeted were taking the spirit of the other person into themselves.  When we read of the resurrected Jesus coming to the apostles we read of Jesus engaging in this greeting.  The followers of Jesus took his breath into themselves. His spirit mixed with their Spirit.

            But then Jesus says the most significant thing of all. He tells them they are forgiven. Not only are they forgiven, but they can forgive other’s sins.  How wonderful it must have felt to those who had betrayed the trust of Jesus that they did not have to live with their past transgressions, but it was a new day.  And that was the good news the Apostles went out to share.  We are all forgiven, you can be forgiven.  The message was not one of hell fire and damnation, no, it was one of mercy.  Truly this is of the Spirit. When we see forgiveness in unexpected places it is powerful, inspiring.  People hold so many grudges in our society.  Doesn’t it seem like we are encouraged to see only enemies around us?  When we see, people stand up to the evils that divide us we need to take note.

            A week ago, Friday, two girls, one Christian the other Muslim, were riding on a train near Portland, Oregon. A young white man started yelling at them, harassing them, telling them to go back to wherever they came from.  The girls retreated in fear.  The man did not let up.

            Three other men stepped in between the irate man and the girls. Three very different men. One was a 53-year-old army veteran named Ricky John Best, a father of four who had spent tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. The second man was named Taliesin Namkai-Meche.  He had just graduated from college and was starting his life in the work force. At 23 he wore his hair long and had a beard. He looked like a hippie.  The third man was a college student named Micah Fletcher.  Micah is a musician and a poet.  The three men had one thing in common the spiritual gift of fortitude. 

            The whole incident turned ugly fast.  John Best and Taliesin Meche were stabbed to death by the man who was shouting at the girls. Unbeknown to the three men the white supremacist had a knife with a three-inch blade in his possession.  Micah Fletcher was also seriously wounded before the man was subdued.  According to Rachel Macy, a woman who stepped in to try to help the men after they were stabbed, Taliesin Meche’s last words were these, “Tell everyone on the train that I would like them to know that I love them.”  Ricky Best’s teen age son Erick said, when he spoke about his father, “My father believed that we are all people.  Our color or religion does not matter.  We are all human beings.” 

            When a manifestation of the spirit happens, it is unexpected.  Moving with the spirit often takes the gift of fortitude which is defined as a virtue that is displayed when a person encounters danger or bears adversity with courage. The spirit leads to a sense of unity with God and others. The Holy Spirit teaches those who listen what reconciliation is all about.

            Three men were moved by the Spirit to step in the middle of trouble to protect two strangers. Three men did the right thing when they could have looked out for themselves. The spirit is manifested, not so much, with other worldly power as with practical acts of charity.  The spirit works every day, but we must be to be astute enough to see it working.  We must also be brave enough, when the opportunity presents itself, to let it move us where we never thought we would go.  


Please note, this is a rough draft...grammar may not be perfect.