Through Our Actions
Day of Pentecost, Year C, RCL
Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-17, 25-27
Jesus tells us that the Father has already come and is already present in our life and ministry. He says if you know me, you know my father. This is merely a statement of fact and not a condition of faith. Nowhere in this passage does it say that God will be present if you have faith. It is simple: if you know me, you know my father. John’s Gospel account shows us that the most important thing is our relationship with Christ. What brings us to everlasting life, is our abiding, loving relationship with Christ. If we know Christ, we know the Father. If we know the Father, then he will make his abiding place in us. This passage demonstrates the access we have to the creator. Our access is equal to that of Christ. Jesus tells us, that through our relationship with him, we can accomplish more than he did. While this seems impossible, it is possible with the coming Advocate; the Holy Spirt that Jesus is sending in his absence. And again, we find John's favorite word, abide. He says you know the Holy Spirit because he abides with you and will be in you in the same way God is.
At first glance, Jesus seems to be critical of Philip for asking a seemingly innocent question, “Lord, show us the Father?" Yet the reality is that Jesus tells Philip and us what we should already know by now, that God abides in us. This passage is meant to be one of comfort, knowing that as Jesus ascends into heaven, we are not alone. As long as we have an abiding love for Christ, we are never alone, for the Father and the Spirit will abide in us.
If we skip over to our reading from Romans, we find that our faith, the Christian faith is not one of strict adherence or slavery as the passage says. Christ offers us the freedom to live our lives in diverse ways, all while we come together, worship the same God, and share the same meal. Our tradition, the Anglican tradition, celebrates this diversity. We celebrate that each one of us can be very different, even hold extremely different views, yet we accept one another as Christian sisters and brothers. I believe that this is an example of the abiding love that John mentions. And we, as a church, didn’t simply make this stuff up. We find Christ helping a variety of people, Gentiles, Jews, high Roman officials, the outcast, poor, and lame. We accept everyone as children of God, for this is not only what Christ demonstrated to us in his life, it is what Christ does for each and every one of us in ours.
No matter what you have or haven’t done. No matter what your life circumstances bring, God lives in you and loves you. This is where the awkward word slavery is meant to show the freedom we receive through Christ. Instead of being bound by prescriptive rules, and the judgment of others, we rest in the freedom of a loving relationship where even though we will fall short, we are embraced in love.
In our reading from Acts, the Holy Spirit comes and gives each disciple a different language to speak. The people, who come from every nation under heaven, comment that the disciples speak in the proper dialect, in which they were born. Any of us who have spoken a foreign language knows how difficult it is to speak, not only fluently, but in a manner in which a native speaker could not tell your accent. Even native English speakers have different accents, which gives us possible clues as to where we are from. Yet, for the disciples, the grace of language that is poured out prevents others from hearing even the slightest difference in their dialect.
Now others didn't find this situation so amazing. I'm guessing the people who once could understand the disciples yet can no longer, are so confused by what is going on, that they accuse the disciples of being drunk and speaking gibberish. Peter even has to yell out to these nay-sayers, we’re not drunk, for it is only nine in the morning.
For me, this passage shows how God's love can touch people where they are: the poor and the affluent, the sick and the healthy, the stranger and the friend. Those like me and those who are very different. When we speak words of love, we touch people far better than when we speak words of hate or division.
We are all aware that there are many divisive issues right now, in our community, our country, and across the globe. Voices are screaming at one another, but few seem to be listening. Without active listening, the voices are creating more division instead of common understanding. We can pray that there will be equal justice. We can pray that gun violence will end. Yet more importantly we should be praying that the Holy Spirit will come and inspire our hearts, so we can hear the voice of love and be conduits of God’s love; so that we can take action and accomplish what God is putting on our hearts.
When the disciples heard the rushing of the wind, they didn’t hide under the table. When the divided tongues of fire landed on them, they didn’t sit around the table wondering what this all meant or pray that it will go away. They allowed themselves to be moved by the Holy Spirit. To get up, go out, and speak to a bewildered crowd. They were not hindered by what others may say, they stood proudly when they were accused of being drunk. And they spoke what God put on their hearts.
I don’t know what God is telling you, I can’t read your minds or discern this for you. But no matter how you feel nudged, pushed, or compelled by the Holy Spirit in your life we can talk and discern together what this may mean or how this may be accomplished. What I know to be true is that within each of you resides God and the Holy Spirit and that each of us is being moved by the Spirit, to act on God’s behalf, to change this world for the better.
As we witness in the story of Moses, we find that God is patient. The people were crying out for generations at the violence that was taking place. They felt that God was not answering their prayers. Then one person, Moses, finally acted on what he heard, followed what God said, and together set God’s people free. Prayers are good. I believe that prayers work. Yet we need to act on what the Holy Spirit is telling us. For at times such as these, it is through our actions that our prayers are answered; that God's work is accomplished, and we can live in a better place.