Day of Pentecost, Holy Communion sermon , June 5, 2022
Acts 2:1-21,Jphn 14:8-17
Rev. Misa Furumoto
Today is the day of Pentecost, and how wonderful it is that we can gather together at the Lord’s table and receive Holy Eucharist again for the first time in months. As you know, Pentecost is one of the three major feasts of Christian church along with Easter and Christmas. But it is not as popular as the other two. Why? I think that part of the reasons for it is because we don’t know what it really means to us.
Let us have a quick review. It happened two thousand years ago. Jesus was crucified, died, and buried, but then on the third day He was raised from the dead and had stayed with the disciples on this earth for 40 days. On the 40th day of His resurrection, He was ascended into heaven just before the disciples’ eyes. And 10 days after His ascension, the Holy Spirit, in the form of tongues looking like fire came down from heaven and rested on each disciple’s head. Then what happened? The disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. I really wish I have that! For me, writing a sermon in English takes much more time than writing in Japanese. If I were given that ability, it would be so much easier to preach, not only in English, but also in Italian, German, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Tagalog, Russian I would be able to speak. What a dream!
Well, I’m just joking, but the disciples then started to speak like that in many different languages and spread the words of the Lord, the Good News to all over the world. Wherever the Gospel was carried, people gathered and a community was established; a church was born. Therefore, the day of Pentecost is celebrated as the birthday of the church. Happy Church Birthday!
Then what? We now know the history of Pentecost. But is that all? Does it in any way relate to us who live in 2022? Some denominations, like some Evangelicals and so-called Pentecostal or Charismatic churches emphasize and teach baptism with the Holy Spirit. By repenting your sin and accepting Jesus as your Savior, you receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit which will make you live a spirit-filled and empowered life. Many are given spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and divine healing. The story told in the Acts of the Apostles, literally what happened two thousand years ago is directly connected to the present time and occurring even now to the followers of Jesus.
I’m not trying to judge their teaching. It’s not right or wrong; it’s just another tradition. But in our tradition of the Anglican Church, the Holy Spirit is not emphasized very much. I don’t know why. But I’m sure it would be so much easier to grasp what the Holy Spirit is if it were made more tangible like by experiencing miraculous works of healing or by speaking in tongues. We don’t have those. Shall we then just give up and ignore the Holy Spirit? No, I don’t think so.
Let us go back to the Gospel again for a hint. Before Jesus was arrested and crucified, He promised the disciples that He would ask God the Father to give them the spirit to be with them forever even after Jesus was gone. The spirit here is called the Advocate. Advocate is the same term as a defense lawyer. The original Greek word is Paraclete which can also be translated “Helper” or “Comforter”. It is someone who protects, supports, and helps us whatever happens. And by knowing Jesus and by keeping His commandments, this Advocate, the Holy Spirit abides with us, and He will be in us. Even if we forget what Jesus had said and done, we don’t have to worry as the Advocate will teach us everything and remind us of all that He had said.
What is this Advocate? It is God’s love towards each one of us. It is God’s passion for you and me. God wants to abide with us always even though we are now apart from each other. It may be just like a parent who can’t help thinking about her/his child who is grown up and gone far away from home. It is God’s parental feeling.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life, the Bible says. And He sent us the Holy Spirit so that we can always remember what Jesus said and believe in Him.
If we have this Spirit in us, we have true peace in our hearts. Our hearts never need to be troubled and never be afraid. The Advocate, God’s love abides with us.
So, what is the day of Pentecost? It is not difficult at all. It is the day we remember God is always with us whatever happens, wherever we are, and however we are.
In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.