Homily for Pentecost Sunday
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
(This homily has two endings: one for Masses at which we
celebrated First Communion and one for Masses where we
did not. The audio is from a First Communion Mass.)
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Every year when I read those words on Pentecost,
I wonder what it’s like to hear those words
or to preach on them
in those parts of the country where tornadoes often touch down
and threaten peoples’ life and property.
Wind and fire are images often found in the scriptures
as symbols of how God’s Spirit moves in our lives.
But wind and fire are ambiguous images:
each can be life-giving and each can be death-dealing.
• Wind is air on the move, the air we breathe.
But that same wind can twist itself
into a column of destruction and death.
• Fire gives us warmth, light and protection, it cooks our food.
But fire can rage, engulf, burn and consume whatever’s in its path.
In the first scripture, the Holy Spirit comes like a strong driving wind -
not to destroy the dwelling where the disciples were gathered
but to fill it with the presence of God.
The Spirit comes and settles on the believers’ heads as tongues of fire -
but they aren’t burned – not even singed.
Rather, their hearts are inflamed with faith.
How about us?
When was the last time the wind of God’s Spirit,
the breath of the Spirit,
even a whisper of the Holy Spirit
moved in your heart or mine, in our thoughts, in our consciences,
urging us to respond, to speak, to move, to do, to act
- or perhaps urging us to sit still and keep our mouths shut?
When was the last time you and I felt the heat of God’s presence
]burning within us, urging us
to choose wisely, to decide prudently, to act justly?
to do the next right thing?
We find so many ways to insulate ourselves from the Spirit -
as if the Spirit of God were something to be feared.
Am I afraid that the Spirit’s wind might knock me down?
That the Spirit’s flame might burn me?
Are we afraid that the Spirit might somehow change us?
Well, when we allow the Spirit to break through, to break in,
things do change.
Those early Christians were changed by the Spirit
and God’s Spirit seeks to change you and me, too,
perhaps not as dramatically as in the scripture here
but there’s not a moment of any day or night
when God’s Spirit isn’t seeking to change us, to help us grow.
And perhaps that’s what frightens us.
We want what is life-giving
but we fear what we might need to let go
if the Spirit’s life is to flourish within us.
Perhaps we fear what we might become
if the wind and fire of the Spirit
enveloped our minds and our hearts - and changed us.
And what would we become?
We’d become nothing more and nothing less
than the persons God created each of us to be.
In fact, we might even become the person
each of us would like to be!
So on this Pentecost Sunday, pray with me.
Pray that we not fear the breath, the flame, of the Spirit
and the life the Spirit offers us.
Pray with me for the Spirit to come into our lives
-- and to change us...
and especially to change what we know in our heart of hearts
most needs changing.
(FIRST COMMUNION MASS ENDING)
I suspect that for many who are with us in prayer this morning,
the Holy Spirit of God has come to you today -
not as wind, not as fire –
but in the guise of a young girl or boy
receiving Communion for the first time.
The Holy Spirit has many faces and 15 of them
belong to the boys and girls I introduced to you as Mass began.
It’s also likely that many who are with us today
haven’t been at the Lord’s Table for some time,
perhaps for a long time.
If that is you:
know, for sure, that you are welcome here;
know, for sure, that God’s Spirit has led you here.
know, for sure, that the Holy Spirit has brought you here today
to join God’s people in prayer;
to hear the Lord’s Word in the scriptures;
to open your hearts to breath and fire of God’s grace;
to bring you to your seat at the Lord’s Table
as these children take theirs for the first time.
If we are here this morning,
we are here by the power of God’s Spirit,
whether we’re here every Sunday morning
or haven’t been in a place like this in ages.
God’s Spirit has gathered us together.
May God’s Spirit keep these children and us together
and continue to gather us all at the Lord’s Table.
(OTHER MASS ENDING)
• Come, Holy Spirit, once more fill my heart
with the fire and power of your gifts.
• Come, Holy Spirit, fill up wisdom's lamp,
to enlighten my mind, my thoughts and my will.
• Come, Holy Spirit, light the way:
help me see and embrace all that God is revealing.
• Come, Holy Spirit, with knowledge and truth,
brand my mind and my heart with the Word of the Lord.
• Come, Holy Spirit, my beacon of counsel
for judgments both prudent and pure.
• Come, Holy Spirit and kindle my courage
to do what is right, to do what is fair, to do what is just.
• Come, Holy Spirit and stoke my desire
to humble myself before God.
• Come, Holy Spirit, light the flame of your presence
and draw me to reverence and prayer.
• Come, Holy Spirit, flood my heart with your gifts
and my soul with the breath of your peace.
• Come, Holy Spirit, to the Father's love draw me,
through my, Savior, my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
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