Acts 2:1-11 • 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 • John 20:19-23 Pentecost A’14
Weekly Scripture Readings: Pentecost
“Christ is risen!” (Truly he is risen!) The greening of trees in the Spring, like the turn of leaves to bright gold in the Autumn, and the first snow of Winter, all awaken awe in my soul. There are moments when the natural world reveals a single, organic process of transformation leading to new life. I found special delight in Spring this year. Perhaps it was because in the words of the poet Emily Dickenson, “A light exists in Spring … not present … at any other period.” Now as Spring becomes Summer, we celebrate Pentecost. We heard this same gospel text on the 2nd Sunday of Easter, and know the story well. Please don’t be satisfied with such familiarity. Our task is to hear what this text says to us today.
That seems easy enough. “The Risen One breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.”
According to biblical tradition, God formed Adam with clay, and then breathed life-giving breath into him, and that clay became a living being. Perhaps that is the most significant truth about us as humans! Note the implication of “evolution.” We are clay into which the Spirit of God has been breathed! If that is what we are – clay into which the Spirit of God has been breathed, than what did the Risen One mean when he said: “receive the Holy Sprit?”
I suggest we misunderstand this text when we think the Risen one is conferring or giving the Holy Spirit to us. Let me shift the meaning of that simple sentence. The word “receive” is a command. The Risen One is saying, “experience,” “accept” or “welcome” that which already permeates you.
Jesus had done this in his own personal life. He lived out 0f a personal awareness of that Gracious Mystery we name God. That awareness expanded his understanding of God. It allowed him to see himself as part of who God is, and to see God as part of who he was.
That awareness awakened a passion in him for “the reign of God” — “God’s new reality” emerging in and among us. That passion inspired and motivated his entire life.
And so in Jesus we see clay just like us; clay into which the Spirit of God has been breathed. His unconditional love moved him to cure the sick, to forgive and to love without condition, even those whose violence denied the reality of God.
Christ is risen!” (Truly he is risen!) Christianity is more than a religion. I think Christ is not about salvation as commonly understood. Christ is about new life. The Risen One invites us to join him in opening self to new patterns of relationship. He has demonstrated the possibility of wholeness through union with others.
“Receive the Holy Sprit!” He knew “the Holy Spirit” permeates us. He knew we have the same power within us to forgive and to offer fuller life to others. He knew we have within us the same power to love God and neighbor without condition and to live simpler lives so that we will have more to give to the needy.
“Receive the Holy Spirit!” He commands us to experience, accept and welcome that which already permeates us! Experience, accept and welcome our deepest truth as humans. Experience, accept and welcome that we are part of who God is, and God is part of who we are!
For me the sacraments and our liturgical prayers remain essential pieces of our faith tradition. However I no longer experience them as channels of grace. They keep me focused on that simple command – “receive!” “Receive the Holy Spirit!” Water, oil, the Bread and Wine of Eucharist draw me to experience, accept and welcome that which already permeates my soul. I celebrate our faith confident that as we “receive the Holy Spirit” we become more fully alive and more fully human. In doing so we participate in the mystery of Christ unfolding at the heart of the cosmos. Christ is risen!” (Truly he is risen!)