Holy One, for all that has been thank you. For all that will be, yes.
Happy Pentecost! As some of you may know, I am a word nerd. ‘Pentecost’, the word, comes from the Greek Pentekoste which means 50th. Today is the 50th day after Easter. The word is also linked to the Jewish festival of First Fruits, Shavuot, which occurs 50 days after Passover. So for me, there is a sense that Pentecost is in part about ‘first fruits’ as well as the fire of the Holy Spirit. These fruits are seeded through Lent, we pray over them through Holy Week, little green shoots begin to appear as we are given our mandate to love one another on Maundy Thursday, they are trampled on, beaten down through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and we celebrate Easter, Alleluia – for 50 days! The shoots are now plants, growing strong and now bearing fruit into the world. And here is my point; you and I are the fruit. We are the Fruit of Love, and the Holy Spirit makes us Embers of Hope.
As delectable as these fruits are, as lovely as we are, we can be bruised, and left alone we rot. The fruits of love face an angry and hate-filled world. And the fire of the Holy Spirit can be doused and dampened by the swampy waters of anger and fear. I know that I have faced this anger, and this fear, both from within myself and from others towards me. And I know that each and everyone of you have as well. So, tonight I’d like to explore how we can be fruits of love and embers of hope, especially in the places where God herself has given us responsibility, even the difficult and dangerous places. I have 3 suggestions; first, do what I can, second, I’m not alone, and third, be a Warrior of the Spirit.
So, first, do what I can. I’m going to start by reading Eugene Peterson’s translation of a part of the text we heard this evening. The part I want to share is the point at which Peter addresses the crowd.
“Friends, … listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my SpiritOn those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.” (Acts 2:17 – 21 from Eugene Peterson’s The Message)
And, earlier in the reading we learn that Peter’s quoting of the prophet Joel would be understood by all who were there. “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?” (Acts 2:11 The Message)
In the words of Ellen Clark King, God’s love is “promiscuous.” The fruit of love is for everyone and about everyone. The rabbinic understanding of Joel’s speech, that Peter is reciting, “…indicates the inclusion of all orders of society.” (Notes Acts 2:14-21 The Jewish Annotated New Testament.) All of us are loved, all of us are worthy, all of us can be fruits of love. All of us are filled with the embers of hope and the possibilities of the Holy Spirit. All of us can share in this fruit of love, be warmed by these embers of hope. And, thanks be to God, its not up to only me to be the only fruit of love, the only ember of hope. God’s love is promiscuous, She will find a way. And in the meantime, where is She calling me to responsibility? Perhaps She is calling me to the people and places where my home language and context is understood? (Acts 2:8-11) Others will speak and hear other languages, other fruits of love, other embers of hope in their own language.
So the first thing to keep in mind about being a fruit of love and an ember of hope is that its not all up to me. I do my small part, you do your small part, and together we are making a difference.
The second thing to keep in mind about being a fruit of love and an ember of hope is that you and I are not alone. We have this band of people here at St. B’s, and in the broader Cathedral communities. As I was writing this I kept hearing the brilliant lines from Shakespeare’s Henry V, where King Henry is calling out to his tiny army against the much larger enemy, who are apparently secure in their castle.
“From this day to the ending of the world,But we in it shall be rememberèd—We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”
(Please forgive the cis centred language there.) And we have each other, we few, we happy few. Each Sunday and beyond recharging, reconnecting with the Divine Source of our Love, so that we can be these fruits of love, these embers of hope, into the places where we have responsibility. In the face of a dangerous world, we have each other.
The third thing to keep in mind, is that we are called to be “Warriors of the Spirit.” We live in a time of great transition. This time is as challenging as the Industrial Revolution, as the working class moved from the farm to the city. Massive displacement, low wages, poverty, revolution and war. Massive wealth held in a tiny number of hands, while the rest of us eked out a living. The economic power of the working class that arose in the mid 20th century was still a dream. We live in such a time today. The Philosopher Margaret Wheatley https://margaretwheatley.com invites us into a way of being that I think echoes being fruits of love and embers of hope. She calls us to be what she calls “warriors of the human spirit.” I believe we are called to be Warriors of the Holy Spirit. Here’s how she describes us;
“Warriors for the Human Spirit are awake human beingswho have chosen not to flee. They abide.They serve as beacons of an ancient story that tells ofthe goodness and generosity and creativity of humanity.You can identify them by their cheerfulness.You will know them by their compassion.When asked how they do it they will tell you aboutdiscipline, dedication and the necessity of community.”
I think she’s talking about the Holy Spirit here. We are beacons of an ancient story that tells of the goodness and generosity and creativity of humanity. In the face of a dangerous world, we few, we happy few, are warriors of the spirit.
And so, three things to keep in mind as fruits of love and embers of hope. One, focus on where you have responsibility, the people who speak your language. It is there you can best seed new fruits of love, light new flames of hope. Second, know that you are not alone; we few, we happy few, can support and care with and for each other. We can sit here, in the presence of the Divine together, knowing that we are loved, and in doing so can love. And third, we can be ‘warriors of the spirit’ who abide in the midst of the sadness, abide in the midst of the anger, and by discipline, dedication and connection with community, make a difference even for one other person.
This Pentecost, this 50th day, that is who I hope I can become.
Let us go now to the places where God has given us responsibility.
Let us remember the peace and love we have celebrated.
Let us not fail to show to all people, the new life that is already among us.
Let us have courage.
Let us hold on to what is good.
Let us return no one evil for evil.
Let us strengthen those who fail.
Let us support the weak, and honour all life.
And may the blessing of God, the Creator, Sustainer and Friend go with us now and remain with us, always. Amen.