by the Rev. Jim Purdy, Assisting Priest

pentecostLuke tells us that ten days earlier, the risen Jesus had taken his followers out of Jerusalem, east from the Temple, across the Kedron Valley, and back up the Hosanna Road to the village of Bethany. There, standing among them, he charged them to stay in Jerusalem until they would receive power from on high — the advocate whom he had promised would be sent to them upon his return to the Father. As John had baptized with water, they would be baptized by, and with, the Spirit of God. And so ten dozen of Jesus’ disciples were told to wait. (The Book of the Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-21)

How did the Church begin its ministry? By waiting. That’s hard for twenty-first century Episcopalians to do. We don’t wait well. We want to be up and doing, planning another task force, another project, another program, finding and responding to another need in God’s world around us. Too often, we forget that the Spirit fell on the disciples to empower them for their work as they waited, patiently, expectantly, hopefully… as they gathered to pray… as they came together to worship.  First and foremost, the gifts and call of God originate in that still, waiting time, in worship. Worship is, after all, the first of God’s gifts.

*   *   *

When the Spirit rushed very gently and very powerfully into the upper room, it fell upon all who were gathered, not just one or two of them, not only the eleven remaining apostles. The Spirit fell on all one hundred twenty disciples and empowered each one of them to take their part in their new, common endeavor. It breathed into them. It breathed through them. The present tense of God, the go-between God, brought gifts and a call to the community for the community, for a specific purpose.

What is that purpose?  It’s not to make us feel good about ourselves. It’s not to give us a magic wand to produce or realize or obtain whatever personal goal or ambition we seek. The gift of the Spirit to the Church that day and today is the same: to enable Jesus’ followers — members of one another, concerned for one another, supporting one another — to continue to do his work in God’s world.

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A timeless story, often called “The Legend of Gabriel,” has been a favorite of preachers for generations. When the risen Jesus departed the company of his disciples and ascended into heaven, among the first to meet and greet him was the angel Gabriel. When Gabriel asked him about his mission and ministry, Jesus explained the movement he had begun of establishing the kingdom of God on earth. The angel wondered, “So, you say that the work has commenced. What plans have you made for the movement to continue?”  Jesus replied, “I have left things in the hands of Peter, James, John, and the remaining disciples, Mary, Salome, the other Mary, and a few others who followed me. I’ve also sent them the Holy Spirit to be with them forever.”  Gabriel was distressed: “That’s it? You mean it’s really all in their hands now? Do you have a Plan B? What plans have you made if they fail?” Jesus concluded the conversation, “I have no other plans.”

Today is the Day of Pentecost.  Today we awaken to the truth that our vocation is not to look AT the Spirit. We ARE the Spirit. We are integral, essential parts of Plan A.

 May Almighty God, who enlightened the minds
of the disciples by pouring out
upon them the Holy Spirit and made them shine with the light of divine presence,strengthen our faith and let us bear witness
to Jesus our Lord in word and deed.


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