By Fr. Timothy Kroh on Pentecost:
In the Name ✠ of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yesterday, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church preached a wedding sermon and the title of his sermon was “The Fire of Love.” We have a different kind of holy fire today on this day of Pentecost. The season of Easter is come to its conclusion, next week the Paschal candle will not be lit. And, like the early church, in the day of Pentecost that we hear about in the Acts of the Apostles, we too receive the Holy Spirit today, and every day.
We receive the Holy Spirit in fire and water. We receive the Spirit with fire. We know that these tongues of fire came down upon their heads of the Apostles in the upper room; they’re still in the upper room fifty days after the Resurrection. That means they’re still hiding; they’re still afraid of arrest. The message of Christ has not gone very far yet, if everyone who believes in him is locked up in the same room, but that was the situation.
But there were some important things they were doing. They were together. This did not happen when they were all in their bedrooms alone or in front of their computer screens. They were all together in one place, in prayer. Acts reminds us that they were always praying together after the Resurrection event. And even though they were afraid, they were together in unity with each other and at prayer, and those conditions were the conditions that made it the time for God to send His Holy Spirit and finally give them power from on high to share the message.
You and I share that call to be evangelists. St. Paul tells us, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit.” The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains as the Kingdom of God slowly comes to birth.
We know we live in a world of royal weddings and just weddings, sharing in the joy of love. We also know we live in a world where school shootings happen, as one did yesterday. We know how broken this world is. We see the brokenness: addiction, poverty, oppression, racism, so many forms of brokenness. But we also know that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, as St. Paul continues on in the epistle, “And God who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit.” We can know too what is the mind of the Spirit and have the courage to act on it.
The Holy Spirit comes with water. Today in the waters of Baptism a beautiful child of God will receive new birth. Almost every one of you here today are baptized children of God. I remind you of that a lot. If you get tired of it, I’m going to keep doing it. Because it’s the truth and it will always be your deepest identity. You can have all kinds of other identities in this world: parent, child, spouse, worker, contributor to the economic world, whatever. You can have degrees, or not, but your deepest identity just like Catriona’s, will always be baptized children of God. You receive the Holy Spirit in those saving waters, just as radically as the Apostles received it with tongues of fire, because the Holy Spirit comes not only with fire, but with water, and the effects of that water last forever.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Whether you feel the Holy Spirit or not, he, she, is with you every day through the indelible mark of Baptism which nothing can ever take away. That’s the good news for us in a world that is still groaning in labor pains. And so we rejoice with this precious child, and we rejoice that we share the identity that the adults around her are claiming for her. And we pray that we’ll be a good example for her, just like her godparents, by coming back: by receiving the Holy Spirit through the Holy Eucharist, Christ’s own Body and Blood. The Holy Spirit comes in bread and wine too, don’t forget that. But the Holy Spirit also comes through our relationships with one another; that may be the primary way, the primary way that we experience God the Holy Spirit, is through our relationships with one another.
So when we make the promises of baptism or remake them in a few moments, don’t forget that those are your blueprints for life. Whatever identities you’re trying to work out in the world, go back to those promises.
In a few moments, we will pray the thanksgiving over the water. I say the prayer, you say, amen, which means yes, at the end. But neither of us really perform the action. It’s the Holy Spirit of God among us. Not just on the day of Pentecost, not just on that one day you were baptized, whether that’s today or many years ago, always every day. And if you need the Holy Spirit in your life, come back, come back next Sunday, sit down with someone in this community today and tell them your story, because when two or three are gathered together, Christ is among us and the Spirit is there always.
Holy Baptism: https://www.bcponline.org/Baptism/holybaptism.html