We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Pentecost, Year B

I. Theme – The coming of the Holy Spirit  

 Window from St Aloysius’ church in Somers Town, London

The lectionary readings are here  or individually: 

First Reading – Acts 2:1-21
Old Testament – Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm – Psalm 104:25-35, 37 Page 736, BCP
Epistle –Romans 8:22-27
Gospel – John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 

Pentecost is a milestone in the story of salvation. It was on that day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers in an upper room in Jerusalem as they awaited the baptism Jesus told them they would receive. Jesus had promised this event just before He ascended into heaven.

"And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

The symbol of fire is important for Pentecost.Fire has long represented God and the presence of his Holy Spirit. Fire consumes but is its own energy force. hat energy is around action and for the church, mission. Acts is about mission, about speaking, proclaiming, the good news to people everywhere, in languages (and language) they can understand. This is the day in which the mission of the church was given birth. 

Commentary by Rev. Mindi

The familiar passage of Ezekiel prophesying to the dry bones reminds us that breath, wind and Spirit are all connected. They are the same words in Hebrew, the same words in Greek. The wind from God comes over the waters and breathes life into creation. The breath of God breathes into the human being and the human being becomes alive in Genesis 2. And the Spirit gives new life, eternal life, beginning in Ezekiel and echoed in John 20 and Acts 2 and elsewhere in Scripture. The celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit is the recognition that the breath that gives us life also gives us eternal life, for breath, wind, and Spirit are from God. Ezekiel is given a task that seems impossible, but God is showing Ezekiel that even out of death new life can rise through the power of the Spirit.

The Psalm is a hymn of praise, offered in the course of Temple worship, probably at the Autumnal harvest festival, given its theme of creation. It is a poem praising God and celebrating the order, the balance and majesty of creation reflecting upon God’s mighty power. Psalm 104 speaks to the breath of creation and God’s wondrous work of breathing life into the world and all of creation. Not only do all things live and die, but God renews the face of the ground (vs. 30), breathing new life into the earth. We see this in the turning of the seasons year after year, but we also see this work in the re-creation after disaster. We see the waves reshape the beach after a hurricane; we see the forests regrow after fires and volcanic eruptions–life returns, new life is begun.

Acts 2:1-21 is the familiar Pentecost story by the author of Luke, where the disciples are gathered in Jerusalem, and the wind from God blows through the house they are gathered in. We all know the story. We use the color red to represent fire, the image of flames above their heads. But we really don’t know what the heck happened there. Why this happened in this place, at the spring harvest festival? What we do know is that this story opens the door for ministry outside of the disciples own people–God’s message is for all. And the vision of Joel is renewed–all people, young and old, slave or free, male or female–and as Paul will add, Jew or Gentile–have the opportunity to be filled with God’s spirit and participate in God’s reign and vision for new life.

Romans 8:22-27 reminds us that the Spirit helps us in the waiting time. Through our Lectionary cycle we relive the history of faith, and as we go into the season after Pentecost, we are in a great period of waiting. There are no more major church holidays until Advent. We have a long time of waiting, and in our lives and in the world, we are still waiting for Christ to return, for Christ to enter our lives in a new way. Through the presence of the Spirit–through the witness of God’s love by our love for one another, our work for God’s justice, and our work for peace–we live into God’s hope through the power of the Spirit. The Spirit helps us in this time of waiting, and continues to remind us God is not through with us, or the world, yet. God is continuing to do something new

John 15:26-16:15 explains the writer of John’s view that the Spirit’s work is not only to bring eternal life, but a newness of life now. We are called to testify to the light, as John shares in chapter 1, and our lives are to be that testimony, that living witness. How we live our lives shows whether we live with the Spirit within us. We are called to love one another, as Christ first loved us, and the witness of this love is our lives, which is full of the Spirit. If we do not love one another, we do not love God, and we do not live with the Spirit in our lives.

II. Summary

First Reading – Acts 2:1-21

The literal meaning of Pentecost is “50 days”; it is now fifty days since Easter.

In the Old Testament it was positioned on the Jewish calendar seven weeks after the Passover. It was the Jewish Feast of Harvest and was equivalent to our Harvest Thanksgiving Day. The high point of the celebration was the bringing of two loaves of bread, made from the newly harvested wheat, which symbolised the dedication of the harvest to God. In Acts we see the dedication of some 3000 people as a harvest of converted souls.

Pentecost is a milestone in the story of salvation. It was on that day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers in an upper room in Jerusalem as they awaited the baptism Jesus told them they would receive. Jesus had promised this event just before He ascended into heaven. He said, “Wait for the gift my Father promised. John baptised with water; but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5) . The coming of the Holy Spirit is the gift inaugurating the final stage of the salvation story; this era leads up to the end of time. His arrival is in fulfilment of Christ’s promise, recorded in 1:8. The Holy Spirit comes: the sound is “like the rush of a violent wind” (v. 2), the images of tongues of fire. Commentators however would say the more remarkable things is that all those who were gathered heard the good news of Jesus in their own language.

They were already believers. For the forty days since his death Jesus had appeared to them many times until he told them of the coming of this gift. This 10-day of prayer and waiting must have witnessed the emptying of themselves so that they could receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The first Christian Pentecost was the fulfilment of prophetic promise. In Acts 2:16-18, 21, Peter left no doubt about it: “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth my Spirit upon all flesh…’”

Acts is about mission, about speaking, proclaiming, the good news to people everywhere, in languages (and language) they can understand. This is the day in which the mission of the church was given birth. The New Testament church was called, commissioned, and empowered to go out into all the world with its universal message, calling everyone to a personal faith in the risen Lord.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind this work, e.g. in the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch, we read “the Spirit said to Philip …” (8:29). They spoke “in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (v. 4). Divided into nations in antiquity, now all humanity is one; now God is in our midst. The Spirit is the launching pad for this mission. The list in vv. 9-10 includes Jews from the whole of the known world. The mission to Gentiles will begin later. “God’s deeds of power” (v. 11), of which all spoke, are explained by Peter in vv. 14-36, based on a quotation from the book of Joel (vv. 17-18): as the end of the era in which we are living approaches, many people will prophesy, and many will “see” things beyond what we call concrete reality.

And this will happen because God pours out the Holy Spirit. Prophecy here is probably enthusiastically sharing the faith, “speaking about God’s deeds of power” (v. 11). 

Psalm – Psalm 104:25-35, 37 Page 736, BCP

This psalm has much in common with the first account of creation in Genesis 1: 2 – 4a with its “seven day,” structure. This is a Hymn of Praise, offered in the course of Temple worship, probably at the Autumnal harvest festival, given its theme of creation. It is a poem praising God and celebrating the order, the balance and majesty of creation reflecting upon God’s mighty power and loving care. Earlier verses have praised him for creating the heavens and the earth, for overcoming chaos, for continuing to care for the earth and all who live in it.

The Jewish people sang this psalm on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) as they began a new year in repentance for past sins. The Day of Atonement was a special Holy Day for the Jewish people because it was on that one day of the year the High Priest would make a sacrifice for the sins of ALL the people and he would enter into the Holy of Holies… into God’s presence… and place the blood of the sacrifice on the Mercy Seat and the sins of the people would be covered.

When the High Priest fulfilled this task… the sins of the people were forgiven.It was during this Holy Day that Israelites could sense the closeness of God. A God who was not only mighty but a God who cared for them.

God’s marvellous “works” (v. 24) are everywhere, all made in his wisdom. It is direct praise of the Lord. He is not a one time, creator who has long since left his creation to its own devices and designs. He is involved in everything and with his breathe new life is sustained.

The language used has echoes of mythical accounts of creation, speaking especially of the sea as a place of great mystery and danger where great creatures go. The emphasis is on Creation’s dependence on God, not only for food and sustenance but for our very life itself. To Israelites, “the sea” (v. 25) was almost chaotic, beyond controlling, but God is so great that even “Leviathan” (v. 26), the mythical sea monster, is his harmless, sportive creature.

All living things depend on God at all times, for their “food” (v. 27) and their very “breath” (v. 29, life); without it, they die. Lack of God’s presence causes terror. Verse 29 talks of the very breath of God, or spirit of God which has echoes of Gen 2: 7 where God breathed life-giving breath into man, giving life itself. In a similar way although the psalm is not speaking directly about the Holy Spirit as we might understand that in New Testament terms there is an obvious link. God’s act of sustaining life and giving new life is not disassociated from what we see as the work of the Spirit. The point is that all creation and its creatures are totally dependent on God’s presence and ‘breath’.

His creative agent is his “spirit” (v. 30). Creation is continuous, continually renewed. The “glory of the Lord” (v. 31) is the magnificence of the created world, his visible manifestation. His power is evident too in earthquakes and volcanoes (v. 32). The psalmist vows to praise God throughout his life. Praise be to God! 

Epistle – Romans 8:22-27

Paul’s words recorded in Romans 8:18-27 present the core of what it means to live in this present world as a Christian.

Paul has written in chapters 1-4 of man’s great need for righteousness and justification and of God’s provision of it through Jesus Christ. What sinful men cannot do for themselves, God has done for them in Christ. We are forgiven of our sins and declared righteous, not by striving to please God by our good works, but by trusting in Jesus Christ, by faith

In chapters 5-8 Paul speaks to those who have been justified by faith concerning their walk as believers in Jesus Christ. The general subject is sanctification—that process by which sinners who have been justified by faith are being transformed into saints so that their lives reflect the righteousness of God. That righteousness which all men lack, and which some have been granted by faith in Jesus Christ, is now to be lived out in the daily walk of the believer.

Having described the conflict we experience as those enslaved to sin and death (Romans 7:14-25), Paul presents our only hope of deliverance.

The Holy Spirit is God’s provision for godly living. Not only does the Spirit empower the Christian, He also assures the Christian of his position in Christ as a son of God. While our sonship is the assurance of sharing in the glory of God in His coming kingdom, it also requires present suffering for Christ’s sake. This suffering is not divorced from our sonship but a prerequisite to the glory which is to come. In Romans 8:14-17, Paul introduces the subjects of sonship and suffering.

Romans 8:18-27 explains in greater detail the ministry of the Holy Spirit to suffering saints.

This present life inescapably involves suffering and groaning as we look forward to the glory of God and the full benefits of our sonship at the return of our Lord.

What is groaning? Our groaning is due to the present corruption and futility we see both within us and without. Sin, dwelling in our flesh and in this fallen world, causes us to groan. Groaning is a deep, inward response to suffering. It is both personal and intense, an agony so deep it cannot be put into words. Groaning will be swallowed up by the glory of the sons of God which is yet to come. For the Christian, groaning directs our hope heavenward to that which is not yet seen.

During our days of groaning, the Holy Spirit ministers to us so that we may endure our present afflictions. The Spirit of Christ stands with us, supporting and shaping. The Spirit is the first fruit of our adoption as God’s children, an adoption that still awaits completion. Paul emphasizes the Spirit’s solidarity with us in our weakness and our solidarity with the whole creation in its suffering.

The Spirit intercedes for us, communicating our groanings to God. He conveys to God what we cannot put into words, and He also intercedes with requests which are consistent with the will of God. When we cannot speak, the Spirit speaks for us, to God. The Holy Spirit is the communicative link between our own heart and the heart of God. He ministers to us in our present weakness.

Gospel – John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 

For the early Christian communities, Pentecost marked a liminal moment when people’s gaze shifted from looking back at their memories of Jesus, to looking ahead to what they must trust to sustain their life after his death and resurrection had passed into history and memory. That same sense of being on the boundary between phases of life is a recurring feeling through the life of the church, as we are pushed by the experiences we encounter to reaffirm the basis of our faith and confidence. At its heart is the experience of the Holy Spirit.

This passage contains the longest sustained discussion of the Spirit in the Gospels

In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is said to interpret the Spirit for the disciples prior to his death, namely, in the long discourse after dinner on the night of his arrest (13:31-17:26). No tongues of fire or rushing wind are promised as the accompaniment of the Spirit’s arrival in this story. No unexpected languages will prompt snickered charges of drunkenness in mid-morning.

1. Jesus as defense attorney. The Holy Spirit is mentioned only five times in the Gospel of John, and three of them are in today’s passage. Previously, the Spirit is introduced in 14:16, where the Spirit is called both the Spirit of truth and "another Advocate," which begs the question of the identity of the first. This is how Jesus has been described, namely, as one who stands like a defense attorney beside his followers, accompanying them in moments of joy as well as of trial.

The good news of the gift of the Spirit, though, was that the same help and assurance continued in their new reality: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you" (14:26).

2. Jesus promises Spirit can be trusted as true on at least two counts — the Spirit comes from the Father, and the Spirit exercises its mission chiefly not in bearing witness to self, but in testifying to the good news already made known in the resurrection of the Son (15:26)

The Spirit would be a teacher who would complete the teaching begun by Jesus. The spirit would remind them of Jesus’ teaching when time, grief, fear, or simple human forgetfulness takes it away.. This initial promise is simply a word of assurance that the presence of the Holy Spirit will continue to know God’s presence as they did when Jesus himself was with them.

The Holy Spirit will be sent by God the Father with his message of Jesus which is the message of love for God and neighbor. We Christians will soon discover that we too are to be sent out into the world with the message of Jesus about love for God and neighbor.

3. The witness of the Spirit has a two-fold focus. First focus is in the Spirit’s witness on behalf of Jesus. That witness about Jesus has at least two aspects. It is a witness that the mission of the Father and the Son has indeed been completed. A second aspect of this witness is that the Spirit gives power to the community of believers not to identify themselves as abandoned or forsaken, but rather as empowered and sent to bear witness to the world that in the events of the Son God’s love has indeed been made real and present for all the world.

In a second focus we see that the witness of the Spirit is not arbitrary or isolated, but belongs integrally to the presence and role of the mission of the Trinity (16:13). The Spirit speaks only that which belongs to the oneness of the identity and mission of the Father and the Son

It would seem that there are various degrees of conviction, and that it is conducted at several levels. Not all men would experience the same degree of conviction, nor would all respond to it by repentance and faith in Christ. Conviction would seem to be universal on its lowest level. There is a certain amount of revelation available to all men (Romans 1,2).

The Holy Spirit brings the issue presented by these facts into focus, so that men must see that the weight of the evidence demands a decision in agreement with God. A second level of conviction is on a moral plane. Inwardly, the Holy Spirit touches the conscience of man, bringing an inner sense of guilt, due to sin.

So we see that the outcome of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to unsaved men is at least two-fold. They are intellectually cornered and morally conscience-stricken. But they are not necessarily converted. The verdict demanded by the Holy Spirit is that men are sinners and that the gospel is the only way of salvation

16:4b-15

Jesus has just taught about two things: (a) the unity/dependence between him and the disciples, like a vine and its branches (ch. 15); and (b) the imminence of persecution they will face (16:1-4).

The latter point creates anxiety in the disciples, especially because Jesus is telling them he won’t be with them physically when the persecution begins v5. Jesus then announces that he is going to the one who sent him. The disciples seem more concerned at his leaving than as to where he might be going. v7. Jesus tells the disciples that it is for their good that he goes away. The "good" ("it is expedient") is the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The departure of the Lord Jesus should not be a cause of grief, but a source of great blessing and encouragement. If our Lord did not ‘go away’ it would have been impossible for the Holy Spirit to come. When Jesus departed, He sent the Holy Spirit to minister in His stead (verse 7), and this would result in even greater miracles (in quantity) than those of our Lord (John 14:12).

What the Holy Spirit will do

v9. The Holy Spirit will expose the guilt of a world which claims of itself the center of existence and refuses to believe in Christ – the "Babel" mentality. The Spirit will condemn this rebellion before God and will convict the inner conscience of the rebel.

v10. The Holy Spirit will also expose the world’s paltry sense of justice, for Jesus will stand approved before God’s judgment-seat, yet will be condemned in the world’s eyes.

v11. The Holy Spirit will also expose the coming judgment, the coming condemnation of the world. This is even a "now" reality in that Satan has been overthrown through Christ’s victory on the cross.

This defense attorney becomes at the same time the prosecutor who exposes the errors in the world’s versions of sin, righteousness, and judgment that are not viewed through the lens of Jesus Christ. In this way the Holy Spirit, through the faithful witness of the community, continues and completes Jesus’ "lawsuit" against the values of the world that he has been waging from the beginning of the Gospel So also the Spirit will continue to make God visible in the life of the church.

The Spirit will prove the world guilty of something, even though the world doesn’t recognize the Spirit. It is like the situation in a court of law where the court can pass sentence on someone even though the person might still not recognize the jurisdiction of the court

By portraying the Spirit in this way, the author is showing its offensive (and not merely protective) mode of operation. The Spirit has already been defined as the parakletos, the one who comes alongside, the counselor or advocate for the defense, but the picture in 16:8-11 is of the Spirit as prosecuting attorney

The Spirit will "show where wrong and right and judgment lie”

Thus, the Spirit not only has an internal work to do–in the heart of the believer or in teaching the disciples, but it has a very public work to accomplish–to point out the world’s false confidences, judgments, ignorance of its own harmful ways. This interpretation supports the work of Christian scholars or others who try to bring to the world’s attention the injustice, waste, plunder, inhumanity and dehumanization of this planet by aggressive umans.

One thing the Spirit will do is to show “the world” (v. 8, unbelievers, possibly Jews) that they are wrong on three counts:

– their idea of sin is incorrect (v. 9);

– the righteous (the Jewish authorities) who condemned Jesus were wrong: he is God’s agent (v. 10); and

– he has defeated sin (v. 11).

So too, the Advocate’s proving the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment (Verse 8) may have been a key in what set the early followers of Jesus apart as a radically transforming faith:

• The world is wrong about sin.

Sin is not genetic; it is not inherited; it does not alienate us from God – does not create a chasm between us and God. Sin consists in rejecting Jesus. The cross is a revelation of human sin, the killing of love.

• The world is wrong about righteousness.

Righteousness (being in right relationship with God) is not about paying debts owed to God; it is not about fulfilling obligations to God.

Righteousness was what Jesus lived and died. His ascent to the Father confirmed this. God vindicated him. The cross, therefore, also reveals righteousness, goodness, love. Jesus’ return to the Father functions in the same way as his resurrection: it confirms that God was saying yes to Jesus: yes, this is my son; this is my way

• The world is wrong about judgment.

Judgment is not about being condemned eternally; it is not about being forever cut off from God.

The third element in the case is judgement. It flows naturally out of the first two elements. The effect of revealing what sin and righteousness are is to expose evil and overcome it. It is to disempower ‘the ruler of this world’

In John, the frame for understanding sin, righteousness and judgment is shifted from seeing God as King and ourselves as subjects, to loving one another as friends.

How do friends understand sin, righteousness, and judgment? Well, for the followers of Jesus, friendship is not inherited: it is not tied to blood kinships; no one is "born into" the church. Nor is it tied to social class; nor gender; nor "pride of place," – being the oldest, the first, etc., etc.

• Friendship is personal, direct, and immediate.

• It is chosen. It is voluntary.

• It is mutual and egalitarian.

• It is a bond of trust and loyalty.

• It is based in truth that gives life.

• It is open. It lives in the light.

• It must be professed and testified to and lived. (Since it is inwardly voluntary, it doesn’t exist in the world unless / until it is expressed outwardly through profession and testimony and actions.)

• It is committed to seek the good of the friend – whether the friend is a neighbour, or a stranger, or an enemy.

Whatever else we may want to say on this day of Pentecost about the Spirit, it is important to notice that Jesus always refers to the Spirit as the Spirit of truth. And in John truth is always the way, the life, the light, the joy, the friendship. So the role of the Spirit is to make a case for Jesus in the court of the world and to help us to do so. That is our task in mission. It entails exposing sin as the killing of love, God in Christ, or wherever it occurs. It entails exposing the way of Jesus as the right way, the truth and the life – wherever it occurs. It entails setting this up as an option against rival power systems that kill love. Spirituality is advocating for the life of God in the world

The task of the disciples and disciples after them is to bear fruit, to let the seed sown in death rise to new life. Transitional events are minimized. What matters is life and love

In v12-15 Jesus now moves from the Spirit’s work in the world to his work with believers. As the "Spirit of truth" he will lead us into "all truth." Yet, this is not just the Spirit’s truth; "he will not speak on his own". The Spirit is not the originator of some new radical teaching, for when it comes to the truth, the Spirit is in harmony with the Father and the Son.

A central task of the Spirit’s ministry is to guide believers into a deeper and deeper knowledge of the truth. This truth is found in Christ, so he will expound (exegete) Christ to the believer. This he will do through the apostles and their testimony, namely the New Testament.

The Spirit becomes the one who will clarify the things that the disciples current cannot "bear" or comprehend (v. 12 The things that the disciples are not ready to bear are probably those things he has said all along in the Gospels but which are confusing to the disciples or just couldn’t accept at an earlier time.

The Spirit will “declare” about events “to come”, not only prophecy about the end-times but also guidance in the way of Christ, after Jesus’ death and resurrection. This may be a promise that the Spirit will warn believers when the day of tribulation is about to come upon them, but is more likely saying that "He will show you the whole Christian way."

In guiding them, the Spirit will speak what comes to him from God (as Jesus has spoken what the Father has told him).

In v14, The Spirit’s ministry is to glorify Christ – to take what is Christ’s and declare it to his friends. The Spirit will elucidate for them that Jesus fulfils God’s plans; he will reveal the essential nature of God, and show Christ’s power (“glorify”, v. 14). Whether the word comes from the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, it is the same.

In v15 Jesus reminds us of the unity of truth that exists between the Father and the Son. To reveal the Son is to reveal the Father. There is no division in the godhead, rather what the Father has, so the Son has, so the Spirit has. When it comes to the truth business, they are

CONCLUSION

There are five "Paraclete"/"Spirit of truth" sayings in John

14:16-17 (Paraclete & Spirit of truth are used)

14:26 (Paraclete is used)

15:26 (Paraclete & Spirit of truth are used)

16:7-11 (Paraclete is used)

16:12-15 (Spirit of truth is used)

All of these are part of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. The roles of the "Paraclete" are:

to be with us forever (14:16)

to teach and remind us of Jesus’ words (14:26)

to testify/witness on Jesus’ behalf (15:26)

to prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, & judgment (16:7-11)

to guide us into all truth (16:12-15)

In the Farewell Discourse, a change takes place at 15:18. Jesus begins to talk about the believers relationship with those outside the community (the world).

III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:

First ReadingActs 2:1-21

PsalmPsalm 104:25-35, 37 Page 736, BCP 

Epistle  –  Romans 8:22-27

Gospel  – John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15