Homily 362 – 8th Sunday of Pascha (Holy Pentecost)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 16, 2019
Epistle: (3) – Acts 2:1-11
Gospel: (27) John 7:37-52; 8:12
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
The feast of Pentecost predates Christianity. It began as the Jewish remembrance of the deliverance of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Like our Orthodox Church life, the life of Judaism is one of cyclical remembrance. They prepared for the Passover. After the Passover, they did not remain stationary, though.
The people of Israel were moving – crossing the Red Sea, sojourning into Sinai, eventually reaching the mountain of God itself.
Moses ascended the mountain, and received the Torah, the 10 commandments, from God. The Jewish feast recalls not only the delivery of the law, but it’s acceptance by the people of God – the people and children of Israel.
For Christians, the coming of the Holy Spirit is also the coming of the Law. This was a fulfillment not only of the promise of Christ, but of the prophesy of Jeremiah (31:31-33):
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Further, in the readings from last night at Vespers, we read in Joel that God “will pour out [His] spirit on all flesh …,” and that “all who call upon the Name of the Lord shall be delivered.”
From Ezekiel: “A new Spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to observe My ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”
The coming of the Holy Spirit is the coming of the Law – the Lawgiver. It is, in a mystery we cannot comprehend, both Lawgiver and through Lawgiver, the Law.
Christ continues to call the Holy Spirit something else – living water. In the imagery of the Bible, and in the reality of our physical existence, water is life. To not have water is to be dead – separated from life.
The water of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the life of the Holy Spirit in us, is living water – “living life” itself as it were.
This was confusing to the Jews – they thought they understood everything there was to know about the promised Messiah, and pushed back against the ones calling Christ a prophet.
No prophet comes from Galilee, they say. They were wrong – not about what the scripture said about the Messiah – but about the place where Christ came. They thought Christ came from Galilee, but in reality, we know that Christ was born in the City of David, Beth Le’hem. The place of Bread – the literal translation of Beth Le’hem.
Another source of life.
We as Christians need to also heed this warning. We don’t know with certainty what the future holds, and what we should expect and look for as far as our surroundings.
We can and should only look for Christ, in His return to us. The glorious second coming. In looking for Christ, we find that He is already among us – for we find Christ in everyone we encounter.
The last thing we should mention is that the Holy Spirit never creates division. Quite the opposite – we remember last week that Christ prayed that we might be One. The Holy Spirit provides that unity – that One-ness.
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we find that after the descent of the Holy Spirit, each group in Jerusalem heard the good news, the Gospel that Peter proclaimed in their own language.
St. Luke notes 16 groups – 16 languages. What they heard was in their own language.
A reversal of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 12. In Genesis, God scattered the languages, to prevent humanity from pursuing a foolish and self-centered monument to human power.
And at Pentecost, the reverse happened. God united the languages to ensure humanity received the Power of God, the Gospel of the Messiah.
Nothing that divides is of the Holy Spirit. Let me say that again – nothing that causes division is of the Holy Spirit. Not of God.
Nor is it acceptable for us to simply – as we like to say – “agree to disagree.” That is not unity.
No, we have to keep struggling, keep talking, keep chewing on the difficult things which divide us. Because the Spirit of God is unity, not division.
We celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit today – the Gift of God, the Gift of Unity, the Gift of Life. May we who follow Christ receive this Spirit, and live our lives in accordance with the Spirit that indwells within us, and provides us with life itself.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!