Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost homily from service at Morningside Ministries (assisted-living center)...

The Rev. Jonathan R. Melton+
St. Helena’s, May 31, 2009
Day of Pentecost, Year B
Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104: 25-35,37
Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

It would have to be Peter. Wouldn’t it? Jumping headlong into water, Peter. “Get behind me, Satan,” Peter. Peter, who on his best days, is as hard-headed, stubborn, and will-full as me. Peter, who, at the time of crucifixion, the moment of his revelation, denied his Lord and Savior.

In the reading from Acts on this Holy Day of Pentecost, the Spirit falls from the heavens, descends on all people--it’s the birth of the Church!--and as people line up--the new Body is shaped--a living people is formed, it is Peter who is asked in the midst of it all to give the first Christian sermon.

We should have known better.

We should have seen it coming.

Do you remember--way back--student elections, all the rest, voting to determine which one of your peers would have the privilege of representing the whole? Which one would speak for you? And do remember the fear of that one? The one whose nomination is a joke? What if he wins? What if she really does it?

But here he comes, brimful with Spirit, a wild look in his eye, standing before the people, he pauses, and preaches--and these are his words:

“We’re not drunk, you know.”

“No really--we’re not drunk.”

At least it was short.

And before he steps down--three thousand--three thousand!--have been added to their number.

You’ve seen it happen. Locked up in church on days the preacher didn’t have a clue. Didn’t know where to start. Bright sun calling out to you through the windows. You had all but checked out, when suddenly, Spirit. A Word meant for you that hit the right spot. As if God was talking to you. Suddenly, you get nervous about the preacher. For someone so clueless, she sure seemed keyed in. But it wasn’t her all; it was Spirit.


Your friend looking at you strangely, oddly, gratefully across the table; so grateful for your listening; for your presence. You feel awkward, humbled, because you didn’t do much at all--in truth, had a hard time stifling a yawn--but your words spoke the peace, the forgiveness, the mercy, he needed to hear.


Not Peter; not preachers; not even you. But Peter, and preachers, and, yes, even you. Because the Spirit has come as the life of God’s people. The Holy Spirit of Christ as the life of God’s people; borne in God’s people; birthing God’s people.

And very much just as for Peter, the work of the Spirit is to remind us and empower us to believe the story of God above and beyond the story of us; better still, to believe the story of God as the story of us; God’s story for us. The story of the Risen Jesus made true for us: light over darkness; forgiveness over sin; joy over despair; life over death.

Do you know what a people who have forgotten to fear death look like? Do you know what what it looks like when people remember to forget the failures and shames that used to define them? Do know what it looks like when people engage one another as if the God of creation was with them?


Not really, but they do look like Peter; a little wild in the eyes; they look a little bit strange; any why not--they live by the Spirit.

This day and every day, may it be so with us.


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