…..We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.
The letter “R” provides an alliterative device that will, with God’s help, give aid to you and me this morning. It will help me make three points and keep the sermon organized. I will then stop after the three points. That will help you because you will not have to wonder when the sermon will end. God willing, you will be aided in recalling the purpose and content of the sermon. Later on, when someone asks you what the sermon was about, you will be able to recall, “revelation”, “renewal”, and “respond”. These “r” words can summarize how the Holy Spirit makes Christianity a revealed religion, how renewal is an action of the Holy Spirit, and how respond is a way to describe what we ought to do because there is a Holy Spirit. Tell me later whether or not this is helpful.
It is clear from Holy Scripture that Christianity is a revealed religion. Even the fact that we have the Bible as the ultimate authority in our Church is evidence itself that Christianity has been, is now, and will be revealed by God. The Bible, as the word of God written, reveals that we have Christianity given to us by God through the history of Israel, through the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. On this feast of Pentecost we have clear evidence of how Christianity is revealed.
The Holy Ghost descends on the disciples on the day of Pentecost and appears as fire. Hence, red is the color for Pentecost and we get to wear these beautiful new red vestments. The book of the Acts of the Apostles says, and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. Here is a clear revelation that the disciples now have the Holy Spirit given to them in a unique way. They will have a unique ministry from that point on and that ministry comes straight from the Holy Ghost, who is God. The apostolic ministry is one example of how the nature of the Church is a revelation, given by God. Pentecost teaches us that Christianity, as God wants it to be, is revealed by Jesus.
The second “r” – renewal. We also learn on this great feast of Pentecost that Christianity is about renewal and renewal on a number of levels. Renewing one’s personal relationship with God who put us here and renewal of the Church. Renewing one’s life really in the power of the Holy Spirit. Personally, the Holy Spirit is given to us at our baptism. There is a personal and a communal aspect to this descent of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, we say, came down on the Church on Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit comes down to dwell in us, personally at our baptism. When you think about it, they are really the same thing. This is why Pentecost is one of the four big feasts reserved in our tradition for Holy Baptism. When persons are baptized, whether at infancy or adulthood, they are renewed in the Holy Spirit because they are given a new life. They are renewed.
What a gift that is. A gift not only for the individual, but for the Church and for the whole human race. To be renewed in the Spirit is to receive the grace of baptism. That grace is given constantly and will never be taken away. It is a way to receive a new life and that new life is life in Christ.
Giving anyone a new life in baptism, a new spiritual life, may seem insignificant. Think how many people are already Christians. The 2010 Pew Report says there are already 2.2 billion Christians in the world; about one third of the world’s population. What difference could it make that we are adding one, two, or three more to the Church? It seems as though we are just adding an eye dropper full of water to Boston Harbor. But baptisms are given so much attention, so much emphasis, so much focus, because the results, the consequences, of baptisms have eternal results. When we baptize, we are establishing, plotting, beginning eternal life for anyone who is baptized. The baptized are on their way to eternal life. They will live forever with Jesus and that life with Jesus, the Son of God, begins right now in this world.
The baptized are sealed as part of Christ’s Body and therefore they can always live with him. The consequences are eternal for the ones baptized and the consequences are eternal for the Church. The Church’s work of forgiveness and spreading the Gospel is lived out by the baptized. They are renewed. The Church is renewed. The world is renewed.
The third “r” – response. What should we do as a result of God’s revelation in Christ and his renewing us in the Holy Ghost? After being given so much, especially the promise of eternal life, how should we respond? It seems the response is quite clear. We should love Him back. He first loved us and the Bible says we should love Him. This response gets back to the whole reason we are created. God created us out of love. He revealed his will and desire to us by way of the Christian religion and that will is simply to love Him back. The ground of our being is to have come from God and respond to his creating us by loving Him.
One of the ways we do this is by prayer. Praying daily to God. We need to pray by ourselves, with our families and with the rest of the Church. Our response should also be to tell others what Jesus has done for us. Our response should also be to wait for the Holy Ghost to convert and reconvert us over and over. He will because that is his renewing gift to us. We are to grow closer and closer to Him, and we can because of his renewing grace. We will know and experience conversions, both small and big, time and time again through our lives.
A third thing I can think of in response, maybe you can think of more, is to let the Holy Ghost into your heart. He is in your soul and sanctifying you even now. Let him control your heart and your will so that what you think, say, and do are results of his love. If that is your response you have already started on the road to Heaven and done a great deal to spread his Gospel.
I’m through with the “r” words so let’s pray: come Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of thy faithful people and kindle in them the fire of thy love. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.