By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
21When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)
While finalizing this column I shall be on a flight over the North Pacific Ocean enroute to JFK International – New York before changing flight to my final destination in the Barbados. I am attending for the second time the United Society Partners of the Gospel (USPG) Triennial International Consultation this time in the Diocese of Barbados. I just pray that a WiFi is active in the resort venue. This Sunday is Day of Pentecost or Whitsunday in the Christian Church Calendar. Last Sunday was the last in Easter Season and it was also the Sunday after Ascension – Ascension Day was celebrated the other Thursday. What happened in these days? This may come to the mind of a nominal Christian or those who does not belong to the mainline traditional churches. These special days celebrate important events that led to the establishment of the new community of believers then known as Christians and still called the same though with different interpretations of the same written source that is the Holy Bible – and diverse emphasis in the practice of faith and expression of such. It is quite paradoxical that the last prayer of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church is that of oneness – yet it started with diversity and continues to be. The main topic of the USPG consultation I am attending is “In God’s Name? The Gospel and the Authority of the State” already suggests question of unity in this church.
In Pentecost Sunday we commemorate the descent and outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the disciples more than two thousand years ago in the city of Jerusalem. It is the birth anniversary of the Church as a consequence of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
This feast is observed fifty days after Easter, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles as they celebrated the ancient Jewish feast of Shabuoth (see Acts 2:1-4). In the early church it was a time for administration of the sacrament of baptism, and in the Church of England and other Anglican churches the festival is called Whitsunday in allusion to the white robes traditionally worn by the newly baptized.
When Jesus of Nazareth left this earth, he bequeathed a legacy to his followers. He left his Holy Spirit—to comfort, to guide, to empower them to be all that God had called them to be. Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the church. This is what Pentecost Sunday is all about. The community created with the coming of the Holy Spirit in that first Day of Pentecost is not a community with one color and one flavor. The Spirit of God speaks through different people of quite different languages and backgrounds. In the presence of the Spirit, difference need not mean division. No longer can any group or place or time claim to be more “sacred” or favored than another. The first USPG consultation I attended in 2016 in the Fiji Islands reminded me of the difference of culture and language which during the first day I had difficulty of deciphering. But at the end of the one-week conference, all delegates were united in seriously addressing the grave concern of Climate Change.
The Holy Spirit warms us and melts our cold, cold hearts. Recently I ran across a parable that makes the point: Once upon a time there was a piece of iron, which was very strong and very hard. Many attempts had been made to break it, but all had failed. “I’ll master it,” said the axe. And his blows fell heavily upon the piece of iron, but every blow only made the axe’s edge more blunt, until it finally ceased to strike and gave up in frustration. “Leave it to me,” said the saw. And it worked back and forth on the iron’s surface until its jagged teeth were all worn and broken. Then in despair, the saw quit trying and fell to the side. “Ah!” said the hammer, “I knew you two wouldn’t succeed. I’ll show you how to do this!” But at the first fierce blow, off flew its head and the piece of iron remained just as before, proud and hard and unchanged.
“Shall I try?” asked the small soft flame. “Forget it,” everyone else said. “What can you do? You’re too small and you have no strength.” But the small soft flame curled around the piece of iron, embraced it. And never left it until it melted under its warm irresistible influence. There’s a sermon there somewhere. Perhaps it means that God’s way is not
the way of force but love. God’s way is not to break hearts but to melt them. Perhaps it means that that is our calling – to melt hearts – under the irresistible warmth of God’s gracious love.
Let us pray.
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Pentecost Sunday Collect, Book of Common Prayer)