Readings for Sunday are HERE
Have you ever had that experience where it is only in retrospect things make sense? Maybe it is lessons taught to you by a parent or teacher that only make sense when you are raising your own children? Maybe it is a book you read at one point in your life that only became clear in another phase of your life? Maybe was an event with others where you had one idea of what it was all about only to discover later with more experience that you were totally off track?
This is the situation for the followers of Jesus in our Gospel for today. Our lesson is just part of 4 chapters of John where Jesus is having his final session with his followers. He has washed there feet and now is doing one last teaching of his reasons for being in our midst. They are obviously not getting it. Philip starts out with "just show us." Jesus says - "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?" I project as sense of frustration and real sadness by Jesus - we have been together for 3 years and you still, still, do not know?
Jesus plunges ahead anyway, with talk of them doing greater things, of them learning more after he is gone, of believers being given greater knowledge when they are ready for it, always coming back to if you love me keep my commandments. Don't worry about the future, don't be afraid, you will have peace - the peace that passes understanding. Those gathered around Jesus just seem to look at him with unseeing, uncomprehending stares. What a friend of mine calls the disciple's look - "HUH?
Jesus continues to exhort them and pray for them for 4 more chapters before turning to continue his walk of faith to the cross and beyond.
The lesson from Acts picks up the followers of Christ later. Luke finds them gathered together waiting, praying, and studying. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas sone of James, certain women, Mary Jesus' mother, and Jesus' brothers. 120 of them - mostly women, some men. They have choses someone to fill Judas Iscariot's place in the 12 and they are "constantly devoting themselves to prayer"as it says earlier in the book. Jesus has ascended and left them with:
"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. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."
So they are gathered - trying not to be afraid but not knowing what this thing is that they are supposed to be receiving. When
"suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability."
Suddenly they understand in a way that was not possible before - they see what Jesus was trying to tell them, they see what it really means to be a disciple, the heavens open to them in that moment. It is breathtaking. Nothing is impossible for this little tiny, seemingly powerless band of women and men. Stunning. Words could not describe it. Their heads seemed to be exploding with the knowledge and understanding.
It will take them the rest of their lives to fully comprehend but the doors have blown open and they are out in the streets staggering around with the power of it all.
From our view here in the 21st century, as the inheritors of that continuing fire of the Spirit, do we feel that power and fire? We come each Sunday to be fed from the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in our community. Like the early disciples we often "see through the glass darkly" - dimly perceiving something we see manifested in certain lives that we want for our lives. We want a life of meaning, we want that peace at the center of our being, we want to reach beyond ourselves in service to the world. How can we nurture the flames from that earliest Pentecost?
The first disciples teach us what to do.
1. Gather and support one another.
2. Devote ourselves to prayer and study of the Bible and those who have gone before us in faith.
3. Serve one another and the world in Christ's name.
4. Obey Jesus' commandment to love one another.
5. Witness and teach our faith to others - by word and deed.
6. Invite others into our community and make them feel welcome when they come.
7. Remember we know only in part - all is not revealed to us, sometimes we have to wait for more information before moving ahead or making judgments.
8. Open ourselves to the power of the Spirit to strengthen us and empower us to do the work we are given to do.
These are the basics of Christian community. In our day there may be new ways of incorporating these principles but the heart does not change. Love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul and your neighbor as yourself. Love God, Love Others, Love Self - simple and yet a lifetime of growing in faith. Take the first step as we said in the opening prayer:
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. Amen.
Image from Asian Christian Art