Faithful God, Faithful People

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Day of Pentecost/Year C: June 5, 2022
Acts 2:1-21, Gospel: John 14:8-17 (25-27)

Our lesson in Acts today reminds us that God is faithful to His promises to His people. On this day of Pentecost, you are invited to revisit the Baptismal Covenant and promises made before God in Confirmation. For the ordained, we are invited to revisit the vows taken before God, and for those who are married, those vows taken in Holy Matrimony. God is faithful to His promises to His people. The question to which we must constantly hold ourselves, and our faith community, accountable is this: “Are we faithful to our promises to God?”

The dramatic scene in our lesson in Acts took place 50 days after Passover—Pentecost means “fiftieth day.” The day-long feast was one of three pilgrimage feasts designated for the celebration of God’s goodness toward Israel. This international gathering of the entire household of Israel in one place—Jerusalem—included Jews and those who had converted to Judaism. On that day, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, empowered them for the work of witnessing to the truth of Christ; and ignited a mass awakening for those who saw and heard this miraculous display of God’s unity in diversity amongst the devout Jews.

The miracle on display was God’s removal of the barriers created by the diversity of human language in order to unify his devout people through the message, received by all in their native tongue, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That’s the miracle!

Recall that in the first chapter of Acts, the risen Christ, directed his disciples to remain in Jerusalem and to wait there for the promise of the Father. Jesus then reminded them that they would indeed be baptized by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5), and that the Holy Spirit would give them power to be His witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).  The disciples would have recognized this public proclamation of the mighty deeds of God for what it was—a fulfilled prophesy affirming God’s faithfulness.

Some of the crowd, in ignorance, attributed this miracle to what they decided was the disciples’ drunkenness. Leave it to Peter to step in for correction. No way was Peter going to allow the gospel message to be ignored, dismissed or erased with some flippant, human explanation for the undeniable divine action being witnessed and shared. Peter, with the authority of one who was like Jesus, asserted Joel’s prophecy about the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon all flesh in the last days. Scripture, again, attests to the fact that God is faithful to His promises.  The question to which we must constantly hold ourselves, and our faith community, accountable is this: “Are we faithful to our promises to God?”

Through no power of their own, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, and were given the ability to speak in other languages. In other words, they were equipped to effectively proclaim the gospel message to those who would otherwise miss out due to the inability to understand the limited spoken language. 

For many, the thought of being an evangelist can be paralyzing. Evangelism may be a paralyzing concept because many have taken on the belief and heavy burden that they alone must say and do just the right things to bring someone to Christ. We do well to remember that we are not sent out into the world alone, ill-prepared or ill-equipped. Sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, we are uniquely equipped and empowered to carry the life-giving, thirst-quenching gospel message out into the dry and desolate places in the world.

Sadly, the dangerous world in which we live reflects more of the devastation done to, and done by, humanity than the always-accessible restoration of life which God calls all of creation to through His son, Jesus. It’s enough to plunge even the deeply faithful into periods of spiritual dryness.

This state of spiritual dryness calls to mind the image of a tumbleweed—those dry, prickly, round-ish bushes that blow about by the mighty winds of the deserts in every Western movie. At the age of maturity, the thorny bush dies, detaches from its roots and powered by the winds, scatters seeds of new life everywhere the wind blows it. What a powerful image. That which appears dead, has been divinely designed to participate in bringing forth new life to the dry, desolate places. The seeds need only a small amount of water in order to root and begin the life cycle once again. The tumbleweed is a rich image reminding us of our promises to God through our Baptismal Covenant in which we are asked, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?”1

God’s powerful spirit blows us into desolate places—literally and spiritually—where the thirsting of spiritually-dry people can be quenched by the living water of Jesus Christ. Like the disciples in our lesson, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to continue in the apostles’ teaching, and to scatter the seeds of the life-giving gospel everywhere the Spirit leads us. Even in times when we walk in our own darkness, we must be living examples, bearing Christ’s hope as people who are faithful to our promises to God. 

When the Holy Spirit blows you into an opportunity to proclaim the gospel message, it is your responsibility, as Christ’s own, to act and to risk in love, the rejection or the acceptance of the other.  Evangelism is risky, challenging and it can be frightening. Remember that we are vessels which are not led on our own power or understanding; we are solely dependent on the power of God.

As we are sent into the world, and equipped by the Holy Spirit, as kingdom builders, let us never forget that the God who promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us is faithful to His promises (Deut. 31:6).  And, with God’s help, we can be faithful to our promises to God. Amen.

1 Baptismal Covenant, The Book of Common Prayer 1979, pp. 304-305.