Pentecost Sunday

June 9, 2019


Today is Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday when we remember the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples in Jerusalem and propelling them out the door into ministry.  Pentecost has often been called the ‘birthday’ of the Christian church.

So it is a proper day for us also to remember our history and by this I mean the history not simply THE church, but of those who comprise, who make up the church.

You all know by this time that I love history.  I not only love to read it, but I rather think it is important in understanding the times in which we live.  For history not only shows us that there is very little that is new in this world, so we can learn from our past, but history also can help us to understand who we are.

On May 15th 2010, my family laid my Grandmother’s remains to rest in a little cemetery just North of the town of Comfrey, Minnesota, the town around which my Grandma’s life orbited.  The small plot of land that is her grave’s yard, bordered by farm fields, is part of my heritage.  On that day, after 58 years of separation, my gentle, beloved grandmother was laid next to her husband, my grandfather, a man whom I never knew.  Yet the both of them have helped to direct the course of my faith, and so, my life.

In this morning’s gospel Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

With these words Jesus is promising his followers, his disciples the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God with us, in us, forever.

In Romans 8 Paul writes, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”

The Holy Spirit is God walking through life with us, and in us.  The Holy Spirit is God willing and desiring to guide us forward in life, everyday, forever.

My Grandma was a faithful woman.  She was quiet and gentle in all things, including her faith, and yet at the same time it was evident because you could see it in all parts of her life.  From table grace and bedtime prayers, to her presence at all worship services and church functions, to the giving of her meager finances and her great energy.  But most of all her faith was seen in the care and love she had for her family, her friends and anyone in need.  The Holy Spirit was present in her life, guiding her each step of the way.  God promised that, no matter what, she would not be alone.

Yet, at the beginning she was much alone.

At a few months old her mother died in the global flu epidemic of 1918-1920.  When her father realized that he could not adequately care for his children, his two girls were sent to live with relatives and his two boys were placed in an orphanage.

My grandma grew up in the family of her father’s sister, her aunt.  She grew up knowing that she would never be a full member of that family.  She was never treated as a daughter nor very often as a sister in that family, her place was that of a needy niece and cousin.  She had her chores, her work to do on the family’s farm to earn her keep.  My grandma’s role was that of an orphan, and so she lived most of her early life on the fringe of her adopted family and also of her farming community.  She never fully belonged to either.

Paul writes in Romans, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”

What does that mean, being a joint heir with Christ?

Being a co-heir with Christ means that we, as God’s adopted children, will share in the inheritance of Jesus.  As God the Son, Jesus’ inheritance is the entire universe.  It means we are accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven in the someway as Jesus, because of Jesus.

Wow!  That is pretty cool!  You see, as heirs with Christ, our place in God’s family is not dependent upon the work that we do, the rules that we keep, the service that accomplish.  No, as heirs we are welcomed into God’s family as children, for we are meant to be there, we are accepted because of God’s love for us.  Christ’s selfless death, and glorious resurrection saves us from the plight of being orphans, and rather brings us fully into the family of God as children.

My Grandma did have one ray of sunshine in her early life though, and that was her eldest cousin Burnadine.  Burnie accepted her as her sister.  She always called my Grandma ‘sis’ and loved her completely.  In her sister Burnie, my Grandma had the one person whom she could truly call family, and feel the truth by her love.  The two sisters were very close up until the day Burnie died.  The two lie buried near one another in that little country grave yard, almost as close in death as they were in life.

The wonder of my Grandma’s relationship with Burnie was that it mirrored the reality of her place within the family of God.  Grandma knew Burnie accepted her as her sister, because Burnie loved her.  She knew she was God’s child because she was filled with that loving spirit of adoption that convinced her she was an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ.  She knew that within Christ’s church she had found her place, she truly and fully belonged with Christ.

Isn’t that what we all desire, what we all want?  To belong?  To be accepted?

I think so.  The world is full of people desiring acceptance, wanting to belong, wanting to be loved.  From belonging to teams, clubs, or the “In” group at school, at work, or wherever we are, we all want to belong.  None of us likes to feel like we are an orphan, that we are “less” than, none of us wants to be on the “outside” of society, of life.

Yet, the world can never truly be a place of belonging, it eventually fails us.  We know this through our experiences, and we know it in our bones.  In the reading from John, Jesus asks, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”

Meaning, Jesus is fully a part of God, and if we are declared Jesus’ co-heirs then we are fully members in God’s family, we truly belong.

What a gift!  What a promise!  Yet, it is even more, it is a declaration to fully, “be!”

Why?  Well, if we do not need to worry about trying to join, to belong, to be accepted, because we already are, then we have the freedom to “be.”  To be God’s child, to be the unique wonderful person we are, to be loved, to be able to love, to be a person living with purpose, to be all that we can be in God’s family.

This, my friends, is the wonder that we read happened on Pentecost day.  The disciples were freed by the Holy Spirit from the earthly constraints of fear, of loneliness, of hopelessness, of orphan-hood, and they were given a place, their place, in God’s kingdom.  God, the Holy Spirit gave them their freedom to be who God had created them to be, and look what happened.  We are sitting here today because generation after generation has received that spirit of adoption, because generation after generation of God’s children have shared God’s love, their love, with the world as the Spirit has moved in them.

You belong, like my Grandma, as a full member in God’s family.  There is nothing for you to do, nor to achieve, nor to accomplish, just believe.  God loves you so much, that he came down, and in Jesus gave his all that you might have life, and belong.  You have a place, my sisters and my brothers, you have a family.  God loves you!


Bible References

  • Acts 2:1 - 21
  • Romans 8:14 - 17
  • John 14:8 - 17



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