Pentecost C’19
9 June 2019
Acts 2.1-21; Jn 14.8-17 (25-27)
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Come, Holy Spirit, come and deliver us from the love of power and fill us with the power of love that we may be witnesses of the risen Christ who forgives, heals, and restores. Amen.

Our Senior Warden, had been having some conversations with his grandson Benny about ghosts. The four-year-old was extremely anxious and afraid about the possibility of there being ghosts. His grandfather had reassured him time and again that there were “no such thing as ghosts!” Well, on Good Friday night he decided that he would bring Benny to our church service, no doubt in an effort to give him some comfort and reassurance. Of course, we just happened to be using the older liturgy from the prayer book that night which did not refer to “the Holy Spirit” but to “the Holy Ghost.” With a motion so quick it almost gave him whiplash, Benny turned to his grandfather and said, “Pawpaw, I thought you said there were no such thing as ghosts?!”      Once again it is the children who are often the most profound theologians because they ask the best questions!

On this Day of Pentecost, we remember the birthday of the Church when the Holy Spirit came and filled the first followers of Christ. Just before his ascension into heaven Jesus had told his disciples: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, and he will be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him or knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”[1]

In order to understand what a transition of mammoth proportions this was it’s helpful for us to take a look back at the history of the Holy Spirit. The first mention that we have in the scriptures about the Holy Spirit is found in Genesis chapter one, verse one where we read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was a formless void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The awesome creative power of the Creator was about to unleash the process of creating the universe. Next, we find in the Old Testament that the Spirit of God would come over a person with a special empowerment for a special task and once the task was finished the Spirit would depart. Moses, David, Samson, and prophets like Elijah would receive tremendous outpourings of the Holy Spirit. But again, this special empowerment wasn’t for everyone and was reserved only for those particular individuals who were chosen by God for a special purpose. In the gospel we hear of the Spirit of God being filling John the Baptist from his mother’s womb, and about Jesus we read that after his baptism he was “full of the Holy Spirit.” In a couple of places in scripture we see where Jesus “breathed” on his disciples giving them a temporary filling with the Holy Spirit in order for them to go out in his name to preach, teach and heal the oppressed.

The quantum shift that occurred at Pentecost was that this Holy Ghost, this Holy Spirit of power and love who had been given to the select few was now available to all who would believe, the prophesy of the prophet Joel was fulfilled: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out of my Spirit and they shall prophesy.”  This cataclysmic event sent out shock waves sending the Good News of Christ’s love to the four corners of the globe.

From that Day of Pentecost in an upper room in Jerusalem to this day in this room in North Little Rock for anyone regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic level, anyone with ears to hear this same Holy Spirit is present and active in the lives of all who will open themselves up. Folks! We are invited to be the instruments of God to make a difference in this world that is dying from physical hunger and thirst and from spiritual hunger and thirst for God’s unconditional love.

This Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity makes it possible for the part of God that is Spirit to be everywhere – all the time and inside our very bodies that are called the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” God is right here – right now!

If this wasn’t true the Church would have died out centuries ago. After a generation or two Christianity would have become a distant memory but because the Holy Spirit is active there is continual rebirth. Jesus’ departure didn’t look like very good news to the first disciples but Jesus’ leaving was necessary to make room for the new thing God was doing through the power of the Holy Spirit!

My friends we have experienced some departures in the last several months that haven’t looked like very good news to us. A number of our parishioners have decided to depart from us and find new spiritual paths. Their leaving has brought grief to us all. Besides emotional grief their leaving brought on financial fears that there wouldn’t be enough money for us to operate. Our beloved organist/choirmaster Rees Roberts will be leaving in a couple of months to finish college in Arizona. About a month and a half ago a reckless driver in a black Jeep Cherokee hydroplaned on JFK, collided with the curb, went airborne landing on our sign and smashing it then peeling out they sped away. Parishioners have left, Rees will be leaving, and even our sign has left!

There was one more departure that has brought to our parish great sadness in recent days – the death of our beloved friend, Annie Lea Shuster. Why did she have to leave us during this time of transition, financial fears, and uncertainty? Annie Lea was a strong woman that was fiercely independent, she could think for herself, and was extremely loyal to her God and to her church. In the months leading up to her death she was visited by a couple of parishioners (who are now former parishioners) who actually tried to get her to stop giving financially to St. Luke’s. Annie Lea refused to be misled by people under the influence of a ‘different spirt’ because she was being led by the Holy Spirit.

As many of you know she remembered St. Luke’s in her will with a $50,000.00 bequest! But I must tell you that is not the end of the story. Earlier this week when Annie Lea’s sister Martha brought us the check for 50K she informed me that I was to call a certain banker at Centennial Bank. I called him and he informed me that Annie Lea’s generosity did not stop with the 50K. He told me that she had left St. Luke’s two IRA’s one in the amount of $32,000.00, and a second in the amount of $94,000.00! When you add in her prepaid pledge for 2019 of an additional $50,000.00 this brings the total to just over $226,000.00!!!

I think we will probably be able to pay for a new sign out front!

Folks! God is at work in our midst! God is not done with St. Luke’s – God is doing a new thing we aren’t about to go under we are about to go over! Over obstacles into a new level of spiritual vitality and ministry in North Little Rock!   After the departure of members and with our sign being destroyed one parishioner commented “Well I guess we are just going to start all over?”  Yes, that appears to be what is happening! Just as God had a new thing in mind after Jesus’s departure, God has a new thing in mind for St. Luke’s. Throughout history that is what the Holy Spirit has done -has helped people to start all over again, to hope again, to build again, to live again! “Yes Benny, there is a Ghost – the Holy Ghost, but this Ghost you are really going to like!”

The author Richard Bach summed it all up quite well: “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.” Amen!

[1] John 14.16-17 NRSV