BIBLE READINGS

Acts 2:1-21

John 14:8-17

 

SERMON

Pentecost has finally arrived. Since Jesus has been resurrected and ascended, it is time to move on to the next phase of the story. Jesus promised the disciples in John not to leave them as orphans. Instead, he offered them the Spirit as the means by which he would continue to be present with them. Our vision of Pentecost is formed by the story in Acts 2, where the Spirit falls on the gathered community, empowering them for service in Godís kingdom. The subject of the Holy Spirit comes up in the Gospel of John as well, as is seen in this reading from John 14.

In Acts 2 the people have gathered in an upper room near the Temple in Jerusalem. Theyíre waiting for the Spirit to come upon them so they can fulfill their calling as outlined by Jesus in Acts 1:8. According to Acts 2, when the Spirit falls with great power, the good news of Jesus explodes among the pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem for the spring harvest festival.  Johnís version of Pentecost is much quieter than Lukeís. In John 20, Jesus breathes the Spirit into the disciples, and sends them into the world with the power of forgiveness (John 20:19-23). Our reading for the day comes from the Farewell Address found in John 14-16. In this section of John, Jesus introduces us to the Spirit of Truth, also known as the Paraclete.

Jesus has shared a meal with his disciples and has washed their feet as a reminder of the vision of ministry he wants to pass on to them (John 13). His disciples, having heard and seen this, want to know more about God. Show us the Father, Philip demands of Jesus on the night before his death on the cross. We want to see God. We want evidence that demands a verdict. Jesus responds to this question by pointing to himself, because he is in the Father and the Father is in him.  You see Jesus, you see the Father. His message to them: If you believe, and for John belief involves trust, you will do great things. Indeed, you will do greater things. What does Johnís Jesus mean by this? How can the disciples do greater things than Jesus? As followers of Jesus, we must ask the same questions: Are we to be miracle workers? Are we to offer signs of the kingdom of the magnitude that John records of Jesus?

 

M. Scott Peck tells this story

The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. It was once a great order, but because of persecution, all its branch houses were lost and there were only five monks left in the decaying house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly it was a dying order.

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi occasionally used for a hermitage. The old monks had become a bit psychic, so they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. "The rabbi is in the woods, the rabbi is in the woods" they would whisper. It occurred to the abbot that a visit the rabbi might result in some advice to save his monastery.

The rabbi welcomed the abbot to his hut. But when the abbot explained his visit, the rabbi could say, "I know how it is" . "The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and spoke of deep things. When the abbot had to leave, they embraced each other. "It has been a wonderful that we should meet after all these years," the abbot said, "but I have failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me that would help me save my dying order?"

"No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice to give. But, I can tell you that the Messiah is one of you."

When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, "Well what did the rabbi say?"

ďThe rabbi said something very mysterious, it was something cryptic. He said that the Messiah is one of us. I don't know what he meant?"

In the time that followed, the old monks wondered whether the significance to the rabbi's words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks? If so, which one?

Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for always being there when you need him. He just magically appears. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah.

Of course the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn't be that much for You, could I?

As they contemplated, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

People still occasionally came to visit the monastery in its beautiful forest to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even to meditate in the dilapidated chapel. As they did so, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery to picnic, to play, to pray. They brought their friends to this special place. And their friends brought their friends.

Then some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another, and another. So within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and, thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

 

Godís Spirit has been breathed upon you! Jesus has said we will do even greater things in His name! The Messiah is here in this place today!

 

Acknowledgements: M. Scott Peck; Pastor Robert Cornwall