The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks; Pentecost—Year C; Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17, (25-27). Video
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Pentecost than our Rite of Passage for 13-year olds and their parents! Each of these events has a dance to it, and the dances mirror each other.
Pentecost—that wild rush of the Spirit whooshing down upon those unwitting disciples who were just hanging out together, just minding their own business. And this isn’t just a little, gentle, whisper of a breeze. No, this is a rush of a violent wind. Think back to your teenage years. Did it ever feel like a violent wind was rushing through your life, and your relationships, and your body??? And then, on that first Pentecost, 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.
So, Kate, Julia, Jessie, and Carmen—a tongue of fire has touched you; you are filled with the Spirit, and in so many ways, you speak a different language than the rest of us. The Spirit has given you the ability to communicate in ways that many, including your parents, will never understand. And it will be up to you to sort out that unique, special ability that the Spirit has given to you, that unique good news that is yours to speak into the world.
Now, it wasn’t a polished powerpoint presentation when the disciples started speaking from this place of newfound power. In fact, it was pretty chaotic. All these people from all these places—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, visitors from Rome—both Jew and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs, teenagers—each of these heard the disciples speaking to them, in their own native language, about God’s deeds of power. It didn’t make sense. All were amazed and perplexed. They wondered, “What does this mean?” So, as you speak in this strange tongue that goes with the teenage years, some will give you a hearing and will try to understand what it is that you are speaking into the world; they will honestly try to understand, “What does all this mean?” And others will be more skeptical. They will dismiss your voice; they will sneer and simply chalk it all up to being filled with new wine, i.e. raging hormones.
But speak you must.
You must raise your voice along with Peter’s and proclaim, “Let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘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 my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.’”
It falls to you to remind us that the Spirit that falls on you, and falls on us, has been poured out upon all flesh. It is up to you to remind us that it is your God-given task to claim your prophet’s voice. It is up to you to remind us that sometimes the vision comes from the young, and it is up to you to remind us that we need to heed our elder’s dreams. And frankly, it is often the case that your vision and energy do their best work when you can do an end run on your parents and make common cause with your elders. This is one of the chief reasons that we hold fast to the community of this church. It is one of the last places in our society where the visions of the young can be fused with the dreams of the old and give birth to all kinds of possibilities that just don’t get birthed when we are isolated by age.
And while we are zeroing in on you today, your moving through this Rite of Passage icons for all of us the journey of transition that we all experience throughout our lives—the movement of releasing one stage of life to enter another. Again, this is why we do this ritual in community.
At some point, in every Easter season, we need to circle back Ronald Rolheiser’s understanding of the paschal cycle because this cycle explains so clearly the rhythm of Christian life. He marks five places in the cycle.
- Good Friday is about real death. This is about all the losses, and endings, and deaths we experience.
- Easter is about resurrection. The new life and new beginnings that always await us on the other side of death.
- That 40 days after the resurrection but before the ascension is this period of transition where we are letting go of the old life and adjusting to the new life.
- Then on Ascension, it’s time to let the old life ascend.
- And on Pentecost, we receive a new Spirit to match the new life that we are, in fact, already living.
Sometimes, we can already be living a new life, but our Spirit, our psyche, our soul, our perspective, haven’t quite caught up to the new life that we’re living out. The disciples were already living in a new way, but on Pentecost, they received the Spirit that could give voice to it. You four 13, or almost 13, year olds have probably been leaning into your teenage years for some time now, but today, we mark that you get a new Spirit that matches this new stage of life. And parents, we have also been in this period of profound adjustment as we have had to let go of our children and come to see that they are growing, budding young adults with their own ideas and vision. Today, we, too, get a new Spirit to match our new life as parents of teenagers.
And for the rest of our community, what new life have you been living? And what Spirit might you be receiving on this Pentecost to match this new life of yours? What is your unique good news to speak into this world at this moment of time? What message might be so crazy to proclaim that others might dismiss you as being drunk with new wine? And yet, just like our teenagers, speak it you must.
There is one other piece we need to bring in as we embark on this journey, and that is to hold fast to the truth that Paul proclaims today in Romans—“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—if, in fact, we suffer with him, so that we might be glorified with him.”
In your young lives, each of you have already suffered. Kate, Julia, Carmen, and Jessie—each of you has already suffered in your young years, and be assured, there is more suffering to come—that’s just part of being human. But a mighty Spirit lives inside each of you that will sustain your spirit when your spirit feels lonely and unsure. That Spirit has wrapped you in God’s love and whispers to your soul in sighs too deep for words “You are my beloved daughter. In you, I am well-pleased.” That Spirit reminds your soul of its majesty and reminds you from the inside out that you are made for glory. And what is true for you four young women is true for your parents and is true for each one of us. We have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but we are children of God, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, made for glory.
Jesus promised that he would give his followers an Advocate to be with us forever. And here’s the beautiful, beautiful thing—this Advocate is the Spirit of truth…Jesus says, “You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you…This Spirit will teach you everything, and will remind you of all that I have said to you.” And for the second time this Easter season, we hear Jesus say this, “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.” I can’t think of words we need to hear right now more than these.
Kate, Julia, Carmen, Jessie, fellow parents, St. Luke’s community, the Spirit of truth lives inside of you. A peace has been given to you. Not a peace that the world can give, or even understand. Your heart need not be troubled. You don’t have to be afraid. You are not alone, ever, ever.
In all the changes and chances and transitions that come to us throughout our lives, we can rest secure in these promises.
The Spirit has come. The Spirit lives inside of us. The Spirit is not content with the world as it is and yearns to speak good news into it in fresh ways. And, as we join this movement of the Spirit whooshing through our world, as we allow these tongues of fire to ignite our souls and shape our passions, we will find the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
May 15, 2016