“Continuing the Journey to Pentecost”
Whether we are together or apart, the journey continues individually in faith and together in belief to the celebration of Pentecost, the “Birthday” of the Church built on Jesus the Christ: Son of God, our Savior, Redeemer, and Lord. This month’s Sunday Gospel lessons all come from the Gospel of John. John wrote his Gospel for those who already believed and was giving proof of Jesus’s Divinity. It is odd that, after Easter, we seem to be going back in the Gospel lessons on this journey to Pentecost. We hear Jesus speaking to his disciples on the night he is to be arrested; we hear Jesus’s prayer to his Father on the night of his crucifixion; and we hear Jesus preaching while others are plotting for his arrest. It is not until Pentecost that we hear from the Risen Christ.
The first Sunday of May is called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. In this Gospel (John 10:1-10) Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls his flock who recognize his voice. The Good Shepherd leads and protects his flock while the flock follows and trusts the voice of the Shepherd. We, through our baptism became a part of that flock. We are also called to trust and follow that voice and trust in His leadership and protection. What is it like to hear Jesus call you by name? What name do you hear? Where does he seem to be leading you? How are you answering his call? The second Sunday of May (John 14:1-14) Jesus shares his final words with his disciples before going out to the Mount of Olives. They are words of peace, love, and promises: of preparation for them, of his help, and the love of the Father and the Son. Jesus reminds Philip, and all the disciples (and us), that the way to the Father is through Jesus because He is, “… the way, and the truth, and the life” through the unity between God the Father and himself. The “Father’s house” refers not only to Heaven but also to each one of us. We are the “many dwelling places” of God through the Holy Spirit; the Breath of God within each of us; and through our reception of Jesus in Word and Sacrament. Who in your life is a sign of God for you? What qualities ore events come to mind? For whom are you an expression of the love of God? Continuing to talk with his disciples on the night of his arrest, for third Sunday of May, we read on in the Gospel of John (14:15-21) where Jesus does a foreshadowing of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. He promises another Paraclete who will be with us always. Paraclete is a legal term that means an advocate, mediator, or helper. The Spirit is another because Jesus is the first! He also does an “if, then, then, therefore” logic statement. If you have my commandments and keep them; then you love me; then the Father loves you; therefore, I will love you and reveal myself to you. And now, we are in a cycle – we show our love by keeping Jesus’s commandments; Jesus and the Father love us and reveal themselves to us; we understand more about Jesus’s commandments and the Father so we do better at loving and living Jesus’s commandments; more is revealed (not loved more by the Father and Jesus – their love is fully given at all times!); we grow in understanding – see where this is going. How are you living and loving Jesus’s commandments [for reference look at the Great Commandment and the Beatitudes]? What new things are being revealed to you about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father? How are your responding to this new knowledge?
The seventh Sunday of Easter, the Sunday before Pentecost, the night before his death, Jesus’s final thoughts are for his followers (this includes us!). His prayer is for the Father to keep them. Jesus prays for protection for all those whom He has been entrusted. He prayed not for the absence of problems or harm but rather for protection of their faith in him, in his teachings, and in the promise of eternal life; and by extension in the Father. He prays that they will remain obedient and faithful especially through challenges to their faith, evil times, and suffering. He prays not necessarily to keep them safe; because to follow in Jesus’s footsteps means to go to the cross; but to have knowledge and faith that Jesus came from the Father and is returning to the Father, that we are loved by both and supported by the Spirit: because we remain in the world. We as Christians are called to be, just as Jesus was, in the world and for the world, but not of the world. It is a call to fidelity, work, service, and preaching. To find unity in mutual love just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united. Do you ever experience a conflict between Christian values and those of the world? How do you resolve this conflict? How are you sharing your fidelity, work, and service with the world? How are you preaching Jesus to the world?
The last Sunday of May is Pentecost Sunday! Happy Birthday to us all! There are two choices for the Gospel lesson for this day: John 7:37-39 where Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as living water quenching the thirst of all who come to him and filling the hearts of believers until they overflow! Doesn’t that sound amazing?!? Just think if all the world received the Spirit just like that – no more thirsting for Jesus, no more searching for hope or happiness or satisfaction – our hearts filled with the Spirit until they overflow. Well, actually, we as believers, should be like that already. The problem is, we forget. We forget that we have the Spirit of God within us; so, we snipe, complain, compare, judge, put down, call others names, and such. We are not that great wellspring of love and living water we are meant to be. Could we go a week not doing ANY of those things? A day? But, Margo, I don’t do any of those things!! Really? Not just out loud, but in your mind? Well, good for you! In which case, its time to let the water flow – speak the words of blessing and love to those around you who do those things. Bless them, in a good way (not the southern belle way; as my daughter refers to it).
The other Gospel lesson for Pentecost Sunday [John 20:19-23] (probably the one Pastor Lisa will use) is the Risen Jesus appears to his disciples: blessed them, commissioned them, and gave the gift of the Holy Spirit. He comes into a locked room to be with them. It is odd that this year we too can reflect more fully on how those disciples were feeling. Locked in rooms with a little fear and worry about what is going to happen next – we can relate! But Jesus did not let those things stop him from comforting his followers and he continues to do this with us today. So, listen carefully for the Good Shepherd’s voice saying, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And then he followed this by breathing on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” While Jesus is not, to my knowledge, making personal appearances at this time, he is still present with each of us. Take a little time and reflect on how peaceful you are. Pastor Lisa has said to me on numerous occasions: Don’t worry, God’s got this (whatever it might be). How willing are you to let go and let God guide you? How are you being sent? How are you responding?
May 21st is the Ascension of Our Lord. The Gospel lesson for that day is from Luke 24:44-53. These are his final words to his disciples and again, Jesus is giving them a commissioning, a blessing, and the promise of the Holy Spirit, which is repeated and fulfilled on Pentecost. He charges them with proclaiming in his name, to all nations, repentance and forgiveness of sins. This is what the church continues to do to this day. This is what YOU continue to do to this day! So, go preach his name, give forgiveness, and encourage repentance. How, you ask – by living it every day in every way!
And an extra bonus – this is the blessing from the end of Worship for the season of Easter. May it strengthen you during this time:
May the One who brought forth Jesus from the dead
raise you to new life, fill you with hope,
and turn your mourning into dancing.
Almighty God, Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless you now and forever.