Gospel of John 14:15-16, 23b-26
Today, Pentecost Sunday, is best introduced by the words of St. Luke in today’s 1st reading, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.”
We, gathered here this morning, do not consist of the entirety of the Body of Christ, yet, we here in this place and at this moment of time are her representatives. We, being male and female, young and old, of many different races, nationalities, and origins may very well indeed be a reflection of the “devout Jews gathered from every nation” of which St. Luke described in the Acts of the Apostles. If you were to stand and wander about this sanctuary, it is very possible that you would encounter an individual very much different from yourself. You may encounter a different language, culture, place of birth, and quite possibly, different political opinions, yet the very thing that we all have in common is that we are here because we believe… and that is no small thing.
We believe in Jesus, the Son of God. We believe that he was a man who was crucified, died, and was buried, and was raised from the dead. We believe he ascended into heaven and we believe that God sent us the Holy Spirit, and that one day he will come again for us.
Now, I recognize that after these basic beliefs things can get a little less… unifying. Depending on individual differences of faith formation, personal revelation, and catechization it might be rather difficult to get from this group a consensus on just about anything beyond the very basic tenant of our faith.
Growing up a Protestant I heard stories about churches being torn apart by arguments on which side of the church the piano should be placed. My wife, a cradle Catholic, tells me about a Catholic church that experienced a tremendous riff when the Bishop decided against the purchase of an organ.
I have confessed this here, from this pulpit before, but I often find myself listening to evangelical radio programs that condemn other self-professed Evangelical Christians because they don’t hold the same end time, rapture, and second coming beliefs that they do. However, before I can get too much of a self-righteous Catholic, I hear about Catholics who condemn other Catholics because they do or do not hold hands with one another during the Our Father. Division and discord are not uncommon regardless of the church you attend.
Yet, what do we read about in today’s first reading. We read about a bunch of people, from many different places, of many different languages, with many different faith formations, and many different personal revelations all finding agreement in one thing. That one thing being, “We hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
Isn’t it interesting that St. Luke the historian records for us that the very birth of the Church occurred in the very midst of chaos. That thousands of people, with just as many ideas, perceptions, opinions, and beliefs all found common ground in the “mighty acts of God!” And, what were those acts? Those acts were the very acts of Jesus, of whom the Apostles bore witness. Those acts were the birth, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Those acts were the miracles he performed, the words which he spoke, and the love which he shared. Those acts were the sins he had forgiven, the sinners he had restored, and promises he had made. Those acts were the very embodiment of God’s love for humankind and for their salvation.
We here in the modern-day church are not unlike those early day Christians. They too possessed ideals and practices rooted in culture, tradition, and opinion that caused them to separate, segregate, and differentiate one from another. I have heard it argued that the most segregated day and time in our country is Sunday morning. The traditional day and time when those who are called to be one in Christ gather in their places of worship with people who mostly look, speak, and think just like them.
Have we forgotten our roots… our beginning… our calling?
My brothers and sisters, I am not calling out as some naïve Pollyanna professing that we ignore those things that divide us. Rather, I am calling out in hopes that we do the exact opposite. That we acknowledge the differences and that we embrace one another in spite of those differences. We do this not through the sacrifice of doctrine, nor do we stop professing the truth and wonder of the Gospel, but we do this by continually calling one another to be in community… a community of faith in Jesus Christ.