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Pentecost Sunday 2022 – If You Love Me…

June 4, 2022
Meeting a new neighbor (a gopher tortoise) in the Gulf State Park here in Orange Beach, AL

It’s Pentecost Sunday once again. We will wear red and talk about tongues of fire and the fact that Peter and the others weren’t drunk on new wine at 9 am like some in the crowd suspected! It is a holy day like so many other holy days such as Christmas, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. The thing is, to discover the awe and wonder of these holy days and to specifically discover the awe and wonder of Pentecost we are invited to peel away the layers of history and imagine what it was like to be in with Peter and the others. We are also invited to imagine what it was like to be in the crowd on that day. 

This Pentecost Sunday is also significant because it is the first Sunday that I will be preaching as the new interim minister at Swift Presbyterian Church in Foley, Alabama. Just as Peter and the other disciples were caught up in something new and amazing when the Holy Spirit came to visit, I believe that the church and I are also being invited to experience what the Holy Spirit has in mind for us.

This year the lectionary pairs the Acts reading with a deep conversation between Jesus and Phillip (and the other disciples) as recorded in the Gospel of John (chapter 14:8-17, 25-27). As I began studying and reflecting on both readings from Scripture in light of the festival of Pentecost and beginning this journey with the good people of Swift Presbyterian some themes began to emerge. The message of the Acts story reveals to me an exciting, even though at times overwhelming, opportunity to bring the people of God, all of God’s children, together as one body that celebrates the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. What is the message of Pentecost? I believe it is more than the prophecy of Joel with blood, fire, smokey mists and the moon turning to blood. Isn’t the message of Pentecost calling us to love and serve the Lord here in Foley, South Alabama, and beyond?

To love God, all neighbors, and ourselves was Jesus’ summation of the law and the prophets. As Peter and the apostles began their journey, their call was to share that message with the known world. When Jesus told Phillip that to love him was to obey his commandments, Jesus was giving the disciples their marching orders. They were to love as Jesus taught them to love and they would do even greater things than Jesus as they followed the Spirit’s guidance in their ministry. If you love me, he said, if you love me.

Dear reader we are each called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are also called to love our neighbors, every neighbor, as ourselves. Thomas Merton had an epiphany on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in downtown Louisville, Kentucky on March 18th, 1958. This revelation opened his cloistered world in a new and amazing way. It was also part of his transformation from being apart from the world, to becoming a significant part of the world from the monastery. He wrote the following in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (pp 156-158) about this revelation.

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers… It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes; yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.

I have the immense joy of being a man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

 I firmly believe that this is the invitation of Pentecost. To love all “those people and realize that we could not be alien to one another… and to see each other walking around shining like the sun.” In that sense, we become one in the Spirit and one in the Lord and seek to be recognized as Christ-followers by our love.

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