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Whitsunday

O GOD, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!

It has been a while since we have been here, and it has been a rather eventful time. From a long, long trip to Tennessee, to some more health challenges, it has been stunning and challenging to faith and practice.

God has been faithful, and we have sought Him in each circumstance, and sometimes He's hard to see, but He IS there.

That seems to be the way that life works for many believers – we rush to and fro, and then look for Him.

So, then, how does this relate to today in the church?

This was a day that a promise was kept, when the words of Jesus about the arrival of a Comforter were fulfilled.

Today is the day known as Whitsunday in our tradition. Again, Whitsunday's name comes from Old English "White Sunday'. This was when of those that prepared to become members of the church, the catechumen as they were called, that studied and studied to be allowed to be in communion with the church.

In our first reading, from the book of the prophet Joel, we hear about the Spirit coming on ALL people, and the resulting effects of that. As usual, I'd like to put this book into a specific historical context, but I can't really do that. We have a bit of mystery here. This book is very interesting in that it is not able to be specifically dated. In one text, they even mentioned that the book was dated by some scholars with dates from ALL prophetic eras.

So, then, we don't know what the dates were, but we do know is the book of Joel IS in the era when Israel was under siege, since in the Old Testament, the kingdom was always under attack from within, by disobedience to God, or by external enemies.

Then, the relevance of the text remains.

In this section quoted in the reading, the narrative of an end time, of 'those days' that are seen as horrible and apocalyptic continues. While an interesting read, it is really hard to see why the people of Israel, having lived through tough times, would want to hear these things.

Consider what happened to another prophet, Jeremiah – The king tired of him and had him imprisoned, even his family rejected him. What did Israel need with another prophet describing more doom and gloom.

In this case, we have a prophet that offers another perspective – what God does through the instrument of Joel is offer hope to the weary and troubled people.

In verse 28, he describes how, after all the preceding events happen, that the people will be gifted with vision. Consider this – he is giving a glimpse into what God's intent is here.

God intends on sharing the visions and the ability to articulate them with ALL people. Not just believers, not just prophets. ALL of them.

They will prophesy, they will dream dreams and see visions, all as a result of the Holy Spirit coming upon them.

In verse 29, he notes that even the believers will be filled with His Spirit, and in verse 30 and 31 starts to describe some of the things that will occur. Wonders in the heavens, and…blood and fire and billows of smoke

There have been hundreds of commentators, including the authors of the "Left Behind" series, that have taken these verses and combined the imagery to develop a view of what the true end times will be.

We don't know anything about when or how the world will end, and that's why they speculate. We see events like tornadoes in Massachusetts and volcanoes in Chile that offer up powerful images to the eye, of the power of the forces that God has created and commands. I see these as precursors to what will be.

But, from this passage of Joel, through it all, we have the hope God offers. Verse 32 says that all who believe on the Lord will be saved. Note that there are no qualifiers about what church you go to, or what works you do – you will be saved.

This is important to keep in mind. The times will be hard, and he mentions by allusion there WILL be casualties. He notes in the last verse that there will be deliverance for the survivors.

OK, stop - THIS is a reading for Pentecost, the Anglican holiday of Whitsunday? How does it apply?

Through hope.

When Jesus mentioned that the Comforter would be coming after He left, He was preparing the apostles for very dark days ahead. They didn't see that when He mentioned it, but after the events of Easter and Ascension, they were keenly reminded of those words as they lived the reality that HE was no longer there.

The catechumen, after the long periods of studying, came to this day and, all dressed in white, stepped forward for the laying-on-of-hands and became members of His Body and were allowed to come in and share in the communion supper of the Lord.

In that action, that desire of the catechumen, we see an expression of faith, of Hope in what He promised.

So Whitsunday, for its odd name, should be synonymous with hope, and with His redeeming love.

He promised that He would send us the Comforter. That Comforter has been here to uplift us, educate and enhance us to meet His calling in this world.

In confirmation, you fulfill the promises made at baptism. Interesting that these are things that would be impossible without that same Comforter. Without that Help, none of these promises would be kept. But they are.

That started with Jesus, who is ever faithful – He kept his promise, in that upper room when the flames appeared above their heads so many years ago.

Let us pray.

O God, you sent your Son to save us from ourselves, and the Holy Ghost to continue to lead and guide us from day to day. Let us never lose sight of the hope and promise of the Comforter, and Your immense love for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen .

Charlie Niemi

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