Rev. Ann M. Saunderson

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live, I will sing praise to my God, while I have being, may my meditation be pleasing.”   As Pentecost fulfills what Jesus promised let us find a place in our hearts for the Holy Spirit.

We’re at another threshold in the liturgical year—Pentecost– fifty days from Christ’s resurrection on Easter becomes the entry point to the churches longest season. Ordinary time or the season after Pentecost, spans the end of Spring to late Autumn.  Today our focus is on the promised coming of the helper, the advocate, the Holy Spirit and how that coming manifests in our lives now.  On Pentecost the awesome power of God is revealed seven weeks after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with God and what that meant for Jesus’ followers and what it means for us today is worth exploring.  Jesus said,

14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
14:27 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.  Pause now, to name something in our readings, or in current life that you find troubling, where you feel fear…and release it to God.

Today’s gospel from John continues to broaden and deepen Christ’s promise that we are not to be afraid, and that we will always have connection to the Father and the Son thru the arrival of the long hinted at Holy Spirit.  Philip’s question, “Lord show us the father and we shall be satisfied” adds authenticity to the disciples struggle to understand Jesus as he replies, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  In so many ways Jesus keeps reassuring his disciples that there will be sufficient ‘help’ as they carry out the good news of ministry Jesus models and teaches.  In John, Jesus is still with the disciples, post Easter —  the Pentecost message is softer and prophetic.

In Acts, the Holy Spirit comes in a rather stunning way to the twelve assembled.

Sensational experience stuns the bereaved followers of Jesus.  In hindsight, for me it is helpful theologically to see the continuum of the WORD of God continuing to be created and experienced.  John 1:1 “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God…all things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being…”   Pentecost is a continuum of the word becoming incarnate in our lives.   The Spirit blows thru the house in which they are standing, suggesting the full inclusion of all beings by virtue of the languages spoken.  The holy spirit was embodied and experienced.  Healings, miracles, abound as tangible witness of Jesus way of love in scripture.  Today the helper comes as promised with gusto a promise fulfilled, giving breathless wonderment about what’s next as Jesus followers shape their spiritual life with worship, prayer and action.   How often do we have similar dilemma’s?  Take heart as CHS begins their call process, relying on the holy spirit to guide diocesan advisors and each of us.

Perhaps a poet and a mystic can help us with understanding the promise of Pentecost.  Listen for the images and embodiment.  The thirteenth century mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg asks Wouldst thou know my meaning?  Lie down in the fire, see and taste the flowing Godhead through thy being; feel the Holy Spirit Moving and compelling thee within the Flowing Fire and Light of God.

And from poet Alicia Suskind Ostriker

To be blessed said the old woman is to live and work so hard God’s love

washes right through you like milk through a cow

To be blessed said the dark red tulip is to knock their eyes out with the slug of lust

implied by your up-ended skirt

To be blessed said the dog is to have a pinch of God inside you

and all the other dogs can smell it.

For me pragmatic, grounded examples of God’s action and Holy Spirit promises are helpful.  Artists, musicians, poets offer images to illuminate biblical writings.

Pentecost came to mind as I experienced a special time last weekend.  At the end of 2021 two friends from my former parish in Eugene Oregon contacted me with an invitation.  They were calling together a planning team for the 30th annual Diocese of Oregon’s Women’s Spirituality Day.  Would I be willing to participate as I’d been a part of creating that first Spirituality Day 30 years ago.?   I was honored to be asked to the zoom meetings that dotted this past winter.

Little did I know or forsee in 1992-3 when the seeds of ideas started forming the structure of the first Women’s Spirituality Day what an amazing event was being created.   The vision was:  “to release the Spirit in each woman as she makes her journey with God.”  The mission: “to bring together Women of Christ for inspiration, fellowship and spiritual growth.”  As I looked at documents from that first event, I could recall the conference room tables, as women from around the Diocese of Oregon met, prayed and planned.  Not a perfect cohort, personalities clashed, some ideas/visions seemed feasible some not so much, the usual push and pull of group decision making.  Yes, now I see the prophetic, and the holy as the event has built momentum these 30 years with different venues and planning teams.

Each planning meeting for the May 2022 spirituality day began and ended with prayer.  We listened, found a uniting theme since it was Mechthild of Magdeburg’s day on the church calendar.   The Flowing Light of the Spirit, the theme from the mystic’s writings.  Recently consecrated, Bishop Diana Akiyama said yes to preaching and presiding.  Over the years small coastal churches, I-5 parishes and larger city parishes volunteered to design and host succeeding Spiritual Days.  Like the Pentecost promise, a palpable sense of energy was present.  Individual insight released to the collective wisdom as goals were crafted, details were added.  Then the roll up your sleeves heavy lifting of asking people to offer workshops, planning the eucharist, calling forth lay and clergy participants, deciding lunch, hospitality, and of course setting up and taking down the rooms that were converted to make the experience come alive for the participants.

Last Saturday the fruits of planning came together for the 30th time.  It was heartening to see the hands raise at the closing worship of women who’d come for the first time.  Also, the hands of those who’d come several times.  As I lit a candle to honor the women who’d gone before tears came, remembering those who have died, another candle was lit for the women of today and then a candle lit for the women of the future.  10 diverse and amazing workshops, focusing on ministries shepherded in the diocese to reach out to homeless, people in prison, volunteers, workshops that were experiential and creative, offering to support and enliven our spiritual lives as we all live out the Pentecost promise of being beloved community in a broken world.

The experience that I’ve shared is replicated all over the world, here on Vashon at CHS to places far away, we are Easter people.  We are following the beckoning promise of Jesus and the father — it is that very spirit bearing witness with our spirit as we are children of God.

Following the recent mass shootings, Bishop Rickel sent out resources for worship.  Let’s sing, this specially written hymn to close the sermon.  God, Our Nation Feels the Loss by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette speaks to Pentecost and the grief of senseless loss.

Psalm 104:25-37, Romans 8:14-27, John 14:8-17, 25-27