Gospel lesson and Pastor Richard Pokora’s sermon from Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 2022
Message from June 5th, Day of Pentecost by Pastor Richard Pokora
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
What a pleasant coincidence! Today across our nation churches may celebrate both the Festival of Pentecost and recognize graduating high school and college seniors from their academic programs. This is a festive Sunday for the Church and a special day for many families.
For years colleges and high schools arranged baccalaureate services for graduating seniors. A baccalaureate service provided a religious service and message for those individuals who successfully completed their high school and college degrees. The increased emphasis on the separation of church and state led to a recommendation that the baccalaureate message be offered in churches and synagogues.
The Festival of Pentecost and a baccalaureate service share the common theme of ending and beginnings. Let’s reflect together on what that means.
Two thousand years ago the ancient church reached a point of endings and beginnings. The earthly ministry of Jesus came to an end with his death, resurrection, and ascension. The disciples faced the beginning of a new life without the physical presence of Jesus to guide them. Jesus anticipated this moment when he spoke to his disciples at the Last Supper. He said to them: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” Jesus says the Holy Spirit will be sent to guide the Church after his ascension.
Fifty days later, on Pentecost Sunday the disciples gathered in a room together, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Our lesson from Acts describes that moment: “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of violent winds, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” The disciples go out into the streets to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thousands of people respond to this good news. The church was born on that day. This is indeed a great beginning.
The Apostle Paul, speaking to the congregation in Rome, would later say of the Holy Spirit: “For all who are led by the spirit of God of God are children of God.” In other words, the work of the Holy Spirit does not stop on the streets of Jerusalem two millennia ago. When we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we too are children of God.
The Holy Spirit brings to the Church spiritual gifts. Paul wrote the church in Corinth: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.” The Holy Spirit leads us and through the Holy Spirit we are equipped with spiritual gifts for the service and ministry of Jesus Christ. We might call this a mini-theology of the Holy Spirit. It is how we understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.
Let us make a connection between the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day and the graduation of high school and college seniors. Many people probably see little relationship between Pentecost and graduation. Graduation is a time to recognize a student has accumulated the required number of courses necessary to receive a diploma or degree. Maybe it is a time of endings and beginnings, but it is only the end of school and the beginning of college or work. Much more takes place at graduation, then putting a diploma or degree in someone’s hand.
When a child completes high school and begins work or attends college, a huge change in family life occurs. That son or daughter no longer resides under the supervision of a parent. Adult life begins. Parents may regard this transition one way and kids see it another way. When our children walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma, we may think to ourselves, they are walking out of the school, out of our home and out of this community. That’s a depressing thought, a feeling of emptiness and fear. We will miss them and fear for the future.
Recently, a letter to a newspaper advice column was received from a woman with six children who is afraid something might happen to them and cannot stop checking on her kids. We can understand her fears. The advice columnist wrote back: “You must accept the reality that there are things-even horrible, tragic things-that you cannot control or prevent. Life contains risks. You can take appropriate precautions and teach your children to be careful, but you should not be so overbearing that it is impossible for them to feel safe and develop independence.” We understand these words are true, but often accept them with difficulty.
Kids see leaving home differently. They see the world open up before them. They revel in the challenge and are ready for college and work and adult life.
The message of Pentecost helps both parents and graduates understand the ending and beginnings associated with graduation in a positive way. First, we recall Jesus was no longer physically present to guide the disciples, just as parents are separated from their children. He had instructed his disciples and promised the Holy Spirit would be with them. We do the same thing. Our children have received their instruction and we pray the Holy Spirit will be with them.
Second, we remind our graduates they are children of God led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to his disciples: “This is the same Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” The Holy Spirit goes with you and will abide in you.
Third, we encourage graduates to explore their faith. Parents set an example for their children, but now these young people must grow their faith and then make decisions about the direction of their life. They do what we once did. They grow as adults through their faith in God.
The church grew stronger by the work of the Holy Spirit after the ascension of Christ. Our children will increase in wisdom and strength, as they make their own decisions. We remind them they never walk alone through the endings and beginnings in their life. The Holy Spirit leads and grants them Spiritual gifts. They have everything necessary to lead their lives. We pray the Spirit of truth abides with them and guides them on their great journey. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.