May 24, 2021

Homily by Dr. Shawn Smith on Pentecost Sunday (Extract)

Homily by Dr. Shawn Smith on Pentecost Sunday (Extract)

Pentecost normally means 50th. It refers to the 50th day after Passover. In the Old Testament, it is called the Feast of Weeks; it celebrates the first fruits of the annual harvest. Jesus was crucified at Passover, and the first Pentecost saw the union of the assembly of those whose faith was renewed in His resurrection. They were in one accord, of one purpose; they were in one place, which was an environment consecrated by their apostolic authority.

In this environment, in the fullness of time, we are told, the Spirit was sent forth in a new coming, distinct from all other Old Testament dispensations. The Spirit is not absent from the epochs of the Old Testament. We find the external powers and the phenomena of miracles, which can only be attributed to the Spirit. However, those ministries before this Day, 2000 years ago were said to be temporary. Now is the permanent abiding and the manifestation of the Spirit in and through the Church, as the cloven tongues of fire, the manifestation of God’s uncreated energy came to abide in each of the Twelve.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. –Acts 2:1-4 

The Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of Life. We must never think of the Holy Spirit as detached from the Triune God of grace, but as One acting directly upon us, bringing Their inter-relation within the context of our own human experiences. We may not realize the implications of having the human body reconfigured as the temple of God. This is what we see on the Day of Pentecost.

As Christ had announced the corn of wheat did not abide alone (John 12:24) for He willingly sowed Himself. He died, was buried, germinated in resurrection, and brought His relation with the Father, together with the Spirit within the humanity He had assumed from the virgin womb. He has acquired the Spirit as one of the fruits of the redemption. This is why Peter announces to his Jewish kindred according to the flesh, on the Day of Pentecost, that all the sights and sounds of which they are witnesses are the fulfilled promise of God that Jesus the Christ received on behalf of the Church and by extension, humanity, at His Father’s right hand (Acts 2:33).

Pentecost is the end of an era. Types and shadows had fulfilled their purpose. The coming of the Spirit indicates a new epoch, whereby the things of God should no longer be foolishness to us. But with the Spirit’s enablement, it will be granted to us to understand and receive things that prior may have appeared foolish. This needs to be reemphasized for our time. It is not everything that can be understood logically or rationally. It has been historically proven that the science of a century ago is today vain foolishness. What assures us that our so-called sciences of today do not fall in the same category. Yet this is the knowledge that make the things of God foolish to our minds. The Spirit enables us to receive the knowledge of God. As Paul would say, the simplicity of Christ.

The Spirit has a very specific ministry. Contrary to many presuppositions, the Spirit does not seek attention. It is for this reason that the Church Fathers entitled the Holy Spirit as the Modesty of God. For the emphasis of the Holy Spirit is to highlight the Word of God spoken in and as Jesus Christ, and to enable us to hear. To accurately perceive and to respond. We always want to reduce this as an academic procedure. But the Day of Pentecost proves that transformation that is by the Spirit’s ministry is supernatural.

The transformation of Peter is the evidence of this. He who was trained for three and a half years by none other but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Heard marvelous truths from the mouth of the Truth; heard beautiful words from the Word. But his personal weaknesses, his fears and insecurities hindered his witness of Christ, as he denied Him before a twelve-year-old, repeated it a second time when people were called. When the whole crowd was now informed, to save himself, he took an oath claiming he had never known Jesus. This was his lowest point, knowing that at that moment, He beheld the eyes of Christ as He was about to be nailed upon the tree. In Peter’s own mind, the last thought Jesus would have of Him was that he had renounced Him.

We all have episodes of our lives that we can pinpoint as the lowest point. For Peter, it was that point when three times he renounced Christ, the third time to His own face. But after being reaffirmed by Christ, who, post-resurrection, denied Peter’s denial of Him, restituted him to the Apostolate, we see the transformation. We see what it means to have the Spirit’s enabling. He stands in boldness to explain the phenomenon of the new wine which had caused the sober intoxication of the one-hundred and twenty, and caused all the pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem to wonder what was happening.

The Spirit causes wonder.

The Spirit stirs questions.

The Spirit impresses upon the heart a desire to know. A desire so strong that it would cause and ingathering. Before the crowd, Peter stood and began to explain. As the other apostles listened, surely, they said to themselves, “What happened?” Expertly, he brings out the prophecy of Joel predicting the end of days. He uses the phenomenon of Pentecost to declare the beginning of the last days. With such as ardent fervor, three thousand Jews are brought to faith in Christ. This is the same man who denied Christ in front of a twelve-year-old.

The Spirit enables us with resources beyond human. For the Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, translate that eternal relation into the context of our human experiences, and we belong together. The Lordship and Divinity of the Son is affirmed in that He is the One who sends the Spirit. The Spirit’s coming is, once again, the Self-giving of God. Transcendent in activity, His love is brought near. As God descends in the incarnation of His Son, now in the infilling of the Spirit in each of the 120. This inter-personal reality is seen in the ingathering of the community in truth and in love.

If you have read what happened in the Upper Room, you would be reminded that it is in that same Upper Room that the disciples argued in the presence of Christ, who would be the greatest among them. It is in that same Upper Room that they sat in pride refusing to traditionally cleanse the feet, according to the Jewish custom, before the meal began. Jesus taking the role of the lowest servant, to teach them the lesson on humility. It is in that same Upper Room that they learned that one among them would betray the Christ. It is in that same Upper Room that each, except John, began to question whether it was they. In that Upper Room, Christ demonstrated that His death upon the cross was a voluntary offering, as He consecrated bread and wine.

Surely, as they looked in that Upper room, in the first of the ten days of prayer, those memories came to mind. But at the end of the ten days, the Holy Spirit, the One who renews the face of creation, renewed their history. They emerged as a unified community.

Spiritual transformation is real. Could you imagine the former disciples, before the event of Acts 2, allowing Peter to speak on behalf of the quorum of the Twelve after they had witnessed his betrayal! But these were not the same men. Their history was renewed because the Lord and giver of Life, the Creator Spirit had come. The Comforter who lifts up from the lowest point, enables us not only to hear Jesus the Christ, not just perceive Him, but to minister Him.

May we become aware on this Pentecost Sunday that the enabling of the Spirit renews and when the Creator Spirit renews, life is transformed. We have received God’s giving – the Giving-gift, the Holy Spirit, to minister. We see with the coming of the Spirit a lifting from the lowest point to embolden, to assure, to enable. There is unity and there is mission because this Holy Spirit is always on the go. If we abide in union with God, we will find ourselves on the go with God. We find the privilege of being led, sometimes in places and situations we did not envisage. But in each condition, we are enabled, for we are sent, and God does not send and allow you to go at a distance. He goes with the one He sends. May there be a renewal this Pentecost Sunday to be aware of the Divine enabling that lifts us from the lowest point. While it is true that the righteous man falls and rises seven times, one should question if the height from which the just falls is only higher to go lower, the believer in Christ Jesus is not called to the low life. We are disconnected from the fall, called to live the ascended Life. This is not within our human resources to do. The Spirit’s divine flow brings us into participation with God. We are not left to ourselves.

Let us be enabled, to experience transformation and being filled, let us be aware that our very presence stirs wonder and that the crowds watching us have questions. Imagine if Peter had ignored the statement that was made by the Jewish crowd, saying, “These are drunk on new wine”. Imagine had he not interjected his thoughts, three thousand souls would have remained lost that day. Let us become aware that our presence incites wonder, because we are indwelt by God. As Jesus said, on such occasions, do not fear what you are going to say, for the Spirit of your Father will give you the wisdom that the world cannot gainsay or contradict.

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