Pentecost 12 step Eucharist June 5, 2019 St. Mark’s
“When the Day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind.” —Acts 2:1-2.
“ … [Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” —John 20:22.
John 14:8-17, 25-27
Barbara Brown Taylor1 describes two versions of Pentecost: the gentle breeze in a later chapter of John, as Jesus breathes directly into the few fearfully gathered disciples on the night of his resurrection;/ and the violent wind of Pentecost described in Acts where the Holy Spirit sweeps in, hovering over the heads of more than a hundred people with tongues of fire. Soon after a following sermon by Peter, 3000 people gathered with them also received the Holy Spirit and were then baptized.
The few disciples at the gentle wind Pentecost are commissioned to take the Spirit breathed into them out into the world. The violent wind disciples are commissioned to fan the Holy Spirit that was released, spread, and poured out into the world that momentous day at nine in the morning. Taylor challenges us in our congregations to emulate the disciples in both Pentecost stories: those of the gentle breeze and those of the violent wind. Both groups are commissioned to find that Holy Spirit within themselves and others, and take it out of their congregations and meeting places out into the world./
Is the message of 12 step recovery a gentle breeze or a violent wind? Since it is a program of attraction, one might consider that 12 step recovery should be a gentle breeze. Ponder that at times it can be move in like a violent wind, especially when someone has a moment of clarity./
Now, if you really are wondering what it might be like that day when the Spirit of love moves through a large room of people who do not have a clue what is happening, watch the video of Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the morning of Pentecost Eve.
Bishop Curry first reminds us that when two people fall in love, nearly the whole world shows up, as it did on that Saturday morning. That is how important love is.
Bishop Curry tells us that love has the energy of fire; and his enthusiastic, passionate words are indeed comparable to the Pentecost flames running through St. George’s Chapel on that morning. Bishop Curry, himself, is so filled with the Spirit that at times he must hold on to his lectern to stay in place.
His body language signals that he wants to move out like the Spirit and directly make contact with the young couple and his whole congregation. As you watch people’s faces, you can tell they have no idea what to do with him or his barnstorming message. They look mystified, amused, indignant, comical, questioning. Some look down at their program so others cannot see what they are thinking. Others glance at their neighbors to seek a clue from them about what is happening. Some almost fall out of their chairs! Some look at Curry as if they are mesmerized.
Perhaps the ones who seem to understand his message best are indeed the royal wedding couple themselves—especially Meghan, who beams radiantly with an occasional twinkle through the whole sermon.
Bishop Curry’s presentation and delivery are not the British style; but his message of love is true to his Anglican and African roots. He speaks out of his African American tradition, drawing from his ancestors in slavery and out of his training in an Episcopal style that Americans modified from the Anglican form. Bishop Curry speaks his truth, which comes from deep inside of him—as all these traditions mesh and kindle tongues of fire from the power of love that sends flames around the world.
Curry is our role model of what it is like to be filled with the Spirit. With Pentecost fire, we have no choice but to speak the truth. Many people will not have a clue what we are saying; but everyone who receives us will be changed in some way.
Curry reminds us that the truth from God should always be about love: loving God, loving ourselves, and loving our neighbor. Period.
Love is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also the work of Recovery.
1Barbara Brown Taylor, “God’s Breath” in Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2003, pp 37-40.