Living by the Life-Giving Spirit in a Death-Dealing World

Rebecca Sheridan
Sunday, May 31, 2020
Acts 2:1-21

    You can’t see it or smell it or taste it.  You might have it and not know you have it. It may be awhile before you realize you have it.  Some people exhibit symptoms, others don’t have any symptoms.  It’s very contagious.  You could get it just by talking with someone or singing in someone else’s presence. It affects many people powerfully.  No, I’m not talking about coronavirus. We’re kind of tired of hearing about that now, aren’t we?  I’m talking about the Holy Spirit.  And it strikes me that it’s impossible to talk about the power of God’s Spirit living in us, working through us, without contrasting it with the death-dealing power of a novel virus that no one is immune to.
    The coronavirus and the Holy Spirit have some uncanny things in common – it’s hard not to hear passages about breath and air and wind without thinking about our current global health crisis, of course.  Today, on this Pentecost Sunday, more than ever, we hear the good news that the Holy Spirit is God’s antidote to all that is death-dealing in the world, from the beginning of creation until now.  Yes, it’s true that the coronavirus is all around us right now.  It brings death, anxiety and fear.  The Holy Spirit, however, is even more pervasive of a force for good, all around us even now.  The Holy Spirit gives faith, hope, joy, and life.  
This has been a rough week as our society wearily and cautiously tries to emerge from loosening stay at home orders.  George Floyd is dead, another black man killed by a white police officer, and Minneapolis as well as other cities across the country are on fire.  Our country is struggling MIGHTILY to respond in healthy ways to the tragedy of systemic racism in our country.  It seems this pandemic has made us more aware and sadly more afraid of the evils around us: racism, disease, economic inequity, senseless violence, etc. We can probably rattle off a multitude of sins that are all around us and within us that we are sick and tired of, that we are angry about, that we are trying to make sense of.  I am sure glad it is Pentecost today because we NEED this reminder from God that the Holy Spirit’s life-giving power is more powerful than any sin the devil can throw at us in this death-dealing world.
In our reading from Acts about the coming of the Holy Spirit on those first believers, we see that God’s Spirit blows through the assembly regardless of where people are from or what language they speak.  Peter repeats the words of the prophet Joel where God declares “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”  Young and old, men and women, slaves and free – “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Peter and Joel say.  And the Spirit blows where it will, upon all flesh, to bring life where there is death, hope where there is despair, faith where there is unbelief, joy where there is sorrow.  The Holy Spirit helps these first believers understand one another, even though they come from various backgrounds and perspectives!  No one is immune to the power of the Holy Spirit working in them, and that’s a good thing.  We are all susceptible, and it is contagious, especially when we dare to exhibit these symptoms of love, hope, joy, faith, and so on and share that contagious Spirit with others.  Regardless of the fears and anxieties we still have, this Holy Spirit also sustains us to look forward to the gift of life we have been given and to look forward to God’s gift of salvation.  The Holy Spirit inspires us to face the world’s fears with courageous love, compassion and understanding.
In the midst of this current time of chronic heightened anxiety and fear, it is even more easy to forget the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit, which has been with us since the beginning of time.  The Spirit gives us the faith to look back and see God was with us in the past, God is with us now, and God will lead us into a new future where all can breathe more easily, where love and life prevail, and that is why we pray loudly and boldly, “Come, Holy Spirit.”  Amen.