Acts 2: 1-11; I Cor 12: 3-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23
I was talking to some new pastors this week up at the seminary so of course part of the conversation was on prayer. It is not only central to us priests but to all of us. I was surprised when one of them had told me that he didn’t pray. So, of course, I asked him why, and as surprised as I was to hear that he didn’t pray I wasn’t all surprised by the why because I had heard in many times before. When I finally sit down to pray, to stop, to quiet down, it seems at that point my mind takes off, a million miles a minute along with all my fears and anxieties, unresolved conflict, and all the rest begin to surface. That’s the reason why you have to pray in those moments.
I use the example often, now that we are into the summer and it is hurricane season, to imagine a satellite image of a hurricane. Most have a well-defined eye. Crazy enough, that’s where you want to be in the hurricane. It’s the place where the sun shines. There’s peace and tranquility. That’s the place of center we take with us into the storm, into the million miles a minute, otherwise the wall collapses and the storm consumes our lives. This feast we celebrate today at the end of the Easter Season defines our center, that place of peace and tranquility that is hopefully leading us and navigating us through the storms of our own lives, as individuals, community, country, and world. We certainly know that that’s not always the case.
When the early community begins to form and that we heard of throughout this Easter season from Acts of the Apostles, they too found themselves often trying to find that center and allowing it to be their navigation tool through often tumultuous times. It was not an easy go for them when community was beginning to form around this new identity in Christ. Like any community, there is self-interest, there are people that are trying to satisfy their own needs, there are people that are trying to drag us into their own storms, into the chaos of their own lives that will often challenge that center, that navigation tool.
The same was true for Corinth in whom Paul writes today. It’s a section of that letter that we are all familiar with when he speaks of different gifts but the same spirit being manifested in the life of the community. He’ll go onto to speak about the different parts yet one body and culminate in the next chapter with his message of love that we are familiar with from weddings. There was dissension in the ranks of the community because they thought one person’s gift was better than the other, thinking that speaking in tongues was somehow better than the rest. It created riffs. Like the world we often find ourselves in today, there was selfish motivation, which of course, at that point, loses its purpose of being a gift in the first place! One gift is not somehow better than the other, but rather, Paul will go onto say that no matter the gift and no matter the person, at the center of the community, the great navigation tool, will be that of love. That becomes the eye of the storm and it becomes the navigation tool that the disciples will have to take into the storms that await them on that Easter day.
There seems to be no great Pentecost experience with them when we encounter them in today’s Gospel. There they are, caught in the midst of a wild storm as the witnessed the death of Jesus, the one who had been their center up to this point. For John, though, he’s going to want to take us back to the beginning and not to just the beginning of the gospel but back to the beginning of Genesis, when God breathes life into creation. Here we are now, locked in the upper room, filled with fear and doubt, wondering and questioning, feeling like they’re being consumed by the storm and all that they had known falling down around them, and Jesus appears. But not to just pick back up where they had left off on Good Friday but to give them a new center that goes deep within them and yet so far beyond them. Jesus breathes on them, not just into their mouths, but into their very being the gift of the Spirit. That will become their place of authority, their place of deep love, their own navigation tool as we see them go forward throughout Acts of the Apostles.
As we draw this Easter season to a close today, we pray for that same Spirit to be breathed into us, making us aware of where our center is in life. Do we find ourselves much more comfortable in the storminess, chaos, fear and anxiety, that at times consumes our lives or are we being led to a place of peace that expands truth and makes space within us for all peoples? Maybe we’re at a place where we need to quiet down, slow down, even if our minds want to go a million miles an hour. That’s exactly where that navigation tool is leading us, to expand that place of peace and tranquility within us. The last thing the world needs is more chaos, fear, and anxiety. It leads us to reacting to everything that comes our way, sucking us into the storminess of lives and feeling overwhelmed by it all. Like the disciples, on this day God desires to breathe that life, that Spirit into each of us so rather than being defined by the storminess we become the agents of change by brining that navigation tool, that eye, that deep source of love to an often hurting world to bring about the redemption that is freely given to each of us.