Acts 2: 1-11; I Cor 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23
I’m guessing by now everyone has had their fill of the Royal Family after the wedding yesterday. It would have been interesting to hear what the Brits had to say about the American take-over yesterday, not only with the bride, but also the choice of music at times, and of course, the one who stole the show was the preacher. I’m guessing they’re not all to used to having such a preacher in their midst. I’m not sure what was more enjoyable, listening to him or watching the reaction of some of the guests who were squirming in their seats a bit. It wasn’t your typical royal wedding. It wasn’t that he even said anything that was so extreme, but it was certainly delivered with great passion and from the fire within him. It was a message that has been delivered now for 50 days, the redemptive love of Easter. It was an interesting approach at a wedding but a message definitely needed.
The reaction of some of the folks that had gathered at Windsor was not much different than what the disciples received at this gathering that we hear of from Acts today, when the time of Pentecost had been fulfilled. If you keep reading a bit the reaction of onlookers was a question of whether they were drunk and drinking too much. But that wasn’t the case at all. Like that message at the Royal Wedding, they had experienced that redemptive love of Easter and it, they could no longer be contained. We’ve overused the word in our own language and so the redemptive quality of love gets lost in translation, but in many ways it reveals their smallness as a people and all that holds them back from having this love set free. It reveals the smallness of their judgment. It reveals the smallness of thinking they’re somehow above others, which was probably some of the squirming yesterday at the wedding. He knew the audience that he was speaking to, the royals, celebrities, and very few common folk like ourselves, which hammers the message home all the more. It reveals the smallness, more than anything, of their fear.
That’s where we return now in today’s gospel. This is the same gospel we heard back on the second Sunday of Easter and now we return with greater vigor after marching through these fifty days. The disciples, as any sense of daylight begins to fade and darkness returns, are found in one of their smallest places, trapped and locked inside the upper room. They’ve already heard the message of Mary Magdala as well as Peter and the Beloved Disciple, but the message has yet to resonate in their hearts. Fear continued to plague their hearts and harden them from confronting their own smallness. The Church doesn’t just take us back to the beginning of Easter, but John in turn takes us back to the beginning of salvation history when God breathes life into man prior to the fall. This redemptive love that Jesus now breathes into the disciples redeems all of humanity. The disciples will be moved from within to go forth. Like the early community of Acts, this redemptive love and forgiveness will no longer be contained. It’s not going to take away the hostility that awaits them beyond the locked, upper room. Rather, it is only the gift of the redemptive love by that Spirit being breathed into them that can now renew the face of the Earth, as we sang in the psalm.
We gather like that early community asking for the gift of the Spirit and the redemptive love in our own hearts that still, at times, stand hardened by our own smallness. We create our own gods that stand in the way. We move from the self-sacrificial love that we first heard on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to the redemptive love of Easter, Jesus breathing new life into a community that had lost its way, had been contained by fear, and living in its own smallness. Now, though, they will be pushed forth to share what can no longer be contained. Where there is poverty, love redeems. Where there is hatred and violence as we’ve seen here in the States and in the Middle East this week, love redeems. Where there continues to be refugees and people fleeing tyrants, love redeems. If there is no love there is no God. That was the message of the preacher today and it’s the message that gathers us here today. The love of God through the sending of the Spirit cannot be contained within this building otherwise it’s not of God. It’s our own doing. It’s us telling God who God is rather than allowing that redemptive love to define us as Paul tells us today. It’s what binds us together as a community, despite fear, judgment, sin, hurt, grudges, resentments, and all the rest that we often prefer and make us comfortable. They also are our smallest selves. We settle for so much less by trying to domesticate this God that tries to liberate and set us free.
As this season of Easter draws to a close now, we pray for that same Spirit to once again descend upon us and to move through us, breathing new life into where we have clung to death. This redemptive love that liberates expands our hearts to have greater space for others who think different, live different, act different, pray different, and all the rest. If it doesn’t, we are still trapped in that upper room, in fear, awaiting our own god rather than allowing ourselves to experience the wildness of a God who shatters our smallness in order to renew not only our own lives but the face of the earth. Now more than ever redemptive love is needed in this world. False versions of love seem to far outnumber in our world but it is only the liberating act of redemptive love, Christ breathing new life into our hardened hearts, where we are renewed and given the vigor to live with such passion as the first disciples. They are us and we are them. We pray for that Spirit now so we may be pushed through our own limits to the openness and vastness of God’s redeeming love!