When Bill and I got engaged, we did the wedding registry thing at our favorite department store. We were going to be living in student housing for a while, so we didn’t register for a lot of stuff; but we needed some very practical things. I was telling some of my friends about how fun it was registering for dishes, flatware, and kitchen stuff of various kinds. One of my dearest and best friends then says, “But Trace, who’s going to use it?”
My friend knew I didn’t like cooking. Not much has changed since then. But I can tell you that the “newness” of our lovely things wore off rather quickly. I might have shed a tear or two after the first chip in one of our plates, but after several moves, children, and general clumsiness, many of our lovely dishes have chips or have been broken. Towels have long since been replaced; flatware has ended up under beds and in trash cans. That’s what happens when you live your life. The gifts that our family and friends gave us were meant to be used by us in order that we might make a home wherever we are.
God gives each of us gifts as well; and some of those gifts we don’t even realize we have. When I was recruiting youth leaders for a large multi age youth program our church was doing, I remember a particular conversation with some parents that I wanted to lead our younger kids. Their own kids were in the senior high program, and that made them perfect for junior high. They had already seen it, lived it, done it. When I asked them, they thought I had lost my mind. I told them to give it a week of prayer and then we would talk about it again. In a week, they both walked into my office and said that they would do it on the condition that the other person said yes. And so I had my two youth leaders. Years later, when those kids were on a mission trip passing through where we were living at the time, I met the group for dinner. The dad I had recruited was still with the group. He thanked me that night for believing in him. He said the ministry he did with those kids, who were now senior high kids, was some of the most important and life-giving work he had ever done. And, as I told him that first night, as well as the night we had dinner, I knew that the kids needed him, and I was convinced that the Holy Spirit had given him everything he needed to be exactly what that group needed. It was wonderful to see that ministry work so well even at its most frustrating moments.
Now, maybe dishes and youth group ministry don’t rise to the level that Jesus is speaking of when he tells the disciples about the advocate and guide that the father will send… then again, maybe they do. Loving Jesus and keeping his commandments of loving God and loving neighbor aren’t always easy. They certainly are almost never glamorous or things that will win us favor with others. Often our lives as disciples are lived in the very ordinary activities of life, some of which we feel very ill equipped for. Making meals for our families and friends is a way to care for and love our neighbor, because in the kingdom everyone is our neighbor. Being a responsible, reasonable, caring adult for youth, many of whom are dealing with homes broken by substance abuse, divorce, and other issues, is most certainly a way to love those kids into a functional and loving adulthood.
Beloved, Pentecost is the celebration of who we are and who we are meant to be. Today we celebrate the birth of the church as well as our adoption into the family of God. You and I have been brought into God’s life by Jesus – his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension has brought our humanity into God’s very life – and the gift of the Holy Spirit, great advocate and guide means that God’s very life is in each of us. That reality gives us the ability to not be afraid to be in the world to do the work Jesus has left for us to do. And, like beloved dishes, there may be a few chips along the way; we might even get broken along the way; but it is in our brokenness that we are given to others and made whole. Jesus has gone before us so that there is no place on earth or in heaven that he is not; he is even in those places that we might think aren’t big enough or good enough – it is his presence and his gift of the Spirit that make them enough.
God is calling each of us to kingdom work. In a word, I think, we are being called to revival. Now there’s a word Episcopalians don’t really “do”, but if it was good enough for the first disciples, then it is good enough for us. We need to connect with the Spirit that lives in us so that we can be empowered to do kingdom work. We must connect again with the promises of our baptism and say, yes, Lord here I am, send me, when we would rather say, you know Lord, you got the wrong guy. Like my youth group leaders, we don’t necessarily need confidence: we need connection, we need prayer, we need to trust God, we need to answer the Spirit’s call to action with humility, recognizing we may not always get it right.
And even when we don’t get it right… we learn, and we try again. We will have everything we need to be laborers in the kingdom because God’s got our back. The gift of the Spirit that brings us into relationship with God is a gift given freely and without strings attached. It is given in love, it is given because God’s nature is to create and to give. So beloved, it’s time for a rival! (Can I get an AMEN?). Maybe it’s a quiet revival that is more suited to Episcopalians, but it’s time to get energized and not let our gifts collect spiritual dust… may we give ourselves into the Spirit’s loving, wild, care so that we too might be gifts to a hurting world. May the kingdom of God and the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!