Harrowing Of Hell
May 19, 2024

The Unity of the Holy Spirit

The Rev. Lisa Ozaeta

To watch the sermon click here.

Today is the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is always a great celebration. We wear red. We have baptisms and renew our baptismal vows.

Today in Sunday School, there is a birthday party with cupcakes because we celebrate Pentecost as the Church’s birthday.

The account of Pentecost in Acts 2 is a familiar one, yet it never ceases to grab our imagination and deepen our understanding of how God works in our lives and in our world.

The disciples were gathered in one place, waiting with anticipation and perhaps a bit of uncertainty. Jesus has resurrected and left them again by way of ascension. They are alone again.

Jesus had promised that he would send them his Spirit, but I am not sure anyone knew what that meant. There is a big feast going on in Jerusalem. The streets are packed with people. The disciples are huddled in this room. I totally get it. The last three years probably peopled them out. They were constantly pressed on by crowds. Not to mention those crowds ended up not being that nice to Jesus. It was probably a good idea to just hang out together in this quiet space.

But, God had a different idea.

Suddenly, the room is filled with a sound like the rush of a violent wind. The sound was loud enough that the people outside heard and started to come near. Then there were flames of fire that were dancing around each of the disciples. This was not a quiet hangout anymore.

The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. They got up and left the room. They went to the crowds and started to talk about God and tell the stories of Jesus. Everyone understood what they were saying in their own language.

The story the disciples were telling made sense because it was in a language the people understood.

Most of us will not be confronted with a situation where we are surrounded by people speaking a multitude of languages.

But in many ways, we live in a world where people can not understand each other. For well over a decade, it has felt like people fear the state of our society. There is a sense that “things are getting worse.” If you turn on the TV or go on social media, which I do not recommend, people are raging against our leaders, the direction of our country, and a host of current issues. But, as you read or listen further, everyone thinks that someone else is at fault. The liberals are sure the republicans are to blame. The Republicans are sure that the liberals are to blame. It is easy to despair because it feels like we will never even get close to solving the problems because we arent even speaking the same language.

It can feel like we are stranded across a divide of understanding with no way to cross over.

But, I believe the Holy Spirit can bring us to a point of unity.

The Holy Spirit is always doing something new, continually breathing life and vitality into creation. From the very beginning, she was present, hovering over the waters and bringing order out of chaos.

At Pentecost, she descended upon the disciples like a rushing wind, igniting tongues of fire that empowered them to proclaim the good news in diverse languages. Uniting people through shared language.

Today, she continues her transformative work, pulling us toward greater unity and understanding.

We have talked about Teilhard de Chardin and the Omega Point before. A quick refresher, Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest and a paleontologist. Teilhard believed that all of creation has been on the continuous evolution toward a final point when all of humanity and the cosmos will be drawn together in divine love. Teilhard saw the Holy Spirit as the driving force behind this evolutionary process, continually guiding and pulling us towards ultimate unity.

This evolution or revolution of the spirit has two components: the interior and the exterior.

It starts with the interior work of the Spirt in our lives.

When we spend time in prayer or in silence, the Holy Spirit communes with us, creating a deep and intimate connection with God. This communion fills us with peace and assurance. As we open our hearts in these quiet moments, the Spirit whispers God’s love and guidance, helping us to align our lives with God’s will. Through this divine fellowship, we find clarity, comfort, and strength to face our daily challenges, knowing that the Spirit is with us, nurturing our spiritual journey and deepening our relationship with God.

This internal working of the spirit in our lives guides us to the external working of the spirit in our world.

The Holy Spirit who makes us to be people who have this quiet assurance then uses us to create a bridge with others. The Holy Spirit is always about relationship and connection. When we are plugging into the work of the Holy Spirit, we will be about relationship and connection.

At Epiphany, we always say that Relationship is Primary. This is a statement that flows from the truth of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

When we say that relationship is primary, it means that we are choosing people over politics. We choose silence over gossip. We choose compassion over strife and anger. That is the Holy Spirit working in and through us.

When we have both the internal and external work of the Holy Spirit, we are changed and change the world around us.

Sounds good, right? So, where do we sign up for the windstorm? I am ready. Let the fire hit me. Let’s go.

Well, I am not sure that it works like that. I am pretty sure we are not going to start bursting into flames today.

I think it is more subtle than that.

Most of you know that I live in Snoqualmie. Along our main road, we have a field that we refer to as Elk field. This time of year, it is common to drive past the field and see 50 or more elk standing in the field…completely unfazed by the cars speeding past.

People come from all over to see the Elk. For years, there have been long lines of cars pulled on the narrow shoulder so they can try to get close. So many people would come, that the city actually put a parking lot in the field. At any given time, there will be 20 cars parked there with people standing in groups staring at the elk. They have their cameras out and pointed at the animals. The locals drive by and smile at these onlookers who are so captivated by this unusual site. Recently a sign was put up at the field telling people to not approach the elk. Apparently, people were so in love with these majestic animals that they just wanted to get as close as they could and try to touch the elk.

I love the Elk. Snoqualmie loves the Elk. But, I had never stopped on the side of the road or pulled into the parking lot. I simply wave at the Elk on my way to the grocery story.

This week, one night on my way home, i saw a woman in a pink sweater in the field. She was clearly excited at everything in front of her. I pulled into the parking lot in a spot a little far away from the crowd.

I stopped and just looked around. Mount Si was to my left with the sun reflecting off the mountain in a shimmering red orange hue. In front of me roamed the herd of elk. The bucks stood majestically and the does were beautiful.

I just sat there. Took a deep breath and let myself be fully affected by everything surrounding me. It isn’t that I haven’t loved these Elk. But I co-exist with them. I admire them, say hi, and simply keep driving. This day, I stopped. I really experienced the Elk and all of the beauty around me.

This is our life. We drive by the beauty right before us. We wave and keep going. I dont think that we will have a windstorm where the Holy Spirit comes upon us with a loud sound and flames like fire. But I do think that she is waiting for us to stop and see the beauty that she is creating around us.

She invites us to be transformed internally. To be filled with the quiet assurance of who God is and how God has made us for his love. She invites us to step into the world, into the noise, and offer a new language of connection and of unity. She compels us to live a life where relationship is primary. And that by elevating relationship over the things that divides us that we will be able to move this world towards unity.