Pentecost Sunday, Rev John Odams
of Pilgrim Church focused on the church's birthday and the importance
of the Holy Spirit in our lives. His message is one of hope for all,
regardless of spiritual orientation. Reflections on his message. We can
walk with the Comforter and experience a fuller, more meaningful
and fulfilling life.
Birth-Days and the Holy
Pentecost is one of
the prominent feasts in the Christian liturgical year and is celebrated
seven weeks (50 days) after Easter Sunday, hence its name. Among
Christians,Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon
the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the New
Testament Acts of the Apostles 2:1-31. For this reason, Pentecost is
sometimes described as the "Birthday of the Church."
the members of the Holy Triune - Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Spirit) -
the Holy Spirit is probably the most illusive. Most Christians can
identify with the "Father" as God, often referred to as "God, the
Father." Recent movements have sought to degender the Supreme Being by
using feminine terms ("Mother" and "her" - shocking for some) or
avoiding gender specific pronouns (but not "it").
The Son refers to Jesus Christ, son of carpenter Joseph and mother
Mary. The Bible's new testament is devoted to the life and teachings
of Jesus, to the future of life here on earth and to the journey to,
and promise of, eternal life.
A child born nine months after the union of egg and sperm establishes a
sequence of birth-days, exactly one year apart that are recognized as
symbolic affirmations of existence. We focus on the person or
institution whose anniversary lets us turn our myriad thoughts to one
and only. Birth-days are for celebrating and sharing and the Christian
church's birthday (Pentecost) is no different especially if our
relationship with the church is strong.
We are a Work in Progress
On Sunday, May 19, 2013, Rev. John Odams of Pilgrim Church, in a sermon
entitled "Greater Still Greater" focused on the Holy Spirit in our
midst. His message is applicable to all, regardless of
"We are a work in progress," he announced at the beginning of his
sermon. Instantly, his words felt energizing and hopeful with a spirit
of gladness and goodwill. Imagine a work of art as it is shaped into
form and message. Imagine the magic of the artists, known and unknown,
all of whom are "in creation." Surely, we are works of art who will
turn out beautiful and inspiring.
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Noticeably
missing from the Bible's famous opening words is the caveat "before"
because there was no BEFORE. God created and we are all that is and
shall be. In making humankind, God included the variable of free
will. God made us and let us out of the box, free to do our "own
thing," shouting back as the day of rest began: "Hey, good luck." God
released us with no anchors (secret or otherwise) of control. We are
not puppets with invisible strings of steel tying us to our Maker. In
fact, unless we are in relationship with God, God does not exist (for
God's assumption about humankind included the notion of obedience.
Despite the presence of free will, God expected that we would not go
astray. Yet, that is not what happened. The Bible's many stories give
us the impression that God may have had some regrets on how the whole
affair of creation turned out. By all accounts, God appears to be like
the frustrated parent who keeps trying to get the children to turn out
well but they just won't listen.
Were any of these strategies effective?
- In the Old Testament, God gives Moses the Ten
- The first five books of the Bible (the Torah) provide
a foundation for Judaic Law.
- In the Old Testament, God is a god of wrath.
- The New Testament offers two more commandments:
Loving God and your neighbor
- In the New Testament, God tries a new tactic: being
a god of love.
The journey from life on earth to "life in heaven" is a selling point
for Christianity, a way to attract people into a belief system that
posits more beyond the grave. Some Christians look forward to crossing
the River Jordan from this temporal life to eternal life; others are
more focused on the here and now. Whether the Jordan is crossable or
not, heaven on this earth can exist in our time.
"God sent us the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter."
(Rev. John Odams)
But questions arise and highlight our confusion about the Holy Spirit.
Why did God send the Holy Spirit? Wasn't Jesus good enough? And
besides, what's in it for me?
The invisible, untouchable and
unprovable spiritual essence - holy and ethereal - purportedly provides
benefits now and today, for me in my lifetime - like strength,
confidence and power, right? Knowing that God is with me, that I am
ever present to the Holy Spirit - well, I ask you. Wouldn't that give
you more confidence? Shouldn't I feel stronger, more self-assured and
more powerful in my dealings with other people?
The qualities of interpersonal strength are illusive (just like the
Holy Spirit) and cause seekers of success to pursue literature and
courses in leadership training, relationship building and the
importance of power structures in all walks of life. Colleges,
self-development institutes and charlatans all offer the promise of
what they say comes from following their teachings - usually money.
The more we pursue these
goals on our own, in isolation, on the assumption that we can figure it
out, the more our own human limitations leave us trapped in a formula
of rigidity, limitations and isolation. As we climb to the top of the
mountain, we become ever more enamored of ourselves. "Yes, I am King.
Yes, I am Queen. I rule this mountain." But in the surrounding
distance, fog-enshrouded and invisible, is a breathtaking beauty that
vanishes as we assume our reign of royalty so far removed from what is
Courses and books on success rarely include a chapter on the Holy
Spirit. For good reason. What we gain from the presence of the Holy
Spirit in our lives may include some increased confidence, better
relationships and more "power," but those are coincidental
by-products. Any attempt to formulaically tie them into the Holy
Spirit as a cause celebre is false reasoning.
The Holy Spirit brings only one message focusing on our relationship
with God, or stated more correctly, the possibility of a relationship
and what that brings to our lives.
Walking with the Comforter
Just to begin the process of coming into relationship asks that we turn
to face our Maker and admit to our own inadequacies. We must give in
to God, letting go and letting God. What we get by so doing is an
amazing sense of peace because we realize we are no longer alone. The
weight of the world is not just on our shoulders. We travel in
partnership - with one, two or all three members of the Holy Triune.
They accompany us on our journey. Give God the steering wheel, the
reins, the responsibility. I welcome my new partners into my new life.
In the week of Creation, God gave us free will and shouted back: "Hey,
good luck." But God also said: "I'm here when you need me."
Free will is not the freedom to toss litter into the street or speed or
cheat on taxes. In fact, free will is a term that ostensibly
misprepresents itself. In giving us free will, God is giving us the
opportunity to be in relationship, to admit that we are not, cannot be,
in charge. By being "in control," we miss the true beauty that is
present in life because we are blinded by our own sense of self. We
have become God and we no longer need another. "I don't need God. I've
got my life all figured out."
Rev. John Odams explained that the Holy Spirit remains with us always
and shows us a different way to be in communion with life and with God.
He closed his sermon, again referring to that famous river: "We are a
work in progress and will never be complete until we reach the other
side - complete in the glory of the Father as heirs to the Kingdom."
Do you believe in the message of eternal life? Do you even believe in
Stop for a moment, taking pause at the breathtaking moment when your
own life manifested real as you slithered down that painful birth
canal. Have faith that you are here for a purpose, fully unknown to
you. "Breathe on me Breath of God" says the famous hymn. "Breathe in
the Breath of Life. Walk with confidence, hand in hand, the Comforter
at your side."
|Posted: June 3, 2013 Nancy J Conrad
Your comments will be posted here and in
the Letters to the Editor after processing.