Today is Pentecost Sunday, when the church remembers the gift of the third part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
Scripture: John 20: 19-23
What does it mean to hide away in fear?
There are many things in life we might be fearful of. We might fear the loss of a loved one or a difficult medical diagnosis. We might fear the loss of a job or the family home.
We might fear walking down the street because someone appears to be following us. Or perhaps we cross the street because we are afraid of who we see walking towards us.
Recently the Cobourg Police Services held a community meeting as there was an increase fear and public safety. Largely due to the swelling population of people who are experiencing homelessness. Something that has over the past four years become a more pronounced and visual problem in our community. A complex problem which brings with it a sense of fear.
These are fears that might be part of our daily lives. They don’t necessarily make us hide away in fear.
The disciples were hidden away in fear. They feared for their safety. It was still too soon after the events of Easter and they may have feared that they would receive the same fate as Jesus. Death on a cross.
So they hid away in fear. The locked the door to the upper room and hunkered down for the night. Angela Parker describes the disciples in this way. She writes, “As a community hiding in fear, I would classify the disciples as “socially dead” and awaiting the breath of Jesus that mirrors the Genesis narrative. This breath brings them back to life.”
Angela continues, “The disciples lived in fear because of their identity as Jesus followers after Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus’ breath transforms fear into bold living and leads out of social death into community that can uphold and support our varying identities.” (Angela Parker – https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/day-of-pentecost/commentary-on-john-2019-23-5)
And Jesus does just that. While the disciples are hiding away, with the door locked Jesus finds away inside. The same Jesus they have travelled with for years. The same Jesus who had died, been buried, and who rose again was now in their midst inside that locked room.
Jesus appears to the disciples, and he cuts through their fears when he bids them ‘peace’.
The disciples have isolated themselves. They are as Parker describes it socially dead, of no influence on anyone, no help to their community, unable to make an impact, isolated and alone. Jesus appears before them and liberates them to new life and possibility. Jesus offers the Holy Spirit as a parting gift to guide the disciples out of the locked room. The locked room of their hearts which has them living in fear and distrustful of a group of people. The locked room which inhibits their ability to serve the community. Jesus liberates the disciples, encouraging them to once again out into the world to serve. All this with a breath of fresh air and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, our guide or Advocate. The wind of fresh air, the healing breath that infuses new life.
This is the good news of Pentecost. The time of year when we acknowledge the gift of the Holy Spirit, the third person within out triune understanding of God. Often described as a dove descending, the breath of life we receive from God and the rush of the wind through the trees.
Christina Rossetti writes in her poem:
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
(Christina Rossetti – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43197/who-has-seen-the-wind)
These are some of the small ways we can think of the Holy Spirit and its connection to us. It’s presence with us. It can be hard to visualize just what the Spirit looks like. However, difficult it might be to think about what the Spirit looks like, I believe it is vital that we remember what the Spirit does for us.
It empowers us, frees us, unites us, and compels us to action. The gift of the Spirit releases us from our fear and reminds us that God in Christ is with us in all things.
We aren’t called to hide away in fear. We aren’t to hide the light of our faith from others. Instead, we are encouraged to share our faith, to demonstrate the call of Christ on our lives. We don’t have a physical form to attached to the Spirit. We don’t have a face or a voice, scripture is light on the third person of the trinity. But what it does tell us that the Spirit is our peace, our breath of fresh air, and a force that empowers us in what we do.
Just as Jesus breathed the Spirit out, we breath the Spirit in. It’s life giving and sustaining. It frees us from our self-made constraints and reminds us that we are loved by God. That there is no reason or need to hide away in fear. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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