5/31 Readings: Gifts of the Spirit for Our Time

Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21 or Num. 11:24-30
Ps. 104:25-35, 37
I Cor. 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21
John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

This reflection was written during a world-wide pandemic, a circumstance that makes even words of promise and comfort strangely haunting. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered together in one place” (Acts 2:1). The gathering of the faithful is now, in many places, prohibited. In the appointed Collect, we pray that the promised gift of the Holy Spirit will “shed abroad throughout the world . . . that it may reach the ends of the earth.” Yet we sense also that other forces are at work in a fallen world, a viral attack upon human life that may cover the globe. In the face of this, people are afraid and anxious; many are also doing whatever they can to slow the spread of this disease, to treat the ill, and to save lives.

In this context, we might listen more deeply with the inner ear of faith, to what, or rather, to whom we have in the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, we hear that the disciples received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. “At this sound, the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in their native language of each” (Acts 2:6). They heard the mighty and manifold works of the Lord (Acts 2:11; Ps. 104:25).

The disciples spoke words, but their many words bore witness to the one eternal Word of God, Christ our Lord. “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being, therefore, exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The Spirit Jesus received and poured out is “the Lord, the giver of life.” Pentecost, then, is the gift of nothing less than God poured into our hearts and speaking a language of love we recognize and understand. God is with us. We are not alone.

God has not left us comfortless in this present crisis. Indeed, God has given every person a unique ministry for the common good. In this time, we need gifts of learning from the scientific and medical community, but also governments and local communities. We need to learn because we do not know enough, and the crisis is urgent. Learning requires humility, diligence, and cooperation. We need gifts of right judgment in determining what to do and what not to do. We need a holy comfort to strengthen us and to restrain our worst fears. We need gifts of wisdom and knowledge, healing, and miracles, a great convergence of nature and grace for the healing of humanity. Dispersed as we are by “social distancing,” we desperately need the gift of the one Spirit that makes us one Body wherever we may be. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (I Cor. 12:12).

At this moment, many of our churches sit empty. The Church, however, is not merely a building or only an assembly. The Church is a sacred society, a living body that cannot be rent asunder. Wherever we are, we have God and the gifts of God. Live in hope and trust. Pray for the Church and the world.

Look It Up:  Read Matthew 6:6,.

Think About It:  While praying in secret, feel and know that “God in Christ is generally the medicine which doth cure the world, and Christ in us is that receipt of the same medicine, whereby we are everyone particularly cured” (Richard Hooker).


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