Charter Member Recognition
8 Jun 2014
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit …” (Joel 2:28-29 // Acts 2:17-18)
In the name …
Without Pentecost, the church becomes a museum. If the Holy Spirit was not shared then and still now, then the past would be the locker that holds all of our religious hope. We would have to rely only on the witness of a small group of people who lived a time and world apart from us. But Pentecost isn’t about the past. It’s not even really about the present. It’s about potential. Pentecost is about a living, growing, developing church. Pentecost is not about holding on to the past; it’s about building upon the past. It’s about the possibility of discovering where God wants us to be.
2.000 years ago God did not want the first believers to be holed-up in a locked room in Jerusalem holding on to the past. He wanted them to be out on the street of the city. And Pentecost gave them the courage to do just that. What locked room does God want us to break out of today? I can think of several, but the particulars of what I think are not as important on the actual Feast of Pentecost as understanding that God is still speaking to us and challenging us to keep the church moving, to break out from our locked rooms.
A couple of days ago, Frontier held its graduation ceremony. What I read in the yearbook of the Class of 2014 was the repeated theme of possibility. The young graduates heading a bit further out into the world were asked to choose quotes that they thought meaningful. Over and over again they chose statements that captured the excitement of possibility. “The main thing is to make history, not write it.” “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for.” “If you want to be happy, be.” “Don’t go where the path may lead. Instead go where there is no path and leave a trail.” “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” And it’s not only idealistic 18 year olds who feel this way. As I drive north on 91, I smile at the billboard that reads: “Stop wondering and start wandering.” It’s trying to sell hiking boots, but the message is again about possibility. Don’t only think about what can be out there, go out and look for it. I saw a church-sign in Southwick this past week as they probably get ready to acknowledge their graduates. It spoke about not reason or faith and that ageless debate, but it encouraged its members to pass along a reason for faith. As church we need to constantly ask ourselves “Why?” We need to know the reason for why we are here, why we worship, why we belong. And if we can’t come up with a compelling reason, then we should not be surprised if church falters.
Another one of the yearbook quotes was: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” That was a quote from Marcel Proust who lived a century ago. A recurring theme in his writings was to concentrate on and appreciate the world, events and people around us. For Proust an experience can only be appreciated personally and in that very moment, never mind trying to share it fully with someone else. That moment of experience can’t even be remembered as powerfully as it was first felt. What an important Pentecost theme! The immediate experience of the Spirit is the reality of Pentecost. This is the tradition that is carried through the ages to us as people of faith. Pentecost is not about remembering that the Spirit once descended upon the church. The tradition of Pentecost is that the Spirit still descends upon the church. And that means with all of the Spirit’s integrity and inspiration. The church is as much a living, breathing expression of the Spirit of God today as it was in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. This is why the Pentecost church is defined not by the past, but by possibility, not by where we came from but by what we strive to be.
That sense of possibility that excites a high school graduate should, therefore, be an experience of the church as well. I love the language of Pentecost. It is a shared spiritual enthusiasm owned by no one but God. It is the Spirit of God shared with your sons and daughters, says the Bible, even the male and female slaves will experience the presence and power of God. Your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. That’s the language of possibility. In the ancient world gender, age and the distinction between citizen and slave were divisions dug deep, and yet in Pentecost language they all slink away to unimportance. “All flesh” it says in the Bible will experience the Spirit of God. And what the Spirit decides is in the hands of God. The Pentecost language was first used by the Prophet Joel in the Old Testament. Joel could not have expected that his inspired words would someday be used by the first Christians to express their new faith in Christ. But the Spirit leads where the Spirit wants to. The excitement of possibility is trying to figure out where that is.
That the church can become anything, even something new and unexpected, is also honoured by us today through the twelve people named at the beginning of Mass. These charter members, some here, some unable to join us, represent the living connection with the families that built a new church in 1929, 85 years ago, and dedicated her to the Holy Name of Jesus. The cornerstone that they chose to engrave with the words “Belonging to the people” summarizes why they invested themselves in this holy endeavour. They dreamed dreams of what church could be. And now our task is not to dream their dreams, but to dream ours. Pentecost is our turn to move the church forward and to break out of our locked rooms. Pentecost is our turn to build church. Pentecost is our chance to do what they did in Jerusalem 2000 years ago and what they did right here 85 years ago, to dream dreams of what church could be. May we feel the power and excitement of Pentecost. May we believe strongly enough to rush out of the safety of our locked rooms whatever they may be so that we may do what needs to be done. May these be our Pentecost prayers, in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo