The Spirit comes.
Whether we see it or not…whether we sense it or not…whether we ask for it or not…the Spirit comes.
And today we remember this gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit has been called “Ruach,” which translates to “the breath of God.” Jesus called the Spirit “the advocate,” and the Spirit has been described as that part of God that comes to each of us in our baptism, and who works within and throughout our lives. When we pray for God to do something in the world…we pray for the Spirit.
I’ve been praying to the Spirit a lot this past week.
- “Come, Holy Spirit…bring peace.
- Come, Holy Spirit, bring reconciliation.
- Come, Holy Spirit, bring justice.
- Come, Holy Spirit, we need you.”
Today is the day when we remember the story of the Spirit coming to the disciples, showing up as a wind, and then as flame, in a room which had been locked. That Spirit has accompanied the disciples (and by the way, that includes you and me) every day, everywhere, because of God’s great love.
That’s Pentecost. That is what we celebrate today. Today is the festival of Pentecost.
We celebrate something else today. We celebrate the milestone of graduation. Today we give thanks to God for the lives and the faith of 40 of our young people, who all graduate from high school. These young people have worked hard, and we’ve got to be honest: this spring has been bittersweet, hasn’t it? Their chance to celebrate and be honored has been diminished by the virus and the quarantine.
And so today graduates, I’ve got something to say to you: I want to make sure that you hear two things, loud and clear:
- First, you are loved…you matter…God loves you and so does this church.
- And second, we are so very, very proud of you. Yes, for your academic accomplishments…for finishing. But even more, for how you have lived, and served, and grown into who God created you to be.
And no pandemic can take that away these two truths from you. You are loved…and your family of faith is so proud of you.
Now at first glance, these two events, Pentecost and the celebration of our graduates may seem disconnected. But I’m not so sure that’s true.
The gift of God’s Holy Spirit has been grafted into the lives of these graduates through their entire lives. And through the Spirit, God has molded, shaped, nudged (and maybe for a few of you…sometimes kicked) them to become who God has created them to be.
And so when you think about it, graduation is not just a celebration of their accomplishments (thought they have clearly accomplished a lot!) Rather it is a celebration of the gift of God’s Spirit within them. Graduation is a celebration of Pentecost.
I asked three of our graduates to help me flesh this out today, and to share their perspective on how they have seen God work within their lives throughout their education. Kaia Elstad, Collin Pedersen and Emma Loveless all agreed to pre-record their thoughts on where and how they have experienced the Spirit’s work.
Kaia Elstad, daughter of Jeff and Gina, is an athlete, a musician and a scholar. She has been active at Trinity, and active in Young Life. And she has wonderful thoughts about how she has seen God at work.
Thank you, Kaia. In the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of quarantine, Kaia said that God brings us together in a new and different way. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Spirit drew those first disciples, sitting in that room that day together, the Holy Spirit draws together the people of God; often out of times of pain, loss and even separation.
Graduates, you have experienced loss this spring. But as Kaia identified, you have been drawn together in new ways. Maybe because of what you experienced; in some strange way, you are even more together than you otherwise would have been.
Collin Pedersen, son of Troy and Sharon, is another of our amazing and outstanding seniors. A great student, an athlete, and one of Trinity’s peer ministers, Collin has a great perspective on the way that God’s Holy Spirit is present with us.
Thanks Collin. In the good…in the bad…God’s Spirit is present. It is not a matter of seeking the Holy Spirit, it is a matter of learning how to see the Spirit at work in those moments. Class of 2020, and everyone else, Collin reminds us today that the Spirit is with you wherever you go. It’s not one-and-done. Jesus sent the disciples out, but it was the Holy Spirit who accompanied them. As the Spirit promises to do with you, wherever your journey takes you.
Emma Loveless, daughter of Jeff and Mary, has the gift of compassion. She serves, she teaches and she cares for others. And she has observed how God has used the Spirit to empower God’s people for their lives and faith.
Thank you Emma. In fact, I want to thank again Kaia, Collin and Emma. You are wise, and we are grateful for you sharing your wisdom and experience.
We all learn from you today.
The work of the Holy Spirit is vast and wondrous. And those moments when we sense the work of the Spirit are like just seeing the tip of the iceberg. We know the Spirit is up to so much more…caring for and sustaining all of creation.
But fundamentally, for the people of God:
- The Holy Spirit draws us together into one
- The Holy Spirit accompanies us wherever we go; and
- The Holy Spirit empowers and equips us to love, to care and to serve
That is true for all of you, graduates. The Spirit draws you together, accompanies you and equips you. It is also true for the rest of you, people who are not graduating this year.
It is the gift of the Spirit that we all receive.
It is the gift of Pentecost.
This year…this week, in fact, this is more important than ever. Because we know that when we live, and share that gift, with all we encounter, God’s Spirit is at work.
Come, Holy Spirit, to your people. Thanks be to God!