Der Vasken’s Sermon on May 19, 2024

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

A few weeks ago, right here in our church hall, many of us met a mother and we listened to the story of what happened to her daughter twelve years ago in a terrible school shooting. That horrifying act occurred in a Newtown, Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School where sadly twenty children and six teachers lost their lives that day in what can only be described as an act of evil. For about forty minutes, this mother spoke of how her Christian beliefs helped her face the world again after that life-altering day.

Today is the Feast of Pentecost in the Christian churches around the world. Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit transformed the Disciples into the Apostles—transformed the ones who learned from Christ into the ones who now taught about Christ.

Up until this day, one thing was certain. The Disciples had no idea what they were supposed to do. They felt ill-equipped to do what Jesus called them to do and expected them to do. They needed confidence and direction in their lives that would help them take His message into the world and stand up for what was right in the eyes of God and what was valued by God and that was what the Disciples received on Pentecost. They received strength from the Holy Spirit that changed them from learners into doers of the Christian faith.

Pentecost gave them what they needed and they took the message of Christ into the world. They shared His stories. They shared His miracles and all about what He said and did. The gift they received on Pentecost was reassurance to live out their faith and stand up for the marginalized and for the forgotten of the world. On the day of Pentecost, they received God’s seal of approval to teach the world everything He taught them and to fill the world with faith, hope and love.

The Disciples faced a very unwelcoming world. They were seen as threats to the political and religious leaders of the day. Their lives were in danger at all times because of this, but yet, because of Pentecost they now felt ready to change the world. They travelled to cities and villages in foreign lands far removed from Jerusalem and they preached to those people. They healed those people of their illnesses and conditions in the name of Jesus Christ. They noticed that people with problems kept coming to them. Those people were crying out for help in a world that couldn’t help them.

In the days and years ahead, the Apostles saw the disabled man stand up for the first time. They saw a man with no voice shout out in hope. They saw that a lack of faith brought out the worst in people and they saw people whose faith brought out the best because the faith that they preached was the faith of compassion and forgiveness and the love of God. The faith that they preached changed the world forever.
God sent His Holy Spirit into this world to give us a fighting chance to better the world in so many ways. To help us, He gives us His hand to hold, His shoulder to lean on and His voice to follow and He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we are in a position to make our world a little bit better every day.

Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit tearing down our fears and building up our hope. It is about tearing down our doubt and building up our faith. There is no limit to what God’s spirit can do in this world.

The Sandy Hook shooting was twelve years ago, but how much has really changed since that day? Since the beginning of this year, 194 mass shootings have occurred ending the lives of 271 people of all ages in the cities and towns all across the country.

May the Holy Spirit on this Feast of Pentecost give us the strength and the compassion to help make our world a better place for everyone. There is no limit to what the Holy Spirit can do in this world. Something for all of us to think about.

Amen.

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