Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily Pentecost – June 4, 2017 – It’s Getting Warm in Here!

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Pentecost A June 4, 2017 – It’s Getting Warm in Here

Click here for today’s biblical texts

A recent issue of Sports Illustrated published a story on Jeffrey Glasbrenner who lost his leg as a young boy while working on the family farm. In the hospital, another boy, in the adjacent bed, was dying of cancer. His mother said to Jeffrey’s mother, You can “raise him to be independent, or raise him to need everyone around him for the rest of his life.” [1]

Traditionally, on the feast of Pentecost, we analyze the meanings behind the graphic images of hurricane force winds and descending tongues of fire. We imagine a group of people with overlapping questions. What’s next? How do we do it? Would their mission, to establish unity among God’s people, be an independent campaign or a movement that would depend on a partnership with others?

Let’s first look at the imagery. The driving wind described in the reading from Luke/Acts echoes God’s presence in several Hebrew scriptures — the radiant sunshine that would come after raging storms. There is the warmth of hope and a new creation emerging from frightening times.

The reference to fiery tongues suggests, in a modern day context, that we have moved away from the scattered, independent communities, described in the text as a cacophony of diverse voices, toward unification by the Spirit. [2] No one person, no one religion, no one country can survive alone on this fragile planet. Solidarity and interconnectivity fill us with blessings, gladness and new life the Spirit.

Although in John’s gospel the reception of the Spirit occurs on the day Jesus was raised from the dead, it is celebrated, as we do, fifty days after the resurrection. Pentecost is a word Christians borrowed from Greek speaking Jews and occurs at the same time our Jewish friends celebrate their second greatest feast, Shavuot, a commemoration of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. This year these two feasts occur during Ramadan the month of fasting and prayer on the Muslim calendar.

As a trinity of religions, linked by common ancestors, we are distinct but not separate in our peace seeking efforts. Our task is to foster unity and love among all people, and even among nations. As Christians we give primary attention to what human beings have in common and what promotes unity among us. [3]

President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw our country from the Paris climate agreement presents another viewpoint on how people might work together. Two of the president’s top advisors wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the president has “a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” [4]

This executive decision is of concern for Christians and others because it contradicts the story and the spirit of Pentecost that extol working together to solve problems, to move forward, to make progress. The Spirit in that upper room did not suggest that the mission of Jesus should be kept a secret or, that it was to serve only a select few.

Ironically, tomorrow, June 5th, is World Environment Day, a United Nations initiative to raise awareness around climate justice. It could be a day when, as a Christian church birthed in the spirit of Easter and Pentecost, we recommit ourselves to the reduction of our own carbon footprints.

We can undertake the mission of Jesus alone or with the help of everyone around us. Jeffrey Glasbrenner, the subject of that sports story, grew up to become a world class athlete and the first American amputee to scale Mt. Everest. He did not do it alone.

____________________

1 Murphy, Austin. “Peak Performer” in Sports Illustrated May 8, 2017, 27

2 DeBona, Guerric. Between the Ambo and the Altar: Biblical Preaching and the Roman Missal Year A. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2013, 147-48

3 The Vatican Two Ecumenical Council, “Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” (October 28, 1965) No. 1

4 McMaster, HR & Cohn, G. “America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone” in the Wall Street Journal. May 30, 2017

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

5 thoughts on “Homily Pentecost – June 4, 2017 – It’s Getting Warm in Here!

  1. Thank you for the reminder that we have to work together. Let’s hope that this message is repeated in pulpits throughout the US and that people pay attention!

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  2. The words of the dying boy’s mother stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me of someone who engaged in civil disobedience to bring attention to war. He always found a way to resist being made dependent: Imprisoned, he raised the consciousness of other inmates and organized them to claim their human rights. Isolated in solitary confinement, he undertook a hunger fast. Then it was the institution that had a problem if someone died as a martyr for peace. He had the upper hand as long as he was willing to absorb suffering rather than inflict it.

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  3. Your reflections on unity versus going it alone got me in touch with my bias. I thought the dying boy’s Mom was encouraging Jeff’s Mom to raise her boy not to be dependent on others. Clearly completing a task like climbing Everest requires interdependence, a willingness to ask for and give help when needed. Some beliefs die hard. Thanks, Richard. Don

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  4. I, too, saw reflections of my own selfish ego-will toward “going it alone.” More and more I’m discovering the futility of that attempt at self-fulfillment. Thank you for refreshing my commitment to surrendering to God’s will instead of my will. Doing that opens me to the gifts and graces of others, especially those on whom I can depend. Together, we are so much more!

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  5. I happened to read that article in SI after seeing the cover on my husband’s nightstand – wow! Great example. As every your homily reminds me of ways forward, often coming when I need the most encouragement of the Spirit. Thank you.

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