The Day of Pentecost: May 15, 2016
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
On this feast day of Pentecost, we celebrate and praise the gift of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives—the Spirit that God pours upon all flesh. A Spirit that inspires us to prophesy, see visions, dream dreams. A Spirit that unites us by our differences gathering us as a spiritual community and that promises to abide with us forever.
So what better way to celebrate Pentecost than with these words from the prophet Joel:
“And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.”
These images of the sun turning to darkness and the moon turning to blood bring to mind the gloom and doom themes of the apocalypse, Armageddon, Doom’s day, it’s the End of the World as we know it. In Joel’s lifetime, such images were used to make meaning out of the great loss the Jewish people had suffered. Joel’s imagery of blood, fire, and smoky mist portrayed the destruction of Jerusalem, the desolation of Judea, and the slaughter of many by the Roman Empire. The sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood thus signified God’s wrath and retribution for Israel’s sordid sins and slip ups.
But what if the darkening of the sun and the moon turning to blood doesn’t mean the end of the world? What if Joel’s image means an eclipse signifying a new beginning with the Holy Spirit? What if Joel’s image is a glimpse of the union with God that is possible on a cosmic level through the power of the Holy Spirit?—an experience where time, space, and matter are transcended; where light and dark become one with God—an image of a life, a world, a universe totally eclipsed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is impossible to experience the sun darkening and the moon turning to blood as one because a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse never happen at the same time. Solar eclipses happen in the day; lunar eclipses at night. A solar eclipse is when the moon comes between earth and sun; a lunar eclipse when the earth comes between sun and moon.
For Joel’s prophecy to be true, it would require the earth, the moon, and the sun—all three bodies to become one in a way that would transcend time, and space, and matter but still create the full effects of the two eclipses. Impossible given our limited human perceptions and linear experience of time.
Impossible perhaps for us, but not so impossible with the Holy Spirit.
The unifying force of the Holy Spirit born to us in Jesus Christ fosters a sacred community where the gifts and differences of each individual are raised up to complement and magnify the gifts and diversity in others. The Holy Spirit creates a spiritual community with God which does not seek uniformity—the Holy Spirit never aims to overshadow or eclipse another’s identity or voice; never forces all to speak in one tongue, one language. The Holy Spirit refuses to create communal relationships by fusing or forcing others together in ways that harm or destroy.
The sacred unity brought about by the Holy Spirit is revealed in Joel’s prophetic image of the two eclipses, this same unity was present in the Church born at Pentecost, and it is still alive and well in the Church today.
And as we celebrate those who are committing themselves to God in Christ in Holy Baptism and those who have recently reaffirmed their faith through confirmation, reception, and reaffirmation at the Cathedral, we celebrate our role as disciples of Jesus to recognize and foster the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit—to continually usher in the new beginnings that are possible with God; to realize Joel’s prophetic vision of sacred unity where time, space, and matter are transcended; to bring about God’s reign where the darkness of the sun can illumine the brightness of God and where shadows eclipse the moon in vibrant colors of sunrise and sunset.
May we be forever eclipsed by the shadow of the Most High, in whom all things share in the oneness of the Triune God. Amen