[Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15]
Romans 8:14 says “All those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Pentecost is the Greek word for a Jewish holiday celebrating God’s gift of the Torah to Moses and Israel. It is fifty days after Passover (also called Feast of Weeks, 7x7+1) and coincides with the harvest season (barley was harvested at Passover and wheat at Pentecost). [It is easy to see the metaphorical significance of the harvest!]It is on the Jewish holy day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came!
The central role of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is obvious. The gift of God’s Spirit to the church, however, is sometimes difficult to understand. We know we have the Spirit, but many times we may not have a “feeling” or “experience” of the Holy Spirit. This is fine. Paul is not talking about an experience, but an ontological fact. Our being or nature is changed into something new: children of God. Those of us who read the daily office have been seeing this theme in the letters of John the past few weeks. Like Paul, John also declares that we are already children of God now, but there is more coming later!
That is why Romans 8:18 must be included in any discussion of being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Paul writes I consider the sufferings that we now endure not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.” It is a good news, bad news declaration. Bad news: loving Jesus does not free us from struggle, suffering or pain. Jesus may not make everything better immediately. However, the good news is a reason for hope and joy, He will eventually make all things better. Much better. SO much better that it will totally overwhelm the struggles today.
Even with Messiah’s coming, creation continues to struggle with the effects of The Sin. In Genesis, Adam and Eve sinned and that brought down the Curse, not just on them but on the Earth. Sin and Death are the power of Satan’s reign. After Genesis 3, the world as it is can no longer be called the world as God intended it to be. The world is broken and in need of help. All of the world. Salvation is about so much more than “going to heaven.” God is redeeming all creation, the whole world. It is a rescue operation from a Savior outside! This is why all creation groans…
One popular Biblical image for the Kingdom is giving birth. Recently one of our parishioners went through nearly twenty four hours of labor. Giving birth is hard work and it is exhausting. There are many moans and groans involved in the process. Yet the appearance of the child produces joyous celebration. WE know what is coming, but the anticipation period is a time of struggle. SO with creation.
The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, is our share in God's life. It is the ‘first fruits’ of salvation and the coming harvest. Just as the Jews gave God the first fruits to sanctify the entire harvest, so God sets aside those who belong to Him to sanctify His fallen creation. We, you and I, the Church, are part of the first fruits.
But there is so much more to come, that is why creation groans and it is why we groan. There is a God-sized hole in our hearts and we desire more than we can ever have this side of the Kingdom. The unmet needs, the unfulfilled desires, the frustration of being satisfied with what we have and wanting so much more---that is what groaning is. The old rock song, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” is a theological truth. We ache inside for something more, something better. We seek and search for it, but in the words of another song “but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” That desire beyond satisfying is our hunger for redemption. The Holy Spirit inside of you stirs up more desire, not less. The Spirit creates in us an awareness of the counterfeit salvation the world offers.
On Ascension Thursday I challenged the gathering to pray for the Kingdom to come with a child’s impatient heart. Cry out to God, “How much longer???? When will we get there?” Grasp God by the pant leg and say “Please, please, please---can I have the Kingdom now?”
As the Holy Spirit works in us, we take on a children of God attitude. We know how to appreciate every blessing of this life, but we also know that the true fulfillment of our deepest desire is not here. Not yet. But it is coming, and when it gets here… Well it will be worth the wait.