Reflections on Pentecost Sunday
Do you remember as a child (or even as an adult for that matter), when you stood at the front window … nose and hands pressed-up against the glass … your eyes straining, as you look far into the distance … standing there, waiting with deep longing … for a cherished parent or child, some beloved in your life … to return home?
In the middle chapters of St. John’s gospel, beginning around Chapter 13, the allegro (“quickly and bright”) tempo of Jesus’ three-year-ministry now moves to a pace that’s much more of an adagio (“slowly, with great expression”). Let me try to lay out this striking tempo change by having you listen to what New Testament scholars refer to as Jesus’ “farewell discourse” (John 14:1-17:26).
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you … Where I am you cannot come.” (John 13:33)
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come again to you. Yet a little while, and the world will no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:18)
“But when the Advocate [i.e. the Holy Spirit] comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father … he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:26-27)
“A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me.”
In these chapters, that include our gospel text for this Sunday (John 15:27-28; 16:4b-24), Jesus tells his disciples everything they need to know before he leaves them. But where’s he going? … Well, he’s going to die on a cross for one thing. Only that’s not how Jesus tells it. The way he tells it, he’s leaving them in charge while he’s gone. Yes, he’ll be back; but in the meantime, his “To-Do-List” is so long it raises some anxiety in the disciples about how long he’ll be away. “A little while,” Jesus reassures them, “and you will see me.” Well …
Yes, a few of them did … later on … after his resurrection. But … then Jesus was gone again, as he ascended into heaven – bringing our humanity back into unity with God the Father for all eternity (cf. John 17). You see, a little while became a long while. A long while became a life time. Ten years turned into a hundred, then five hundred, then some two thousand. And now, from where we sit today in 2018, it’s been so long … some of us wonder if we’ve not been “left behind” like some characters in a Tim LaHaye novel and orphaned after all.
My friends, is Jesus gone or isn’t he? If he’s gone, then where has he gone? And “what in the world” will we do without him?! (Here’s that anxiety of the disciples I mentioned earlier.) But, if he’s not gone, then where is Jesus exactly? Why doesn’t he show himself? Give us a sign! Right? … This week at worship, as we celebrate the “birthday of the Church” called Pentecost, Jesus will do just that. Just for you!
In the meantime … God’s grace.