June 7, 2019
From the Rt. Rev. David Reed
To the Clergy and People of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Try to imagine a church wrestling to identify its purpose and to find its footing. (This is not your church, of course, but you’ve heard about things like this.) This church is trying to do this work, while also finding itself often at odds with the prevailing cultures. To those inside this church it feels as if those outside the church respond to them mostly with indifference, ridicule or open hostility. And, as if that’s not enough, there are problems and disputes within the church–not over carpet colors, hymn selection and coffee quality, but over enduring, significant issues: Who is Jesus? What do his death and resurrection mean for our church? Who gets to lead and make decisions? Who is Jesus for? Who’s in and who’s out? Again, I know this is not the situation in the parish or mission that you love, but it happens.
And it’s been happening ever since the Church was birthed in the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which we celebrate this Sunday, June 9. Read Acts 2: 1-11, put on red, and show up to worship and celebrate. (It’s a very good day for a birthday cake after church.) Notice that the Spirit comes when the disciples were “all together in one place.” When we don’t show up, when we’re not together as Christ’s Body, we’ll often miss the life-transforming and the miraculous.
During the Great 50 Days of Easter, we often find ourselves (via the Gospel) back in the Upper Room with Jesus and his friends at the Last Supper. Jesus talks for a long time that night–five of St. John’s 21 chapters are devoted to his “farewell discourse.” And a good part of that is Jesus praying to our Father, Jesus in prolonged and deep conversation with God the Father. We are blessed to eavesdrop on their conversation, and by grace, it may occur to us that the Father and Son are talking about us.Anticipating Pentecost, Jesus also promises that he will send “the Advocate,” “the Spirit of truth.”
What we discover at Pentecost is that this wondrous conversation that we overhear in the Upper Room, and that we find ourselves invited into, becomes the conversation that the whole world–each and every person–is invited into. The Spirit that moved upon the face of the waters at the beginning of creation is the same Spirit by which the Word became flesh for our salvation, and is the same Spirit that descends upon that small band of disciples in Jerusalem at Pentecost, birthing the Church and opening up the Good News for all.
By this same Spirit, who is the on-going and abiding presence of Jesus Christ, we are gathered, knit together, strengthened and sent out to tell the Good News of Jesus and invite others into the conversation now among Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The story of the Church is first told in the Book of Acts. I encourage all of you to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” this story of the first apostles taking the Good News of Jesus into the world, which for them, like us, started right outside their doors.
On this website you’ll find some resources that can help you in preparing and inviting others into this study. (click here)
First things first, though. Celebrate Pentecost this Sunday. Wear red, invite friends, show up, and expect the miraculous.
Yours in the Spirit,