Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. John 14:12-14
Uh oh. Do the works that Jesus does? And, in fact, do greater works than Jesus does? Oy vey!
How’s that going for you? Speaking for myself, I’d have to say it’s not going so well, at least not most of the time. Thankfully, though, I am not alone, not even in the human sense: I am part of something which is global, the worldwide community of Christ, in all its diversity and beauty, in all its mystery and majesty and power, and, yes, all its problems too. But it is much more than just a human institution (Thanks be to God!), it is universal, transcending time itself because it is the Body of Christ, of which we are all a part, of which the rich Anglican tradition is one expression, of which Jesus Christ alone is head. In him, in his power of creative love, and in the encouragement of, and the partnership with, the whole community, Jesus’ works become possible, even for me, even for us, even for a very human church. And even greater works because since Jesus of Nazareth made these promises to the first disciples, there have been and are billions of us spanning the millennia.
But how can all this even be possible? The text makes it sound like Jesus went off and left us: “I am going to the Father.” Well, that’s how it sounds at first, and that’s how it sounded to the first disciples too, apparently, because clearly they needed some reassurance. They got what they asked for, what they needed, not necessarily what they wanted, although that too would come. To ask for something ‘in Jesus’ name’ is to ask to be in tune with the will of God. It’s not to ask for winning numbers in the lottery, or a parking spot, or, you fill in the _______________. The disciples asked for reassurance, they asked not to be alone, they asked for strength to do the seemingly impossible task given them. They didn’t know it yet, but they asked for the Holy Spirit; they asked for Pentecost.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:26-27
On that first Day of Pentecost Jesus’ promise was fulfilled, and the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church was born. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of the risen Christ, was poured out in full measure on that small band of Jesus’ first followers. In that power they moved out into the world, beyond Jerusalem and Judea, beyond Galilee and Tyre and Sidon, beyond, far beyond the world trod by Jesus of Nazareth, reaching greater audiences than ever he had, proclaiming the healing and reconciling Gospel of God’s love in Christ Jesus. Thus, truly, in-Spired by Christ risen and present in all places through the Holy Spirit, they did greater works than Jesus of Nazareth, and the church was born.
We celebrate again the great Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the church, third of three greatest festivals in the church calendar (along with Easter and Christmas), because we too are gifted with the very same Spirit. We too are the church of Christ. We too are blessed with the peace in abundance which the world cannot give. We too are gifted with power enough to remake the world in partnership with God, if we are willing to let go of control and let God remake our hearts and minds also. Are we, perhaps, afraid of a changing world, and a changing church? No need. “My peace I leave with you.” Are we worried, fearful even, about an Anglican church, about a Cathedral parish, that won’t necessarily be the same forever? No need. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Maybe by now you know the old saying of which I am so fond: “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.” Pentecost is God’s seal on that.
Thanks be to God!