Groaning for Deliverance

A Homily for Pentecost

Texts: Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us the Spirit as an advocate. Amen.

“The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.”

It has certainly felt that way for the past fourteen months – groaning under the weight of our eager expectation for things to return to something that might resemble what we used to call normal. Groaning for relief, for community, for financial relief, for a vaccine. Groaning for family and friends and coworkers and neighbors who have been separated from us, for loved ones who have been on ventilators in the ICU, groaning for relief and healing and hope of life after death. Groaning for three and a half million fellow humans killed by this wretched pandemic. Groaning for deliverance.

Our groaning this past year has been a microcosm, a small glimpse at the entirety of salvation history. We have lived through trials just as countless generations before us. We’ve confronted the same fear, grief, anguish, isolation and longing as God’s people throughout the ages – groaning like Abraham and Sarah as they longed for a promised child, groaning like enslaved Hebrews in Egypt as they cried out to the Lord, yearning to breathe free, groaning like the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah as they fearfully watched Assyria devour nations and desolate entire peoples, groaning like the exiles who laid down and wept by the rivers of Babylon, groaning like the disciples who hid in fear in the upper room after the crucifixion, groaning like the Roman Christians who faced persecution.

Throughout all of history, God’s elect have faced the ills and evils of this fallen world, and all of creation has longed for redemption. The powers of sin and death have had their say. Listen carefully, and you will hear the very stones crying out, “Hosanna! Save us!”

But now, beloved, our joy has been made complete. Just as we have glimpsed the entirety of history in our suffering, we have seen our deliverance breaking into this world. The very Son of God, the one through whom all things were made, took on human flesh and lived among us.

And just when it seemed that grief would have the final word, the tide changed. On Easter morn, Mary saw the Lord! Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, is the first-born from among the dead! These great fifty days have born witness to our consolation. Christ, though dead, has risen victorious! Alleluia! The grave has been opened, the bonds of death have been shattered! Blessed be the name of the Lord! The labor pains are passing as new and everlasting life is born forth from the sepulcher!

These past weeks, we have seen our Lord appear to the disciples – first to Mary Magdalene, sending her to proclaim the good news as the apostle to the apostles, and then to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, continuing to teach them, opening up Scripture, revealing himself to them in the breaking of the bread. That very evening, he appeared to the disciples, behind locked doors, and then a week later, he appeared to Thomas, inviting him to behold his wounded hands and touch his pierced side. And, ten days ago, Christ led his friends out to Bethany where he blessed them and ascended into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

Even now, while we await Christ’s coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, groaning in anticipation of the new creation that is already here but yet to come, we know that we have not been abandoned.

The Advocate has come, the Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life. She who was poured out upon the Apostles in Jerusalem at Pentecost and who sealed us at out Baptism is present in the midst of us. She comes like a rushing wind, setting our hearts ablaze and our tongues afire. She unites us in the Body of Christ as one people, a royal priesthood. She is the presence of God among us, urging us into ministry.

Listen! Do you hear that rushing wind?

Do you hear the Spirit moving?

Do you hear all of creation breathing a sigh of relief?

The Spirit is being poured out upon us, strengthening us in our weakness, interceding for us with sighs to deep for words.

This changing of the seasons is a time to begin again, to gather and pray and discern. Dare to dream dreams, to envision the coming Kingdom of God, to see the new creation God is bringing forth! Be bold to prophesy in tongues of humans and angels, to proclaim the glorious Gospel of our Risen Lord! Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! Hear her calling us into ministry, to proclaim good news to a world groaning in agony. Hear God’s call to you to join in this redemptive, to be stewards of this coming Kingdom!

Amen.

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