God works from the inside out. Today, the feast of Pentecost, we celebrate God working in as and through us.
Traditionally we say that Pentecost begins with the story we heard in our reading from Acts this morning. But, we might say that Pentecost actually begins, with the words of the angel to Mary, in the Gospel of Luke: “”The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Mary’s response is so powerful that it has become known as the “Magnificat” – we pray it and sing it on Christmas. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;” proclaims Mary.
In summary we might say that from inside a small room the Holy Spirit speaks to Mary and intervenes in the human condition. From inside a woman’s heart and body, God enters human flesh and is born a baby. From inside the upper room where the disciples hid in fear, the Holy Spirit enters – fear evaporates, and hope prevails. The Holy Spirit sends them all out into the world, filled with the Spirit, to do God’s work of love and compassion. God works from the inside out.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and the sacrament of baptism – both examples of the spirit moving in and through humanity.
Baptism, along with Holy Communion, are the two primary sacraments of the Episcopal Church – given to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. They are sacraments because they reveal the nature of God’s grace. A sacrament is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible spiritual grace – in other wards the sacraments reveal on the outside of our lives what God is doing on the inside.
So in baptism the grace that is revealed is the love of God acting in human life to restore order out of chaos, new life out death. The Holy Eucharist is a sacrament because it is the ultimate act of hospitality, of God’s love manifest in the life of Jesus. In the sacraments God’s grace is revealed as radical hospitality and love that transforms human life.
The sacraments of baptism and holy Eucharist reveal God’s grace in the acts of giving, bestowing, and receiving. Each person ends up with a forehead drenched in water and dripping from the oily mark of the cross – these are signs of God’s abundance of grace, of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon us, and now present within us. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, the special gifts that each of us are blessed with, are enlivened in baptism.
Over the last five weeks we have heard scripture readings from Acts of the Apostle, which describe the life of the early church – how leaders were picked, how the church was to function, what the disciples were to do. And now we have come to the place in the Acts of the Apostle where the Holy Spirit blew over the gathered disciples and community, and transformed them into the people of God, the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit enlivened the gifts of each and the church was born.
Walter Kasper, a Roman Catholic Cardinal who spent his life working for Christian Unity, says this about the Holy Spirit’s work in human life: Everywhere that life breaks forth and comes into being, everywhere that new life as it were seethes and bubbles, and even, in the form of hope, everywhere that life is violently devastated, throttled, gagged and slain — wherever true life exists, there the Spirit of God is at work.
Whenever the Christian community baptizes a new member we renew our baptismal covenant. We renew our commitment to live into the gifts God has given us, to let God work from the inside out.
In just a moment we will baptize Alexander James. For a month we have been praying for Alexander, his parents, god-parents, and this parish. We have prayed for Alexander James, forgoing his surname, because in baptism we all have the same surname – Christian. Today, each of us has the same last name, each of us belong to the same family of God called Christian. Now we welcome Alexander into this family. May the Holy Spirit fill him with all good blessings and gifts for a healthy spirit filled life of faith. And may the Spirit renew the same in us. May God work from the inside out. May we go out and share the Good News of God’s love for all.