“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” And, through the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, who knows no lies, and wherever the Spirit leads us in words or actions, we can trust that God is the One working through us.
There are many folks who, for one reason or another, deal with a spirit that is not holy, and would never say, “Jesus is Lord.” In the charged-up world of political correctness, we might even fear offending another person or another faith if we were to say “Jesus is Lord” by the Holy Spirit. Maybe a good question for us would be, “When’s the last time we spoke publicly, “Jesus is Lord?”
It’s true that actions speak louder than words. A person who professes Christ with the actions of their lives – such as continuous works of mercy, or prayer for others – they speak “Jesus is Lord” in what they do. But St. Paul is on to something here when writing about saying “Jesus is Lord.” When speaking those words in the stillness of the night, for example, speaking them to ourselves in prayer, it is appropriate and calming. But our belief in Jesus is not only a private faith for private moments, such as the darkness and quiet of the night. It’s easy to be one with the Holy Spirit in those moments, and speak words by the Spirit.
But our faith in Christ is also a communal, public faith to be shared openly in the culture, where speaking and stating the obvious for us that “Jesus is Lord” is a pleasant reminder of who he is and what he has accomplished on our behalf. Yet, there are those times when much of the spokenness of “Jesus is Lord” has been watered down and privatized. We are certainly in need of capturing some of St. Paul’s zeal with the holy words, “Jesus is Lord,” and let the Spirit lead us. And not live a watered-down version where political correctness controls our faith in the Risen One.
Pentecost Sunday is when the tide shifts for the Apostles, and for us too. The tide shifts for them by way of being infused with everlasting courage – although they will still have their moments. They are infused with preaching, teaching, and fully embracing “Jesus is Lord” in their many languages. They receive the Spirit powerfully from Christ breathing on them first, and then again in the Upper Room after the Lord’s Ascension. That’s a lot of Spirit. Now they’re ready to hit the road and bring some Good News with them. And do so under threats, imprisonment, stoning and death. The only part missing from that short list today is the stoning.
The Pentecostal tide shifts more for us over the length of our lives by way of our being open to the Spirit. If the Spirit was infused into us the same way it happened to the Disciples, we’d be babbling too like they did. We’d be speaking like we were drunk. “What language is Fr. Riley speaking? He never spoke that before!”
My friends, we want to know that what we say and do each day for Christ is worth our effort and commitment to him. That saying “Jesus is Lord” by the Holy Spirit has a good outcome beyond the boundaries of this world and into the good side of eternal life. The way to know it’s all worth our effort of wanting the Spirit of Pentecost to lead us is to seek the 3 gifts of Christ in this Gospel.
First, he offers peace. Our Lord’s peace is not contentment and perfect solitude in this life, as attractive as that is. We are not monks who live in a town called Spencer. As good as they are, they still have their moments, especially if they drink a little too much of their beer called Spencer Ale. Our Lord’s peace – “Peace be with you” – is the continual building up of our faith over a lifetime, trusting in the end that God will not abandon us.
Peace is most fulfilling with some holy, spiritual company, present when most needed. This is why I love the Communion of Saints. They can help us find some lost keys, or pray to Jesus to remove that cancer in us, or help my team win a Stanley Cup, which is all good. But if their prayers and presence are not there at the end, bringing God’s peace that it was all worth the effort of living “Jesus is Lord,” then I will be roundly disappointed.
2nd, instead of disappointment, I’m confident there will be for us the rejoicing of the Apostles in this Gospel setting. What was the cause for their rejoicing? They saw the Risen Lord. And so will you. It was in that moment they realized that “Jesus is Lord.”
And a 3rd way the tide shifts for us on Pentecost is the sweet breath of Jesus. Our Lord’s breath is less about smell and scent, and much more about courage, guts, and memory. The courage to let the breath of Christ lead, the guts to bring forth his Good News, and the memory to speak with accuracy what God has given to the world in his Son.
This Pentecost, I pray the Spirit may penetrate every part of your life. That he infuses you. That you will be open to God’s gracious will for you. And that we will unabashedly say by the Spirit, “Jesus is Lord.”