Drawn out of ourselves


More about El Greco’s Pentecost can be seen HERE.

A brief sermon for the Day of Pentecost.

The scriptures are

Most of you know that today is my last Sunday with you until August. I’ll be going on a two-month sabbatical. While I’ve talked and written about hoping to do a lot of walking during the next few months, while I’m in Spain, I plan to do a lot of LOOKING. Looking at the places where various saints have prayed. Looking at churches. And especially looking at art. 

One of the paintings I hope to see up close is El Greco’s vision of Pentecost. Though I like most of El Greco’s work, when I was taking a class a while back, it was his Pentecost painting that overwhelmed me. I did a report on it for the class, but it’s still inside me. I’m not finished with it yet. Or, perhaps I should say, El Greco’s Pentecost is not finished with me yet. 

The painting portrays the story we celebrate today when the Holy Spirit appeared over the disciples and other followers in flames of fire. El Greco brings Chapter 1 of Acts into Chapter 2, as he places Mary, the mother of Jesus in the center of the painting. She’s there, along with all the disciples, along with others, and as El Greco does in other work, all the figures are elongated, but here, it’s as though the power of the Holy Spirit is drawing them up and out of themselves– to be more alive in the world, to be more faithful, to be more loving, to be more available. 

The Holy Spirit does many things, as we see in today’s Gospel. The Spirit advocates (that is, gives us a kind of second wind when we most need it.). The Holy Spirit blows into our lives with truth and empowers us to tell the truth, even when it’s hard or makes people uneasy. The Holy Spirit teaches, calms, and brings peace. The Holy Spirit answers and abides and leads us into love. 

But especially today, as we do our best to emerge from the pandemic, as we celebrate the baptisms of Wesley and Bennett, and as we pray for one another as we begin this summer season; I’m drawn again to that way in which El Greco shows the Spirit drawing us all out of ourselves. 

On the Day of Pentecost, we heard how the Spirit of God helped people of wildly different backgrounds and cultures, of different languages and tongues suddenly understand each other.  From our standpoint, looking at the differences in our culture, it might seem like understanding others’ languages is the easy part. How does a person advocating gun control understand a member of the NRA?  How does a Pro-choice person have a conversation with a person advocating stricter laws? How does a single person relate to a person who is all about their children? How does a young person just starting out on their own begin to relate to an older person who is nearing the end of life?  This is where we rely on the power of God. This is where we look and listen for the Holy Spirit. This is where we pray, like the early Church, “Come, Holy Spirit. Enlighten. Anoint. Cheer. Teach. Enable. Come, Holy Spirit, fill us with your love.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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