In Texas during the Depression, Ira Yates was like many other ranchers and farmers. He had a lot of land, and a lot of debt. Mr. Yates wasn’t able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, and he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for the barest necessities, his family (like many others) had to live on government subsidy.
One day a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a contract. At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, 30 years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day. And Mr. Yates owned it all.
When he purchased the land, his deed included the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he’d been living on relief: a multimillionaire living in poverty. The problem? He didn’t know the oil was there even though he owned it.
It is fair to say that you and I are a lot like Mr. Yates at times. We are heirs of a vast treasure and yet we live in spiritual and emotional poverty. We are entitled to the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s energizing power; yet we live unaware of our birthright. Pentecost is the Feast Day each year when we gather to remember how rich we are. We gather to reignite the fire of that first Pentecost, and to turn in our spiritual rags for spiritual resources, that, like Mr. Yates’ oil wells, go deep into our Christian roots and heritage.
As Jesus is assembled with his disciples in verses after today’s gospel, he repeats his assurance of God’s peace and adds, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20, v. 21). This was the charge to ministry that was to shape their lives from then on. But, to accomplish the formidable task of bearing truth to the world, God did not intend for the disciples to be sent forth alone. Just as the Holy Spirit had been present with Jesus in full measure throughout his ministry, so this same empowerment would be available for the disciples as they work to build a Church.
And it was time for the Body of Christ in the whole world to be empowered as well. He tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. The promise that God had made to Abraham, that he and his children would be a blessing to all the nations of the world was being fulfilled. The promises to Israel now extend through Jesus to the Spirit—and to all the nations of the world. Jesus bridges the gap between fallen humanity and a holy, righteous God. And then to insure that these new children of God can live into this new, life-giving relationship with God and with each other, he sends the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is described as both wind and fire. In Hebrew and in Greek the same word means both wind and spirit. Both cleanse and both can consume. They are both awesome and dangerous. Because when they are received by those who confess Jesus as Lord, nothing is the same. All things become new and the process of transformation and sanctification begins. But too often, we don’t live like the blessed children of God that we are. Scripture tells us that by our fruits, we shall be known. Likewise, by our lack of fruit or the spoiled fruit we display, we are also known, and so we show ourselves to be spiritual paupers, or actually working against the Spirit. The results can be devastating to personal lives and to faith communities like our own.
Just like what happened some years ago in the Gulf of Mexico with the horrendous, seemingly unstoppable oil leak, we can spew forth “unholy oil” in ways that kill, pollute, waste, and bring about destruction in the Church and in God’s intention for our lives.
These are harsh indictments, but in order to heal and grow, we in the church need to name our dis-eases. It’s time to stop making excuses for ourselves: My life has been hard, my marriage stinks, my job is stressful, my health is failing, the kids are out of control, I’m lonely, I’m depressed about the state of the world and the terrible injustice, and oh this horrible political nightmare that plays itself out us day after day on television…the list goes on. Sounds a lot like life! We are miserable when we try to navigate it without the Spirit. But the Spirit, when we give the Spirit full reign, helps us work through our suffering, disappointments, and anger.
We have not because we ask not! Ask and you shall receive! Seek and you shall find! Knock and the door will be opened to you! God’s Holy Spirit is alive, a consuming fire for the dross in our lives, and a powerful presence to fill the voids left by the cleansing fire.
All of us here are Christians. But are we living in the power of the Holy Spirit? We can tell by the fruit we bear or the lack of it. Take your own personal inventory. The fruit of the Spirit as Paul tells us in Galatians is love, peace, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness, and self-control. Pentecost is the celebration of God’s fullness, imagination and love breaking into the world and empowering us to bear the fruit of the Spirit. It’s a choice each one of us must make.
Like the disciples, we are huddled here together this morning. Are we willing to invite the Holy Spirit to refresh, renew, and empower us, so that we can produce fruit for God’s Kingdom? Are we available to God in the fullness that God intends for our lives? Can God count on each one of us to be part of what God wants to do at, in and through Christ Church?
I believe that God wants to do something extraordinary in our churches. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t have accepted the call to be a priest. The Spirit of God is here, waiting patiently, and that same Spirit wants to break out. There is no limit to what can be accomplished in this place if we allow and invite the Holy Spirit to take control.
Let me tell you a story. When I was serving St. Mark’s Church in Mount Kisco, I took the Acolytes to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the Acolyte Festival each year. One year, we had an unusual, marvelous, extra experience. On the Cathedral grounds live several large peacocks. One is particularly king around the place. The security guards named him “The Bishop” because he apparently rules the grounds. He was a splendid creature—all white with hints of pastels.
When we were leaving the Cathedral this peacock was in the parking lot, blocking everyone from leaving. He stood there in full plume, spectacular as he displayed his beautiful feathers and strutted in circles in full array. His beautiful plumes quivered and shook as he danced and showed us his finery. It was a breathtaking display, so I turned off the engine and we got out of the car to get a closer look. “The Bishop” continued to dance in all his glory for everyone who gathered to watch him.
I can’t help but think that this is how beautiful we appear to God when we function in the fullness of God’s spirit. God delights in us just as we delighted in this creature of God who performed for us at his best. Let us pray… Come Holy Spirit, come and fill us fresh and new. Cleanse us and purge us of those things that keep you from breaking into our lives and setting our souls on fire with your love and power in ways that we have never before experienced.
Come Holy Spirit, and cleanse us from thoughts and deeds and words that hinder and harm your work, instead of building up your church. Come Holy Spirit, come and inspire our hearts so that we will be witnesses to your love and grace in our community and in the world. Help us to live into being the very blessed and gifted children you call us to be.
Come Holy Spirit, come and grow in us, we pray, the fruit of your Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, gentleness, and self-control, which result in magnanimous generosity of spirit and love; for against such things nothing can prevail. Amen
 The Rev. Dan Rondeau, “Come, Holy Spirit,” CSS Publishing.