On this Pentecost Sunday, I would like to do something different. Rather than a preached homily, I would like to lead you in a guided prayer meditation.
In order to do this, I’m going to ask everyone to use their imagination. This prayer will be very personal because each of us are different. There is no right way to do this. Simply try and follow my words and imagine what it might be like.
So get comfortable in your seat. Put anything you might have in your hands on the floor and put your hands in your lap and – this is the hard part – close your eyes gently and keep them closed.
Now imagine being one of the apostles on Easter Sunday. The past few days have been catastrophic, marked not only by the tragic death of Jesus, but also by your own spectacular failure.
After spending so much time with Jesus, watching him perform miracles of healing, even raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, and hearing him speak about God’s mercy, you deserted him in his hour of need. You ran away, even denied him. You couldn’t’ even stay awake with him as he prayed in agony in Gethsemane.
Afraid, you are with the others in that upper room with the door locked. You are so confused and ashamed and disappointed. Your heart is so heavy.
Quietly but suddenly, the risen Jesus is standing right in front of you! Seeing him again, alive but still wounded with the nail marks in his hands and feet, brings back all those memories of the past day.
You cringe inwardly and wait for him to blast you for your unbelief and cowardliness yet again. But instead, he says the last thing you expect: “Peace be with you.”
You gasp. He says it again. “Peace be with you.” No condemnation, no anger, not even a mild rebuke. Just pure, powerful mercy. Mercy. He still loves you. He still treasures you. All he is concerned about is that you find peace.
Your heart melts. You begin to sob. Joy, gratitude, wonder – you can’t sort out all the emotions, fills your being. You want to express these feelings, but words fail you. You are looking at Jesus with your mouth open and nothing is coming out.
The Jesus says something else to you totally unexpected: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,”
You gasp and think, “Me? I’ve just screwed up big time and you want to send me?”
Then you realize that the Father had just sent Jesus back to you as a sign of his love and mercy. The Father has sent Jesus so that you can see, feel and experience what love, real love, total and unconditional love is and looks like.
Once again, you are overwhelmed by it all. Jesus wants to send you to do what he did. But how, how could you possibly show such love? How could you be like Christ, totally trusting in the Father and laying down your life like Jesus?
Sensing your confusion, Jesus, looking intently into your eyes, leans into your face, breathes on you and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
You fall to your knees as if you’ve been knocked over. Your heart melts once again. This encounter now is personal, intimate, overwhelming. The Holy Spirit is pouring God’s love and mercy, strength and courage into our heart.
That’s how Jesus is sending you, in the power of the Holy Spirit, forgiven, filled with his love and mercy, equipping you to do the same.
The whole room and your closest friends are now enveloped in an overwhelming and unknown sense of peace and joy. All you can do is look at Jesus in awe and amazement and love.
For the next 40 days Jesus comes to you, teaches you and unfolds the meaning of all that happened during the horror of his passion and death.
Then Jesus leaves you, ascends to heaven and tells you to pray and wait for the Holy Spirit again.
For the past 10 days, you have been doing this, each day asking, “Will this be the day?”
Then it happens. Whatever your expectations might have been, they are literally blown away. The Holy Spirit’s descent massively exceeds whatever you thought.
Not only do you see tongues of fire but you are on fire. It is as if your heart and soul are bursting and you begin to sing and praise and share the good news, the best possible news to whomever might listen.
Slowly come back to this present moment. Open your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
My sisters and brothers, this is the same Holy Spirit that you and I received at baptism and confirmation. No different. The same Holy Spirit that Jesus breathed on them.
It is now up to us to set Thurston County on fire. It is up to us to share the gift we have received with others. It is up to us to embrace the mission of Jesus and to allow the Holy Spirit to send us out.
Let us pray for the courage to accept this us gift, experience this gift and share this gift. Let us beg the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth.