“Praying in the Upper Room”

A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 22, 2022

Preached at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Nativity

in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and

prayers, and dispose the way of your servants towards the

attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the

changes and chances of this mortal life, we may ever be

defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus

Christ our Lord. Amen.

My dear friends, my beloved family in Jesus Christ, we find ourselves in a time of transition. Transition is never easy because it means that we must change. We must let go of the known and move towards the unknown. Transition can be confusing, uncertain, and frustrating. It can provoke in us worry, anxiety, and fear. It is a kind of death, and we can find ourselves grieving for what we knew, what we loved, and what gave us comfort.

But, if we believe that what is yet to come will be good, worthwhile, and perhaps even better for us, transition can provide us with a wonderful opportunity—a time to imagine, to dream, and to hope. Even more importantly, it allows us the opportunity to plan for ways to make our hopes and dreams a reality.

As significant is the opportunity to realize that we are not alone in this experience of transition. No, we are part of a community of faith. We travel together. And in the unity which connects and binds us together, we will find the ability to confront any challenges or obstacles which we encounter.

Perhaps we will find opportunities to strengthen and build up that community. There might even be celebrations with amazing times of hospitality. Who knows, there might even be a feast including delicious Latin food with things like rice and beans and pernil!

All who have been celebrating the joyous Feast of Easter—a time of rejoicing over fifty days in which we give thanks for the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead—are about to enter a most significant and meaningful transition. This coming Thursday, we will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. It will invite us to join the disciples of Jesus in that Upper Room as they gather in prayer for the coming of the promised comforter and Advocate—the Paraclete—who will be sent to assist them in carrying out the vocation and mission which had been entrusted to them.

I find myself fascinated each year as I contemplate the disciples following the Ascension. What trauma they had endured—the passion and death of their Master. The unexpected reality of the Resurrection. The flight to Galilee—running for fear of their lives. The beauty and comfort of those encounters. The brevity of that healing time with the Lord before he left them again. The danger of sneaking back into Jerusalem and of hiding out in that same room in which they had celebrated the Last Supper and in which Jesus had washed their feet.

They had no idea what was coming. Jesus had told them that it would be better for them if he left and sent the Spirit of Truth. But, they had no idea what that meant. All they knew was that they were alone, afraid, and unsure of what was coming. It was entirely possible that things would not go well for them.

Perhaps they imagined the worst—the authorities might come for them too, haul them away, bet them, lock them up—they might even be scourged, stripped, and crucified as well. How had it come to this? They had such hopes and dreams.

What they did not realize was that there was something missing, something lacking, something which they did not have. They were like the cowardly lion in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. So, they did the only thing which they knew to do. They did what Jesus had told them to do. And so, they spent nine days united in prayer. They prayed for the coming of the Spirit.

On that ninth day, the unexpected, the unimagined happened. The Holy Spirit descended on them with Wind and Fire—with power. How I love this Greek word for power “dynamis!” From it we get the words dynamic and dynamite. There was an explosion!

Witness the transformation! Instead of shivering and cowering behind those lock doors, they tore them open and ran into the streets. They wanted to tell everyone about Jesus. Authorities? Bring them to us, we want to tell them about Jesus? Send us to jail? We will tell them about Jesus! And so powerful was the witness—not only of their words, but their actions, that people began to remark on how much like Christ they were—and to call them Christians!

Dear ones, Pentecost is yet to come. We will soon enter into those holy nine days. Let us follow the example of the faithful disciples. Let us commit to praying each day for the coming of the Spirit into our hearts, into our families, and into this community. Who knows then, what might happen on the day of Pentecost? We too might have the power of our Confirmation reignited in us and run out on to Wyandotte Street to tell the whole world about Jesus!

I invite you now to open your bulletins, and to join with me as we pray together the Novena to the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

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