Saturday, May 10, 2008

To what end?

And now, Utquid effusio hæc? 'To what end all this?' For it is not to be imagined this pouring was casual, as the turning over a tub, nor that the Spirit did run waste; then it were Utquid perdito hæc? An end it had. And that follows now; 'and your sons,' &c. The Spirit is given to many ends, many middle, but one last, and that last is in the last word, salvabitur; the end then of this pouring is the salvation of mankind. Mankind was upon the point to perish, and the Spirit was poured, as a precious balm or water, to recover and save it. So the end of all is--and mark it well! that the Spirit may save the flesh, by the spiritualizing it; not, the flesh destroy the Spirit, by carnalizing it; not the flesh weigh down the Spirit to earth hither, but the Spirit lift up the flesh thither to heaven, whence it came.

Lancelot Andrewes, SERMON XI
Preached before the King's Majesty, at Greenwich, on the Twenty-fourth of May,
A.D. MDCXVIII being Whit-Sunday

We have now reached the culmination of Eastertide, the Great 50 Days: the Feast of Pentecost. With it, the power of New Life manifest in the Resurrection breaks forth into the New Life of the new Church, born on this day. The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost unlocked the Resurrection from an event primarily about Christ, opening the Kingdom to all the world through the preaching and witness of the disciples. The entire sequence of Easter, from the moment the tomb was discovered empty, through the encounters with the Risen Christ, the Ascension of Christ to the Right Hand of the Father, and in the firey gift of Spirit – the entire season is one long crescendo of meaning, one rich icon of the love and transforming will of God.

Pentecost tells us many, many things. Among them is the truth about our value, our worth, our mattering to God. On Pentecost we rejoice in the birth of a community, but we also give thanks that the Spirit lifts us to heaven in worship, in our desires, and in how we see and treat others. The Spirit has saved the flesh, has saved humanity not by rebuking it or destroying it but by revealing its holiness, its profound value. This humanity was once made in God’s Image; today that Image is revealed once more. This is the message that goes "to the ends of the earth." That is the end of this day; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Alleluia, Alleluia!

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