Hebrews 11:33-12:2
Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38, 19:27-30

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! This morning I’d like to expand on a few things I mentioned before the Kneeling Vespers service on Pentecost last week. The Leave-taking of Pentecost was yesterday, but even today with the commemoration of the Sunday of All Saints, we continue looking to Pentecost. And from today until Lent, we’ll count all of the Sundays by their distance from Pentecost – today is the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, and it will continue like that until Great Lent begins. With the Feast of Pentecost, we Liturgically enter again into modern times, into the life of the Church after the Ascension and after the Descent of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends on the apostles, and we begin immediately to see some of what Christ had promised them—that they would do incredible things and work miracles and be led into the understanding of all truth when the Comforter was sent. After the descent of the Holy Spirit the Apostles preach in tongues, they are filled with a new boldness for the preaching of the Gospel, and moving on through the New Testament we see them build the Body of Christ and work many miracles (Christ had even told them at one point that they would work greater miracles than He did by the power of the Holy Spirit). Pentecost is celebrated as the birth of the Church – God dwelling in man in a new way. The Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles at Pentecost not because He’d never worked in the world until then (the Holy Spirit was present and working in the Creation from the beginning, from Genesis). But He descends on the Apostles because His relationship with man was new/different because of the Incarnation of Christ – in addition to working in the world, He now lives in Christians and works in us and in the world. This is the time we live in today, the era of the Church, the time of God’s working in the Creation through the Holy Spirit calling all of us to relationship with Christ. Part of the effect of the life of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the Church in the world we saw last week – we’re living in the time after the coming of the Bridegroom. Before Christ came, the people offered sacrifices to God. Then there was the brief period when Christ was here on the earth, and then there was the Ascension. And Christ told the Apostles that after the Bridegroom was gone, then would be the time for fasting (the Pharisees were upset that the Apostles didn’t fast, and Christ said you don’t when the Bridegroom is present). By fasting we can understand ‘now is the time for the living out of the commandments.’ In this time we’re working, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to model our lives after Christ. To bury the old man, to put off the skin of sin and of death, and to be clothed in virtue and in Christ. But so often we forget, all of us do – I do frequently – we forget that this struggle for how we live is not a struggle that we undertake alone. WE don’t stop sinning on our own, we don’t lay aside sloth and judging and gluttony and greed and all those things that we’re so easily caught up in, we don’t lay those things aside on our own. We don’t have the strength to succeed in living as Christians on our own. Christ specifically told the Apostles one time that they wouldn’t be able to live out His commandments on their own, but help was being sent. We can do all things through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. It’s very easy for us to get caught up in our own lives, in all the things we’re doing and dealing with and trying to accomplish. And we become the masters of our lives – we try to get everything done on our own power. But we can’t do it. This is why the Holy Spirit is sent to the Apostles – the indwelling presence of God in the lives of His people (the reality that the Holy Spirit lives in us) finally gives humankind the opportunity to live as we were created to be – to live in the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit comes to empower and enliven the followers of Christ. Not so that we can do whatever we want to do (we don’t tell God what we want and then use the power of the Holy Spirit to get it). God lives in us to lead us and to guide us to the Truth, which is Christ, and to give us the grace and the strength we need to abandon the fallen things of this world to hold on to Christ alone. Every other path, no matter how enjoyable it may seem, every other path leads to misery and to death. So in the afterglow of the Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit I want to encourage us all to think about our lives in a Holy Spirit-guided and Christ-centered way. Especially with our entering the Fast of Ss. Peter and Paul tomorrow, it provides us with a perfect opportunity to reflect on the reality that the Holy Spirit dwells in me. My task is to seek His guidance, seek the face of Christ – enter into the fast, pray (so important!), read the Scriptures, most of all be filled with joy that Christ is come and has sent us the Comforter. The Church gives us today the Feast of All Saints as an encouragement, they did it, they lived in Christ, and by the grace of the Holy Sprit, we can too. So I’d to end with the last few verses of our Epistle reading from this morning: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And may He grant that we do the same. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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