Today is, of course, Pentecost which marks the conclusion of the Great 50 days of Easter. Pentecost has ancient roots but, for us, it commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples after His Ascension. Today, at both services, we also witness the Baptism of a baby – Emilia at 8 and Ethan at 10:15 – and we welcome them as Christians who are christened into the reality of the coming of the Holy Spirit, marked as Christ’s own forever with the fruits of the kingdom of God. We are all reminded that we are all imprinted with the Holy Spirit as Christ’s own and the continuing revelation of Jesus’ resurrection in our lives for all time. Because of Jesus, we have the Spirit of God in us and we share in the first fruits of God’s blessing.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. [Romans 8:22-27]
Hope is one of those first fruits of the Spirit that Paul speaks of in Romans. At our Baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which means that we can trust in God’s promises. We trust because of the triumph of the Christ who delivers, who made redemption not only possible but a reality. Hoping, even when we cannot see any light at the end of our particular tunnel, just may produce the patience we all need to live as though God’s kingdom has already come. Even if we have no reason to expect anything good to happen to us yet we are able to trust, somehow, in the mystery of God’s grace and love: this is called hope.
Patience is another fruit of the Spirit. We have been dashed to pieces, felt the punishing retribution of the world, yet we kept hope in Christ’s love for us. Patience is that ability to wait upon the Lord and continue to call upon the Lord in hope, even amidst times of suffering, doubt, and heartache. It is also not allowing our joy, when joy is our lot, to prevent us from speaking gratitude to God in the silence. Patience keeps us from moving on from the reality of God after prayer has been answered, dreams realized, or possibility awakened.
Gratitude is that final fruit of the Spirit for today's’ reflection. We have hoped in God’s goodness in Christ, and we have, if needed, waited for it with patience, and now, we are thankful, regardless of where God’s Spirit takes us. The reality of God in our lives, in spite of it all, is a cause for celebration and our Baptism reminds us that God’s presence is never far away; only as far away as our asking, praying, or living into that reality. Because God loves us, because God has Baptized us into His kingdom here and now, and we give thanks to God. Even if we have groaned outwardly and inwardly in our hearts and bodies because of hardship, the God who has saved us in Christ gives us a reason to be thankful: because of His persistent love. God’s Baptism doesn’t mean we will have money, fame, a house, security, or anything material. All these things are nice and, for most of us, they seem essential for happiness and hope, but they have little to do with the Holy Spirit that Jesus promises His disciples.
Material things do not transform our spirits. What transforms us is living into the reality that the God of all the universe, who is still active among us, loves us completely and unconditionally, even if we are dirt poor, sick and/or struggling; mostly then. And Jesus shows us this by answering our hope, patience and gratitude with His presence and all too powerful love. Hope, patience, and gratitude, with a great deal of love, are the first fruits of Christ’s spirit that we are given at Baptism and are called this day to foster. These fruits can actually position us, with the fire of the Holy Spirit, to build the kingdom of God.