Dear Friends in Christ,
At the end of this week, the calendar page turns from May to June. Nine days later we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost, an ancient harvest festival and, for us as Christians, the day when we celebrate the bestowing and outbreak of the Holy Spirit.
As some of you know, it was a folk Mass written for the feast of Pentecost that was my introduction to the Episcopal Church. I cannot think of the preface for this feast without hearing its setting. The music helps me remember these powerful words, “it is right and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ our Lord in fulfillment of his true promise, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven lighting upon the disciples to teach them and to lead them into all truth uniting people of many tongues in the confession of one faith and giving to your Church the power to serve you as a royal priesthood and to preach the Gospel to all nations therefore we praise you…” To this day, I am deeply moved by the power of those words and the work of the Holy Spirit it presents.
The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Truth. In this age of spin and cacophony from news outlets and public officials, where truth is seen by some as something personal and relative, I give thanks that God’s truth is bigger than all others. I often think of it ontologically. To apply the method of St. Anselm in his ontological truth of the existence of God, we can conceive a truth greater than all other truths, therefore, such a truth must exist. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all Truth. And so we pray that it may be so.
The Holy Spirit is a spirit of unity — the spirit brings people and things together. I have come to believe that whenever there is a desire to separate based on difference, the Holy Spirit is not present. It is this spirit that guides our ecumenical work and our work in reconciliation. When we engage in this work, we are participating in the work of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is power to serve and proclaim. Jesus sent the Spirit to empower the work we do as the Church, as we preach the Gospel in word and deed to everyone we meet. We are sealed in this Spirit at Baptism and it is strengthened and affirmed in confirmation.
This Spirit of truth, unity, and power is ours through Christ. It is a gift freely given to us. The call to us on this day is to use that gift to the glory of God.
As we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, I ask you to join me in praying daily the words of this ancient hymn:
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire
and lighten with celestial fire;
thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy seven-fold gifts impart.
Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love;
enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our blinded sight.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of both, to be but one,
that through the ages all along
this may be our endless song:
Praise to thine eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Yours in the power of the Spirit,
The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee
"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not
Dear Friends in Christ,
We hear these words quoted above in our Easter liturgies this year. The angelic question at the beginning of this verse is one that I have reflected on many times. I hear the question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” as a wake-up call, a call to order my priorities in line with God’s priorities, and my desires with God’s desires. It is an invitation to self-examination, repentance, and prayer. Sin is, after all, missing the mark and looking for fulfillment in that which cannot fulfill. The angelic call to the women and to us is a call to turn and look in the right places.
But what struck me this year, despite all the rich meditation reflecting on this phrase can bring, is that if we stay here we have missed Luke’s call. Remember, Luke’s Gospel is the Gospel of the Spirit, a two-part work about the Spirit at work in Jesus and the same Spirit at work in Christ’s continuing body, the Church. To focus on the angelic question is to look inward when the women provide us the example of what our response to the news of the risen Jesus must be.
“They remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.”
We, too, are called to leave the tomb and go forth and proclaim that Christ is Risen. To remember Jesus’ words and proclaim his resurrection is our call not only on this Easter Day but every day. We are called to remember all that Jesus taught us — to love our neighbor by actions of love and compassion, and to forgive those who would or have harmed us — and then do it.
By God’s grace, the early Church grew because the first Christians availed themselves of that grace and power to live lives that showed they were followers of Christ. People were drawn by the love they showed and lived. They could do so even in the midst of difficult times, even in the face of death because they remember Jesus — his life and words — and sought to be like him. They could do so because they knew as do we that Jesus is Alive and we live in him now and will live in him forever.
The resurrection of Jesus is God’s call to a way of life. Let us proclaim this way with our lips and lives.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
Bishop of Milwaukee