Subtitle: Inspired, Intoxicated by the Spirit

The text of the sermon, based on John 15.26-27, 16.4b-15 and Acts 2.1-11, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the Day of Pentecost, May 23, 2021.


Pentecost. From the Greek, meaning “fiftieth.” Originally and still a Jewish harvest festival fifty days after Passover. In Christian tradition, the fiftieth day following Easter, commemorating the coming of Holy Spirit upon the first disciples.

On the night before Jesus died, he told his disciples of the coming of “the Advocate…the Spirit of truth…(who) will guide you into all truth.”

They, following Jesus’ instruction, remained in Jerusalem to await the fulfillment of his promise to send power from on high to proclaim his gospel.[1] And, on the Day of Pentecost, they felt the “rush of a violent wind,” saw “divided tongues, as of fire…resting on each of them,” and heard, from their own Galilean, Aramaic-speaking mouths, the proclamation in many languages of God’s word. Those who listened, a cosmopolitan assembly of races and nations, all pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration, were “amazed and astonished.” For all understood, hearing the word of God in their “native languages.”

The cynics in the crowd dismissed the disciples’ utterances as drunken gibberish. Peter, in defense, declared that this was not ordinary intoxication, but extraordinary inspiration; the disciples proclaiming the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy[2] of God’s Spirit poured out on all. Not, as in olden days, only on the chosen few, whether Moses or the elders of Israel,[3] prophets[4] or kings,[5] but on sons and daughters, young and old, men and women, free and slaves. All will see visions. All will dream dreams. All, able to prophesy, will say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

All signifies the meaning of Pentecost. God pours out the Spirit, God’s nature, God’s Self, upon all. Overriding all barriers that we erect against one another. Ignoring all boundaries that discriminate and divide. For this is how God, who created all of us, sees all of us, and wants, wills all of us to see one another. Thus, to see this life in this world differently. From a life where we cling to our barriers, some inherited from generations past and our boundaries, whether we draw them ourselves or in our silence allow them to be drawn, between those who are included and excluded to a life where we, inspired, intoxicated by the Spirit, build not walls upward to divide, but rather bridges outward to connect with all of our sisters and brothers of our human family.

With this understanding of Pentecost, I share a bit of personal testimony. Around this time, sixteen years ago, I had a vision that became incarnate in a six month-long, globe-trotting sabbatical. Purposefully, I, an African American, liberal Christian, went out into the world from Washington, DC, to New York to London to Johannesburg and into KwaZulu-Natal, and then throughout Europe, to engage “the other”, those unlike me – conservative Christians and Muslims, agnostics and atheists. Through that experience, I was inspired, intoxicated by the Spirit; no longer able to focus only, even largely on our differences, but rather to behold more clearly the commonality of our humanity.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions or beliefs about how things are and should be. It does mean that I am slow to judge others and I refuse to condemn others. For only God knows what is in the heart and soul of another person, who truly, as I, is equally God’s creation. And it does mean that ever since, inspired, intoxicated by the Spirit, I consciously have offered myself to God to be used (sometimes uncomfortably stretched) to share with my lips and my life the gospel of God’s love in Christ for all.

I close with the words of Nikos Kazantzakis in his semi-autobiographical work, Report to Greco;[6] for me, one of the most beautifully descriptive spiritual journeys in literature:

There are three kinds of souls, three kinds of prayers.

One, I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.

Two, I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Do not overdraw me, lest I break.

Three, I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Overdraw me, I care not that I break. I only care that I am drawn by your hands alone.

For most of my life, I prayed the first two prayers. For the past sixteen years and counting, I have prayed and do and will pray the third.

© 2021 PRA

[1] Acts 1.4-5, 8

[2] The Lord said: “See I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 2.28-29).

[3] See Numbers 11.16-17

[4] For example, see 2 Kings 2.9, 15 and Isaiah 61.1f, concerning Elijah and Elisha and Isaiah, respectively.

[5] For example, see 1 Samuel 10. 1 (Saul) and 1 Samuel 16.10-13 (David)

[6] Report to Greco (Touchstone Books, Simon and Schuster, 1965), page 16 (my paraphrase of Kazantzakis’ words).

2 thoughts on “All

  1. Paul,

    Wow, these prayers brought me to tears!!

    There are three kinds of souls, three kinds of prayers.

    One, I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.

    Two, I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Do not overdraw me, lest I break.

    Three, I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Overdraw me, I care not that I break. I only care that I am drawn by your hands alone

    Thank you for sharing them!! You know I’ll be using them and I am grateful for them!! This weekend brought up for me how many times I thought I would break in my past…. but I didn’t…. I know it was my FAITH that sustained me…

    I remember the presentation you and Pontheolla gave after your presentation!! It was STUNNING, both in what you saw during your sabbatical, what you Experienced, AND the deep Connections you made!!

    Thank you for this awesome Pentecost sermon!!

    Much Love!



  2. I thought of you, Loretta, as I posted the text of this sermon. For I know who connected you were and are to our sabbatical experience! Thank you, again and again.



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