Thank you to Ed Moccia for his uplifting exhortation at our Pentecost virtual prayer meeting. We've transcribed the entire talk here so that it may continue to inspire and encourage us.
You might notice I kind of have a little bit of a beard here, that is because I'm going to be speaking about Pentecost from that perspective of Peter and the early apostles and disciples and so I just wanted to get into character-- So just imagine this is not the Ed Moccia that you know, this is one of the early disciples.
Come Holy Spirit!
My sense is that we can think that somehow, because of being limited physically and by distance, that the Holy Spirit can be limited. My sense is that the Lord isn't limited. The power of the Holy Spirit: he's not limited by time and space and distance, we are. I want to begin with a prayer and I know James just prayed a prayer but--
Lord, I pray that even now all of us while we are not physically gathered in the same space that, Lord, you are bigger than that, that you are present to all of us, and I pray that your Holy Spirit and this Pentecost would not be limited by the barriers that we think may be in place but that you would still come and renew the face of the earth through us and the name of Jesus, we pray, amen.
Okay so I want to begin by using one line from Scripture, this is from the Gospel of John. “Simon Peter said to them ‘I am going fishing’ and they said to him ‘we will go with you.’” Simon Peter said I am going fishing. This is a really big deal, this is significant. The gospel writer John doesn't include that simply so we knew “Oh, Peter was going fishing.” No. Why is this so significant? Where did Jesus call Peter from? It was this kind of same scene but in the beginning of the Gospels. Jesus called Peter from fishing and it says Peter left his nets. Peter left fishing and he followed Jesus. Jesus said I'm calling you from fishing, you're now going to become fishers of men. Now Peter is returning to his former way of life, that's why the one line “I am going fishing” is a really big deal.
Now think about what this means, for three years Peter was with Jesus and it wasn't enough. Peter walked with Jesus, Peter followed Jesus. He listened to Jesus, he was there, he witnessed the miracles firsthand, he served Jesus. Peter even correctly professes, it's not fully understood if he meant it, but he professes Christ as Jesus, as the Christ, as the Messiah. He was there. He was even sent on mission in the name of Jesus. And remember Jesus had already risen from the dead and appeared to the disciples including Peter before this happened, so Peter had witnessed the risen Christ and even with all of this, Peter says “I am going fishing”, I'm returning to my old way of life. All of this Jesus wasn't enough, alone, for Peter. This wasn't the real goal of Jesus; serving alongside Jesus wasn't Peter's real mission.
We know that Pentecost changes everything. If you juxtapose the Peter of the Gospels and the Peter of Acts, they're two very different people. The difference, of course, is the Holy Spirit. But here's what's key: the Pentecost, we're celebrating today, the indwelling presence of God in us through the Holy Spirit, doesn't just help Peter do what he was already doing in the Gospels, but somehow do it better. It's not like, "oh, now Peter has the Holy Spirit so he's a better servant of Jesus, he's better at preaching, he's better doing everything he was doing in the Gospels..." If you read through Acts, you realize that Peter and the early disciples actually began acting like Christ and actually began speaking in the name of Christ in a different way. They preached with power and authority in the gospel as it was Jesus, only Jesus who spoke with power, right? But in the Acts it says “they were cut to the heart when they heard the preaching of the Apostles.” The Apostles, through the early disciples in Peter, they were the agents of miraculous healings. They acted with boldness and courage, it said that they rejoiced at the opportunity to suffer for the name, they prayed for boldness and courage like Jesus. It says even some of the healings were so powerful they even raised people that seemed like they were dead, from the dead. So we begin to see the real difference that the Holy Spirit makes is that now Peter and the other disciples are actually becoming Jesus.
And this is what the Holy Spirit does. It's not just about serving Christ better or more effectively or even with just some kind of greater power, it's actually something far greater. The real work of the Holy Spirit in us is transforming us into Christ.
If I asked all of you what your goal in life was or the purpose of your existence or what your mission in this life, I might get all different sorts of answers. But your primary goal in life, your fundamental mission, your deepest calling is to become a unique face of Christ to the world.
Saint Paul says “the old man has died,” right? Saint Paul said, “the old man, the person I was, I no longer am. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Saint Paul is saying, in these terms, “I have become Christ,” right? As Saint Paul says “we're to put on Jesus Christ” and that Greek word that Paul uses to “put on” is the same word to put on garments, or to get dressed, so to speak, into Christ, so that when others see me they actually don't see me, they actually see Christ. I actually take on Christ. So the point here is we become a new creation, not a better creation.This is what we're actually celebrating today. This is the real gift of Pentecost, the unimaginable gift of the Holy Spirit. God became man so that man may become God and this gift is brought to you today by the Holy Spirit.
So three perhaps takeaways, three senses that maybe we could focus on this Pentecost. One is becoming Christ. I think so often we think “what do I have to do, what do I have to do, what do I have to do?” have to do?”Doing is always secondary to being, what we do is important, but not nearly as important as we think. And who we are is so much more important than we often think. I've been just reflecting on how the coronavirus has impacted all aspects of our life. Back in February or even early March, no one could have guessed or predicted the way the virus has impacted our lives. It's not just like “oh the way I drive my car is different, or the way I go to the store is different.” Everything is different now because of the virus, right? School, work, summer plans, our gathering or Pentecost prayer meeting, it's all different because of the virus.
Similarly, but even more so, becoming Christ is a total game changer. It's meant to impact all aspects of our life. Again, we're not just called to do something for Christ and its church, right? We don't want to be gospel disciples, it kind of sounds scandalous, I don't know if I'm being recorded, but we don't want to just become gospel disciples who somehow serve alongside Jesus and we're there. It's so much more than that. We actually want to become Christ. So I said three takeaways, number one, become Christ.
But number two, is how we do this? And I hope you hear the irony in this question, how do we do something that actually we don't do, it's about becoming. How do we do something to become Christ? It doesn't have to do with doing something, it has to do more with transformation. I just want to offer this, I think the way we become Christ is by spending time with the Father. By allowing us to be with the Father and have the Father see us, it's only when we realize that the Father sees his own divine nature in us, that’s how we realize who we really are.
I've been on a bit of a personal retreat this Easter season, virtually of course, and I've been encouraged to spend time with the Father and just go through some meditations. One of the meditations the person leading me through this retreat said was, “Ed, because of the gift of Pentecost, because of the indwelling presence of God in me, when the Father sees me he sees himself, He sees his son in me and he loves me like he loves Jesus. The Father loves me as much as he loves Jesus.” It sounded scandalous to me! I don’t know if it’s even theologically accurate. I said “wait, what did you just say?” “Ed, the Father loves you just as much as he loved his son Jesus.” The Father loves you as much a He loves his son Jesus. And again I was like, “dude come on like, I don't know, can this really be true? Jesus and me. Jesus is the Son of God, I'm the son of Carl and Theresa. Jesus became man, died on the cross and rose from the dead and it was my sin that nailed him to the cross. I'm kind of okay if the Father loves Jesus more than he loves me." But just because it's too good to be true, doesn't mean it isn't true. This is why - the good news. I have a really hard time grappling with this, that the Father would love me so much that he would love me as much as his son Jesus. So this is what I do in my meditation. I just been sitting with the Father, I've been imagining the Trinity, which itself is kind of a difficult thing to do, but I imagine the Father and the Father is here and the Father is loving his son, the Father is eternally giving of himself to his son Jesus, and Jesus, of course, is reciprocating that and that's so real that it is the third person, the Holy Spirit. And now here's the Father, the Father is loving the son. So the son Jesus is receiving the Father's love and I'm looking at this as like this outside third person. But then I imagine, okay now Jesus moves out and I move in in the same way that the Father is loving the son, the same way, the same intensity, the same unimaginable infiniteness, he is now loving me in that same way. The only difference is I can't reciprocate it as perfectly as Jesus does. But the Father is actually loving me the same way he loves his son Jesus. This is unbelievable, thank you Jesus for this! So we want to become Christ, we become Christ by allowing the Father to love us in the same way that he loved Jesus.
And then my third takeaway here is just a thought on baptism in the Holy Spirit and our charismatic spirituality. For many years I've been praying a simple prayer in the beginning of the day during my prayer time, I pray: “Father baptize me in your Holy Spirit today.” Many years ago when I was younger I wanted to give all of my life for the rest of my life to Christ. This is kind of like this buzz phrase, “all of my life the rest of my life” that we should throw around. But I can only give all of my life for the rest of my life by giving today fully for God. So I want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit every day. A number of months ago in January I led a men's session at SPO’s big ASCEND conference and I was emceeing it. It was easy for me to imagine I needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to preach to these men and I'm the one leading them in prayer and I had to be on fire, I had to be light and a witness, I needed the power of the Holy Spirit. Yeah, that's true but, most of my life isn't lived on stage. It's lived out actually right here, in my home with my family, with Daria, with my children, with those that I work with.
Last week, I met with my pastoral leader and great friend and brother Paul Quense. It was awesome, but I didn't want to meet with him because I felt like I was really busy, it's like I have too much to do. But again, I prayed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I needed choosing to spend time with Paul to prioritize that. It was awesome and that’s me living Baptized in the Holy Spirit. I sold something on Facebook marketplace and the person came to pick it up and I just prayed for Baptism in the Holy Spirits for that moment. I asked the person why he was using this kind of room divider that my parents had and he said he was using it for his mom who was sick and had to move in with them. So I just prayed for courage and asked them “hey what's the name of your mother? I'm a Catholic and I would love to pray for your mother.” I didn't pray over him but I had courage in that moment to say I'm a Catholic and I would love to pray for you. When I have patience with my kids, I'm living the baptism in the Holy Spirit. When I go to bed on time, I wake up on time so that I can begin my day with prayer, I'm living the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
So the three points one more time: become Christ, the Father loves you as much as he loves Jesus this is how we become Christ, and let's pray for baptism in the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives.
I know we're going to transition to worship now, I just want to read from Ephesians as we begin worship here. Saint Paul begins “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, how can it be? Because we now share the same nature with Christ because of the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit in us. Not some of the gifts, not some of divine nature-- we share all of the spiritual blessings with Christ. And our only response, our only response really to this almost scandalous--it sounds scandalous this news, seemingly too good but true nonetheless--not our only but our first response ought to be one of praise and worship, to give thanks.
So let's pray that we may be baptized anew in the Holy Spirit today on Pentecost but also tomorrow and the day after that. Let's praise and worship God for his saving work of salvation in our lives. Amen.
Talk Given by Ed Moccia, People of Hope Member, at our Pentecost Prayer Meeting