This time of year – between Ascension Day last Thursday and the Day of Pentecost next Sunday – I'm always intrigued by this in-between time, between Jesus' Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Ascension is the withdrawal of the Incarnate One, Jesus in his human body, from our world. There is a specificity, a concreteness to that historical Jesus that we long for, in some ways, but is elusive for us. Had Jesus stayed put here on earth, instead of "working from home," as a popular meme has described the Ascension, we would be deeply limited in our encounter of Jesus by our own specific place and time in this world. Would we have to travel across oceans and continents to encounter Jesus? We would feel separated, apart. We feel that kind of limitation keenly in this time of stay-at-home orders and self-isolation. Jesus, however, gives us a promise, as he takes his flesh and blood into the heavenly realms. He promises us the Spirit of God, who will teach us all things. On that original Day of Pentecost, the apostles received the Holy Spirit and carried the power that they had received into the world. They immediately begin by telling the story of Jesus. The Spirit gives us the encounter with Christ, that we may be formed again and again into his disciples.
For those of us who have come later on, after the days of the Acts of the Apostles, we are given the Holy Spirit in Baptism and are made one with Jesus in that Sacrament. We become the encounter with Christ for the world we live in – and we encounter Christ in one another . . . and in Scripture spoken, and in wine poured and bread broken, and, perhaps especially so, in the least among us that we meet. The Spirit shows us the one who was crucified for us and raised to new life, shows us again and again the love of God incarnate – so that we may become that love in our own lives. We are strengthened by that same Spirit in Confirmation, renewed in the encounter with Jesus by the power of the Spirit, to live the Baptismal life.
Pentecost is one of the Principal Feasts of the Church, like Easter and Christmas, and is also a primary Baptismal feast day – the gift of the Spirit given in Baptism powerfully reflected in the Feast of Pentecost. It is a great day to baptize and be baptized, in years when we can gather in-person, and also to renew and remember our Baptismal Covenant (1979 Book of Common Prayer, p. 292). We are renewed and restored by the Holy Spirit, as we renew our relationship to God through Christ.
And for those who await Baptism, we hope to celebrate that soon in person and publicly. In the meantime, there is a provision for any baptized lay person to administer Baptism in the Book of Common Prayer, in the case of emergency. While we usually think of that in immediate and urgent terms, Bishop Hughes has identified that this period of pandemic is a time of emergency. If you have someone in your household who desires to be baptized, they can be baptized at home. Or you can wait until we gather again. If you'd like to consider emergency Baptism, please see our guidelines about Emergency Holy Baptism in Pandemic for more information and talk with your parish clergy. If you don't have clergy currently, please contact me if you have questions. Baptism is a gift. A gift of the Holy Spirit and new life in Christ that is shared by all of us. Come Holy Spirit and teach us the new things that God is doing.