The following is a reflection that Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU, gave at St. William Church on Pentecost Sunday: May 19, 2024.

I know what it’s like to be under the influence of alcohol. In my younger years, I was known to have been there. It loosened my tongue and made me braver than I usually was. It made me seem to speak in a language that wasn’t my real one.

I know what it is like to be under the influence of narcotics. Some years ago, when I broke my leg the doctor said, “Here take these.” That stuff gave me weird dreams and even made me think my room was on fire.

But I don’t know if I have ever really been under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Have you? What is it like to be under the influence of the Spirit? We just heard St. Paul say that only the Spirit gives us the desire to shout, “Christ reigns supreme!” And Jesus told His disciples in one of His after–Easter appearances that having the Spirit gives them the right to forgive or retain sins. Luke says in Acts it gave those gathered in the upper room—locked in and afraid—the ability to come out and then to speak so well that visitors from all over the region understood them.

And Isaiah said (before any of the above ever said anything) that when the Spirit is upon you, you must heal the broken hearted, do everything you can to free captives, be brave enough to open the eyes of the blind, and show compassion to those who mourn.

Then there was Joel who wrote that under the influence of the Holy Spirit old people will dream dreams and young people will see visions. He further says that slaves and women will also have the Spirit poured out upon them. Think about the implications of that for a minute.

And then here’s Luke again saying that when Jesus came up from the desert to Galilee, Nazareth to be exact, He was “full of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus boldly repeats Isaiah and says, “The Spirit is upon me, and I have been appointed to preach to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, release captives, cure the blind, set prisoners free and tell the downtrodden that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to God. Could that mean women and slaves, too? Just saying…

What if our Church was under the influence of the Spirit today? Why it might pay close attention to Pope Francis, who walks in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi when he asks us to reverence Mother Earth, our Pacha Mamma, and care for her. If our Church was under the influence of the Spirit today, it might not use the Eucharist as a threat to keep some people of good faith out of the supper. No, it might open its tent wide and let all of God’s creation in.

So now, what if you and I were truly under the influence of the Sprit? Why…we might be able to turn our Lenten “Fasting for Peace” to our Pentecostal “Feasting for Peace.”  Why, we might even take to the street corners, holding banners that say “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome,” or we might give workshops and reflections about how to deal with conflict peacefully. Or we might cook birthday dinners or shop for newly released female prisoners. Or we might take meals to or accompany the dying at a comfort care home.

What if we were truly under the influence of the Spirit? Don’t you think we would speak up for the downtrodden—those brown and black-skinned women, men and children at our country’s border? Maybe we would say in every language we could that women have a place in the pulpits and at the altars in our Church. And in this Pentecost feasting, we would try to release our prisons from the hideous practice of carrying out state-sanctioned killings by injections or electricity. We would vote to cure the blindness of elected officials who pass laws that poke out the eyes of the unhoused who live in our streets by making them criminals. Perhaps we would try to cure the blindness of others who reduce food stamps and childcare payments to those who live so far up a hollow they cannot afford gas to get to work a 40-mile round-trip away—even if they have a road worthy car. And, of course, we would sign letters that tell our government that we are finished with bombs and want bread for our world. But first, first, under the influence of the Spirit, we would have to cure our own blindness to so many injustices that even we do not see.

And so, I am guessing that most of you, like me, have known what it feels like to be under the influence of alcohol or painkillers. Now let us pray for our church and one another that we can also know what it is like to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Just let me end by paraphrasing Paul’s advice to the Ephesians. He says, “Do not get drunk with wine (or be under the influence of alcohol), for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (or under the influence of the Spirt) for that is of God.”

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Artwork by Jen Norton. Used with permission.