Pentecost Homily by Jan Elfers

On Pentecost Sunday 2013, Grace parishioner Jan Elfers shared her reflection on the question, “What is the Spirit saying to the church?”


The Christian mystic Mechthild exclaims, “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw–and knew I saw–all things in God, and God in all things.” When we see this, we see everything anew. For most of my life, when I have prayed, I have imagined a God “out there and up there somewhere.” Certainly God is everywhere. But the scriptures tell us today that God is not only out there—but IN HERE. The Holy Spirit abides with you and IN YOU. “On that day you will know that you are in me and I am in you,” John’s gospel says.

When we fully embrace the God in us, we will be utterly transformed. And transformed people transform the world. This is kind of scary stuff—violent wind, tongues of fire, visions and dreams.  So Jesus calls us to courage when he prays, “do not to be troubled or afraid,” and Paul in Romans encourages us to not live in fear, but to claim our inheritance. Fr. Richard Rohr, in his most recent book. “The Immortal Diamond,” states that the purpose of religion is tell us and to keep reminding us over and over again of who we are.  All things are in God, and God is in all things. This is the absolute reference point from which we begin—it is the immortal diamond within us. The paradox of this truth is that we are at the same time precious and unique as we are also universally the same as every other created human being. So in each encounter we must acknowledge our shared sacredness. There is no other way to live our lives together in peace than in this reality.

I was in San Francisco recently caring for my daughter, Molly, who had broken her foot and needed surgery. She lives in the heart of downtown and I soon realized that parking spots in the city are as valuable as your firstborn child. You have to move your car every two hours or you get a ticket! It can make you crazy. I spent 10 days, all day long, looking for the next 2-hour parking space! Ridiculous right? One hectic morning after I got my daughter to work I realized I had forgotten my computer in her apartment. I had to race back to her place to pick it up because I was working remotely.  Of course when I returned, there was no place to park. I stopped the car in the driveway and tore inside. I hadn’t been gone 30 seconds when I heard someone laying on the horn. I grabbed the computer and ran back to my car. An older man got out of his car and without making eye contact, marched passed me, pointed at my car and yelled, “Don’t you EVER park in MY spot.” And I just broke down. “Where is your humanity? I cried. I am caring for my daughter—she just had surgery and can’t get along without my help. Do you have children? Have they ever been in crisis?” He stopped, turned his head, looked in my eyes and said, “Yes, I have four children, and I lost one of them last week.” We were both speechless for what felt like a very long time. Finally I replied, “I am so sorry. Then you must understand.” We stood there together in silence and then returned to our cars and drove away.

What happened there? In the course of the stuff of life this stranger and I discovered the God in each other in the recognition of our shared suffering. This situation wasn’t anything more than probably happens to all of us daily. An encounter gives us the opportunity to be changed. When we believe that God lives in all of us, a shift happens in our soul.  Jesus says,  “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…” Life becomes one meeting after another with the God in each of us—we can’t see anything but sacredness in the parent who worries about feeding his family, in the mother grieving the senseless death of her child in war, in the desperation of the person with cancer and no insurance, in the one despised because of their skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and even in the enemy who does us harm—there is no separation between us.

The transformation starts in the smallest ways like parking spots and grocery store checkout lanes and committee meetings. The God in each of us doesn’t look like perfection. It can look discouraged, impatient, frantic and yes, afraid. The God in each of us is like the soft carbon that is buried deep in the earth. But time and pressure transform this non-descript material into a beautiful, radiant and immortal diamond. We are like that.

Richard Rohr asks, “What if our one and only task in life is to discover and become who we are?” That news is too good to be buried in the earth. God is not only out there. God lives in me. And in you. And you. And you. And in every, single created being. This is our shared inheritance and it cannot be taken from us.

Amen.