Psalm 104:34-35, 37 I will sing to God as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being. May these words of mine please God; I will rejoice in God. Bless God, O my soul. Hallelujah!
God does not leave God’s beloved. God, from the very beginning, sent out God’s Spirit to be with and among the beloved, from the beginning of light to the unendedness of dark, from the tiniest of mites to the largest of beasts, form the highest of mountains to the deepest of ocean floors, God is with God’s beloved. This is what our ancient creation myths of Genesis 1 and 2 tell us. Genesis 3 tells a tale of fracture and disruption of harmony and communion among God, humanity, creation, and one existing within each person. Yet, even in the ricochets of the fractures, God never left the beloved. Even when the beloved left the garden, God went with them. God’s Spirit suspended before and with God’s people: calling Abraham and Sarah, sustaining Isaac and Ishmael, leading Jacob, sending Moses, manifesting as fire in bushes, pillars of flame at night, in clouds during the day, in the pulling apart the waters of the Red Sea like the pulling apart the light from the dark at the beginning of creation, in tabernacles, tents, and temples. Not to mention Israel’s prophetic line speaking as God’s representatives; being filled with divine passion, they summoned and heralded to Israel the good news of God and God’s presence, exhorting them to see God not only in their own midst in their strength and power, but more importantly in the weakest of them: in the widow and orphan, in the hungry and thirsty, in the houseless and unclothed.
God does not leave the beloved because love needs the beloved. The lover who loves needs an other to love, the beloved; the beloved needs the lover to be the beloved. And the very spirit of God—the one that hovered over the face of the deep so long ago and the same one that inspired the prophets to proclaim God’s passion for God’s people—is the substance of love. As much as we are all made of start-dust, we are in equal part made of love. Love has set this whole crazy cosmic experiment in motion, and love sustains it. God is so serious about love that we declare that God’s love took on flesh. Jesus the Christ was formed in the womb of Mary and born into her love, not only to experience the power of love in his own flesh, but to love others as God. Jesus demonstrated in word and deed to the beloved that God really does love them, is really for them, really does see and know their pain and suffering (Ex. 2), really does get angry over injustice and weeps over death, and really does walk in solidarity with humanity even in death. And as you know, death cannot sever the bonds and ties of love because love remembers, love recalls. And even more than that, love resurrects, calls forth the beloved from the tomb, and sends the beloved onward and forward in love.
Therefore when it was evening on that day—the first [day] of the week—and when the door having been shut where the disciples were because of the fear of the children of Israel, Jesus came and stood in their midst and he said to them, “Peace to you.”… Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you; just as the father/elder/ancestor has sent me, so also I send you.” And after saying this, he breathed [on them] and he said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit… “John 20:19, 21-22
The disciples are locked away for agitation and fear. And what does God do? Shows up. None of these men had their act together, were stalwart emissaries of unflagging faith, or superheroes braving the persecutions. They were terrified and confused human beings, desperate for something, for anything. And, as God has done since the conception of the inception of creation, God shows up behind that locked door and brings peace to them. Why? Because God knows their fear and panic, their terror and anxiety, their desperate desire to live and when God knows these things, God feels these things, and God acts to ameliorate these things. The ascended Christ does not leave the disciples alone to figure it out or muster up their own strength; Jesus shows up and brings it to them where they are because that’s what God does.
Prior to this moment, Jesus has already promised giving peace, his peace that surpasses any peace that the world can offer. It’s not that the world is bad or should be shunned, rather the world is the playground of divine love and liberation seeking and desiring the beloved. However, the systems made by humans can only provide a certain and temporary form of peace; no material possession can secure your peace—none. However, in chapter 14 of John’s gospel, Jesus’s gave these same men peace: peace I let go to you, my peace I give to you; I give to you not as the world gives. Let your heart be neither agitated nor fearful (v. 27). It doesn’t mean that this gift of peace failed. Rather, at the time they were not able to receive it because Jesus was with them, but now that he is ascended and gone from them and they are agitated and fearful, he appears to them and calls them to awareness that they have his peace.
But he doesn’t merely reiterate that they have his peace, he gives them the Holy Spirit to be with them from this day on, the same Spirit existing before the cosmos and the one that called Jesus forth from the tomb. This Spirit is the Spirit of God and fulfills the promise from old that God’s Spirit would dwell in the hearts of God’s people, the beloved (ref. Ez. 36:26). The peace of God is no longer a wish or a prayer but is with the disciples of Christ…literally, because they have the Spirit of God. Easter finds its fullest expression in Pentecost, for now true life is accessible to the disciples; they are (once again) being summoned from their tomb and exhorted to walk forward into the light of day, proclaiming and heralding God’s love to all. Not only do the disciples have the peace of Christ with them, they have the authority of the Spirit of God to be the witnesses of Christ, they are sent not by any other person than God of very God. They are sent into the world as Christ to carry forward the mission of God: seeking and desiring the beloved, bringing life, love and liberation to the captives.
Pentecost secures—forever—God’s liberation and liberating of the captives. It is as powerful as Christmas and Easter; it ranks with the major feasts of the Christian tradition. It is the power of God transcending all the boundaries we create, breaking down the barriers we build, rewriting the narratives we write about ourselves, each other, creation, and God. It is the descent of the Spirit that is echoed in creation coming into recreation. It is the sound of doors being unlocked, cells sliding open, and those previously curved inward standing upright for the first time in a long time. It is the sound of bodies dancing, voices singing, and communities experiencing the liberation of God.
My dear friend and colleague, The Rev. Dr. Kate Hanch, recently published a book, Storied Witness: The Theology of Black Women Preachers in the 19th-Century America. In this text she tells the stories of three black women preachers: Zilpha Elaw, Julia Foote, and Sojourner Truth. In sharing about the religious and theological influences of Truth, she mentions that Truth’s mother, Mau Mau Bett (Elizabeth), was her first spiritual teacher, combining “her African heritage with the Dutch culture of her enslavers.” It was this that opened the door, writes Kate, to Truth’s broad and deep view of God’s presence with her. In addition to this, Sojourner Truth’s theology was influenced by the Dutch holiday of Pinkster…otherwise known as Pentecost. The celebration of Pinkster created a space in time where liberation from oppression made its truth known in the material realm, where baptismal regeneration and the essence of the sacramental meal of thanksgiving were cultivated into a bodied celebration of the descent of the Spirit that knows no boundaries of skin color, wealth, sex, gender, age, etc. Here Love descended and imparted itself to everyone; here the enslaved walked and danced free in the fullness of the glory of God, “These erotic dances enabled her to love her own body and also reminded her of the Holy Spirit who dwells with and in all bodies, Black and white, enslaved and freed.”
Let us follow Truth’s lead and witness and live like God is truly present with us, rejoice like the disciples seeing Christ, and exist liberated and loved like the Spirit of God within us. And may the life-giving breath of the church, the Holy Spirit burning with Pentecostal fire, ignite the divine revolution of love, life, and liberation as we go forth into the world.
 Translation mine unless otherwise noted
 Rudolf Bultmann The Gospel of John: A Commentary Trans. GR Beasley-Murray, Gen Ed; RWN Hoare and JK Riches. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1971. German: Das Evangelium des Johannes (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1964, 1966). 691. “Suddenly he appears in their midst, and he greets them with the customary prayer for blessing. That Jesus in the meantime had ascended to the Father, as he had said to Mary that he would (v. 17), and has now again returned to earth would be a false reflection—not only in the meaning of the source, but also in that of the Evangelist. Rather the sense is that he has ascended, and even as such he appears to the disciples; as such he is able to bestow the Spirit (v. 22)…”
 Bultmann, John, 691-692. “In harmony with this the εἰρήνη—and the Solemn repetition of the greeting hints that we have to understand εἰρήνη in the full sense of 14:27—which Jesus offers the disciples has in truth already been given to them in the hour of the departure (14.27). Easter is precisely the hour when their eyes are opened for that which they already possess; and vv. 19-23 are no more than the depiction of this event.”
 Bultmann, John, 692-693. “The fact that the narrative depicts the fulfilment of the promise in the farewell discourses is shown finally in that the Risen Jesus bestows the Spirit on the disciples through his breath (v. 22); Easter and Pentecost therefore fall together. If in 16.8-11 the task of the Spirit was described as an ἐλέγχειν, so here correspondingly the bestowal of the Spirit is accompanied by the giving of authority to the disciples (v. 23). Thus the judgment that took place in the coming of Jesus (3.19; 5.27; 9.39) is further achieved in the activity of the disciples. It is self-evident that it is not a special apostolic authority that is imparted here, but that the community as such is equipped with this authority; for as in chs. 13-16 the μαθηταί represent the community.”
 Kate Hanch, Storied Witness: The Theology of Black Women Preachers in the 19th-Century America (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2022). Pp. 112-113.
 Hanch, Storied Witness, 113.
 Hanch, Storied Witness, 113.
 Hanch, Storied Witness, 114-115.
 Hanch, Storied Witness, 115.