THE THREE ORANGES
Rev. John Kha Tran
There's a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would leave without her.
She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed a side her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
In ordinary circumstances, we would laugh at the woman, but at that moment between life and death, the diamond rings are less valuable than the three small oranges. So many times I have encountered people at their death bed regretting and repenting from all the wrong things they had done in life. What they had considered good became evil, joy became sadness, pleasure became pain, happiness became sorrow, and hope became despair. Our society is forgetting what is essential to life. People often value this life more than eternal life, natural life is more important than spiritual life. Physical wellbeing is more important than spiritual wellbeing. Therefore, it is not difficult for us to understand why our government wants to promote and enforce the new health care reform laws at any cost. Many people today see nothing wrong with abortions and contraception. They choose abortions and contraception rather than having children and life. Many people do not see anything wrong with same sex marriages. This week, again, a judge in California has ruled that the federal law that prohibits recognition of same-sex unions is unconstitutional because it denies long-term health insurance benefits to legal spouses of state employees and retirees. The reason behind this ruling is, “Lesbian and gay couples are entitled to fair and equal treatment from the federal government.” People are in agreement and supporting these rulings and policies because they only seek the benefits of this life on earth and not see the harms to their spiritual and eternal life.
Another example is that water is important to life. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water, about two-thirds of the human body is water. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees. Water is a universal solvent that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels. Water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body. Water is colourless, odourless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Water is much more important than sodas, beer and wine, but wine, beer and sodas give life more fun. Therefore, people are willing to pay more for things that give them fun.
The Feast of the Pentecost reminds us of what is essential to our life. The Holy Spirit gives us true life and leads us to eternal life. The Holy Spirit is the spiritual water to keep us alive.
Signs of God’s Presence
Watching the transformation of the life of Jesus’ disciples, we can see that the Spirit of God is the source of life. Our lesson from the Epistle on this Pentecost Sunday begins with the sound of a wind and tongues of fire come to rest on each of disciples of Jesus. The wind and fire are signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills the room where the disciples of Jesus are gathered. They have no idea what will happen next. They unexpectedly are transformed. They receive new insights about Jesus Christ and his mission. They possess unusual wisdom and understanding of Jesus’ teachings. They experience extraordinary power and courage to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. They fearlessly go out in public to teach and preach about Jesus Christ and the message of salvation. They no longer pursue the restoration for the sovereignty of the State of Israel, but completely commit to work for the sovereignty of the Kingdom of God. They are not school teachers or college professors but they teach with authority and many people respond to them. They are no nurses or doctors, but they have the power to cure and heal many diseases and illnesses. They are transformed and many others are also being transformed through their teachings, preaching and witnessing.
People gathered in Jerusalem represented every nation known at that time and yet each of them heard the disciples in their own language. There was no need of translators or interpreters to translate the words. People in the crowd asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? What does this mean?” It means that God was there. There is no other explanation for Pentecost. The wind, the tongues of fire, the crowd who heard the Gospel each in his own language, the disciples’ courage, wisdom, knowledge and transformed attitude are signs of God’s presence. God’s Spirit is at work.
It seems that God is absent from the world. There are many religious and ethnic rivalries, divisions and hatreds, crimes and sins in the world. Despite of all these, God’s Spirit continues to work through the Church and through his followers until everyone bows at the name of Jesus. Christianity is spreading in many parts of the world. It’s an exciting phenomenon. In 1900 80% of all Christians lived in the Western world. Today 60% of Christians live in the developing world. Of the world’s seven billion people, more than two billion (2,280,616,000) are now Christians, 1,150,661,000 are Roman Catholics. God’s plan is that the entire world’s people will someday be God’s people (www.wholesomeword.org/missions/greatc.html)
The disciples were very much like you and me. They were very ordinary men with ordinary dreams until the Holy Spirit fell upon them on the Day of Pentecost. Before Pentecost they were still looking out primarily for their own selfish interests. They were weak, confused men who were caught up in something they didn’t really understand. But after Pentecost they were so transformed that they turned the world upside down. God uses ordinary people in an extraordinary way to achieve his goal. We have heard the saying, “God does not call the qualified but He qualified the people He calls.” We love to see miracles take place in our Church today. It could happen, if we are ready to surrender to God like the disciples surrendered themselves to God. They let God use them. God could use us too.
A chaplain on a battlefield came across a young man who was lying in a shell hole, seriously wounded. “Would you like me to read you something from the Bible?” he asked.
“I am so thirsty; I would rather have a drink of water.” The soldier said’
Hurrying away, the chaplain soon brought the water.
Then the wounded man said, “Could you put something under my head?”
The chaplain took off his overcoat, rolled it up, and gently placed it under the man’s head for a pillow.
“Now” said the suffering soldier, “If I just had something over me – I am cold.”
The chaplain immediately removed his jacket and put it over the wounded man to keep him warm.
Then the soldier looked the chaplain straight in the eye and said, “If there is anything in that book that makes a man do for another all that you have done for me, then please read it, because I’d love to hear it.”(Jack McArdle, 10)
“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Guided by the Holy Spirit, we are being sent into the world to transform the world. We could touch our family members, touch our neighbours, and touch our co-workers as the disciples touched the lives of people around them.