It is hard to hold the two together—goodbye and hello, departure and arrival, crucifixion and resurrection/gift of the Spirit. Many people choose one or the other. Some lap up the message that God wants only good for us and that our right faith and thought can siphon good fortune into our lives. Others are so preoccupied with the pain of life that they can't discern the presence of the Spirit of the Risen Lord in any corner of their experience. Others grab the pendulum and swing back and forth between wishful thinking and despair.
Jesus offers a third alternative to his disciples: to rely on the Spirit's presence in the adversities of life. We have been promised that the Holy Spirit is not only coming, but is here. We have been promised that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the presence of the Risen Jesus in his physical absence, is with us, that the Spirit has freed us from the law of sin and of death (Rom. 8:2), that it searches the depths of our hearts, prays in us when we cannot find the words (Rom. 8:26), pours the love of God into our hearts and gives us hope (Rom. 5:5). That means that, when confronted with negatives, downsides, sacrifices, and bad news, we don't have to assume that the Spirit has flown the coop. We don't have to factor out the presence of the Holy Spirit. We don't even really have to invoke the Spirit. We have the promise that the Spirit now lives in us and we now live in the Spirit.
How would the particular troubling situation we face in our life right now be different if we kept listening to Jesus until he finished his sentence? "I must go away . . . so that the Father may send the Advocate." "I will be killed . . . but in three days I will rise." We don't have to huddle in a room for fear of our circumstances and wait for the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is not an event we wait for. It's one in which we participate. Every moment is Pentecost.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.