Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pentecost 2018

          Do you not know that your mere presence here gives a testimony
—that you are a Christian at all, points to the Holy Spirit, for it is by the Spirit alone that you have heard the Gospel in such a way that it has brought you to faith.
          Many a Christian has described their own faith life, and relationship to worship as,
“Some days I don’t know if I go to church because I believe, or so that I can believe.”
After all it is here that we are again confronted by the Word of God:
The Word of God that works as a Mirror, showing us our sins; as a Window, allowing us to see our society more clearly; and as a Love Letter, wooing us with words of passion, truth, and love…
          Yet, this Word of God must be accompanied by the Holy Spirit
—for it must be heard with ears of faith, otherwise it can sound like an idle tale, like finger nails on a blackboard, like a tale told by drunks—as Peter and his crew are accused of at Pentecost.
Truly, when the Word of God and the Spirit of God come together something powerful happens,
we are killed and made alive,
Sin’s reign in our hearts and in the machinations of all humanity, are exposed to the healing light of God’s love! Death itself dies that resurrection can occur. That is the power of the Spirit—she allows us to trust the love of God found in Christ Jesus.
          Did any of you take a moment and watch the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church preach at the Royal Wedding yesterday?
It was one of those events where the whole world stops to watch,
one of those times when a message can cut through the daily grind of this world and cut through the various bubbles we encase ourselves in,
the walls we erect to silo ourselves off from others, in moments like those cross sections of communities can still come together for a common purpose.
And, in such a moment as that, Bishop Curry preached about the Love of Jesus—we could argue he focused more on love than on Jesus, maybe even that he confused Law and Gospel, but compared to what many preachers would choose to do at such a moment of import, either showboating, or focusing on the bride’s beauty or the groom’s bravery,
he used that moment as an opportunity to tell folk about Jesus and his love.
          And friends, we are in a similar position to the good Bishop… Have you looked around your neighborhood? We live in both a time and place that is a great crossroad
—globalization and travel has put us in a spot, here in central Jersey, where representatives of the whole world have gathered to live
—it is perhaps not too unlike Jerusalem where Africa, Asia, and Europe meet together in the middle, where on a few special holy days—Pentecost being one of them—it seemed the whole world gathers together… and we too are in just such a time—how can we not tell them all the Truth we have been given about God?

          Yes, in these days, where our voices may be amplified by every gadget imaginable, we must lift every voice! Each of us is called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
          Yes, you heard me—this isn’t a calling for Bishops only, or Pastors only and Deacons only, we are all called to preach the Gospel.
          One of the things I worried about when I started dating my girlfriend Lisa, was that she is a Quaker, and they don’t have clergy, and I thought that might be kinda weird, being that I’m clergy, right… But when we got talking about it, her description of this choice really struck me. It is not that they eliminated the clergy, but instead that they eliminated the laity. We Lutherans talk about this way of being Christian! The Priesthood of All Believers—well the Quakers just worked that idea out differently than we did.
We are all called to preach the Gospel, not just Pastors or Bishops or any other official, but all of us, in a myriad of ways, as compelled by the Spirit!

The Gospel, that God’s love has come into the world, that God has acted for us before we ourselves could act.
          That God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, lived, died, and rose, that we might trust in him and live eternally… that is the Gospel we are compelled to preach!
          Have you ever looked around and noticed the state of the church, or looked inside yourself and seen your soul, or listened for the soundless groanings of the world—all of it, all of us, yearning for the love of God found in Christ Jesus.
          All of it confronted by the Gospel, confronted by the rightness of creation—and confronted too by the world as it is… from Texas to Gaza to an overturned school bus north of us on 80…
ought and is swirling past one another in stirring acrobatic form and never catching, and all the earth wonders, “Can we get there from here? Can we get from Is to Ought?”

          Have you not noticed as well the tension in all those things, what Paul describes as the tension between Flesh and Spirit…
          That we find ourselves to be justified sinners, Flesh and Spirit
          That we find in this group gathered together a mixed body, Flesh and Spirit
That we find the goodness of the world promised to us to be already complete and whole… and at the same time not yet finished, Flesh and Spirit

We answer the question again and again, “No… we can’t get there from here… we can’t get there from here save through the Spirit!
Daily the Spirit drags us to the Jordon River to be with Christ, reminds us of the gap between ought and is, helps us to pray when we have no words, cultivates her fruits within us, calls us to be little Christs in the world even as the Spirit calls us to point to the one and only Jesus Christ and renews our trust in him daily.

Siblings in Christ, after I send you out of worship today, we will be eating fruity desserts, as we consider the Fruits of the Spirit. I ask you to consider the following questions as you eat and talk—after all the Spirit doesn’t just preach the Gospel out of my mouth, right?:
1.     How did the Spirit allow me to first believe, how does it continue to do the same in my life?
2.     Who might the Spirit be calling me to tell about Jesus and his love?
3.     Where do I see a tension between what ought to be and what is? In myself or in the wider world?
4.     Where does the world especially need the good new of Jesus Christ?
5.     What fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are most needed today? Why?