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The Day of Pentecost Year C June 5, 2022

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:14-17

Our gospel for today is part of Jesus’ last talk with his disciples, his so-called Last Discourse. In this portion of the discourse, Jesus says that those who see him have seen God. Jesus also says, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Jesus also says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the father and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you,” And then Jesus gives them his peace. his shalom.

After this, Jesus is crucified, rises from the dead, appears to various disciples—He walks with two of them on the road to Emmaus. He appears to Peter and the others on the shore of the lake for a fish and bread breakfast. Twice, he moves past the locked doors and comes to them as they wait in fear of the authorities.

Forty days later, he ascends to heaven to be with God. Before he leaves, he tells them to go into Jerusalem, stay together, pray, and wait for the coming of the Spirit. That is exactly what they do. They miss him terribly. They wonder what they are going to do without him, and they keep remembering that he has told them that in seeing him they have seen God, that they are to love each other and they are to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.

Our reading from Acts describes the coming of the Holy Spirit. They are together. They are waiting. They are grieving. missing him terribly, and wondering how they are going to do all the things he has asked them to do. It is the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover. In their calendar this is a feast at the end of the wheat harvest. People have come to Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean basin to celebrate this feast of Weeks.

A huge wind comes up, the ruach that molds and shapes the desert sands. Flames of fire dance over their heads. And suddenly, these uneducated folk who have never studied foreign languages, burst forth in all the known languages of the world. They proclaim God’s love heart to heart in all the languages of the known world. People from all of the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea hear about the love of God in a way that deeply touches their hearts.

People think the disciples are drunk, but Peter assures them that is not the case. God has given this group of people who are devastated at the loss of their leader the gift to share God’s love heart to heart. All barriers are dissolved. This little group of simple Galileans is going to turn the world upside down. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, and we are here, two thousand years later, to continue to share God’s love heart to heart with everyone we meet.

In his last discourse with them, Jesus said that he would send the Spirit. And here we have a profound paradox. Jesus is not here in a physical, bodily sense. We cannot literally see him or hear him, but we can sense his call. We can feel his leading, especially when we take time to be quiet with him in prayer and ask for his direction .

Because Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into all the truth of his love, he can do something he could not do when he was physically here. He can be everywhere at once. He can be with devastated families and loved ones in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York and Laguna Woods, California, Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Parkland, Florida, people huddling in a cellar under a hospital in Ukraine because their houses have been bombed, and Ukrainian soldiers fighting valiantly to preserve their country. He can be with all people who are trying to live the Way of Love all over the world.

He is here with us now. The Rev. Michael Marsh, the Rector at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde, Texas, has said that, as we contemplate the events of the past few weeks, there are two things. There is sorrow and there is love. There is indeed great sorrow. We are all grieving as the disciples grieved after Jesus left them. This grief has been almost unbearable. We pray for those we have died or have been injured and for their families and loved ones. We pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us into the truth of how to make lasting change. And, as we pray, we reach deep down into that everlasting and immeasurable well of God’s love. Come, Holy Spirit. Come in the wind and the fire of your cleansing energy. Help us to speak your love heart to heart. Come, Holy Spirit. Give us your healing. Give us and our legislators the courage to make the changes we need to make in order to keep children safe in their schools, to allow people of all races and creeds and classes and identities to shop for groceries, gather in their houses of worship, and be safe in their streets and neighborhoods. Come, Holy Spirit. Help us to build the shalom of God. Amen.

Easter 5C May 15, 2022

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

In our gospel for today, Jesus has gathered with his disciples for the last supper. He has washed their feet. He has told them that they and we are called to be servants. He has said that he will be going to be with God, and that one of them will betray him. At this point in the narrative, Judas has left, and Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Biblical scholar Charles B. Cousar writes, “A new and unparalleled model for love has been given the disciples….In Jesus the disciples have a concrete, living expression of what love is. Love can no longer be trivialized or reduced to an emotion or debated over as if it were a philosophical virtue under scrutiny. Jesus now becomes the distinctive definition of love.”

Cousar says that this “new commandment” of Jesus also means that eternal life is not something to be realized in the future. It begins now. He writes, “At the center of the new era is the community established by Jesus, the intimate though at times unfaithful family, whom he affectionately addresses as ‘little children.’ What holds the family together and makes it stand above all the rest is the love members have for one another—dramatic, persistent love like the love Jesus has for them.” (Cousar, Texts for preaching, p. 311.

A short time after Jesus has given this new commandment and sealed it with his death, resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we catch up with Peter. He has been called to meet with some believers in Jerusalem because they are upset that he is ministering to Gentiles.

And Peter tells his amazing story. He was in Joppa. He went up on the roof to pray, and he had a vision of all kinds of food, clean and unclean, being lowered from heaven as on a sheet. Then the voice of God said, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter objected strenuously. “Lord, I have always followed the dietary laws. I would never eat anything that was unclean!” The voice of God came a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 

God has just thrown the dietary laws out the window. This happens three times. We recall that the number three signifies completeness. The dietary laws are now gone. Peter has lived his life by these laws, and now they are erased.

But the Holy Spirit is not finished. Peter has no time to think this over. Three men from Caesarea arrive. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them without question and to make no distinction between himself and them. Walls are tumbling down all over the place. Six brothers are with him, and they accompany him to Caesarea. 

When they reach Caesarea, they go into the home of a man named Cornelius. He is a centurion in the Roman army, a devout man who loves God and gives generously to the people. An angel has told Cornelius to call Peter to come to see him.

As Peter begins to speak, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone gathered in Cornelius’ house, and Peter remembers how Jesus said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Peter concludes that the Holy Spirit can be given to everyone. He says, “If then God  gave the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem hear this, they are silenced.

Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he loves us has created a new community, and in the Book of Acts we see that community growing by leaps and bounds. Walls come down, barriers are broken, lives are transformed. Love is spreading faster than they can keep up with it. The Holy Spirit is at work.

Two thousand years later, we are that community. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, is leading us in living and walking the Way of Love. He says “If it’s about love, it’s about God. If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”

To return to the story of Peter, once the Gentiles in Cornelius’ home have received the holy Spirit, Peter asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he orders the people to be baptized. Then he and the brothers with him stay at the home of Cornelius for several days. They will be spending time together sharing their faith and building a larger and stronger community of believers.

We are called to help God to create God’s Beloved Community, a community where all people are accepted as precious and equal. When Peter was having his vision of God up on the roof, walls came down and divisions between people were erased. When the people in Cornelius’ home received the Holy Spirit, Peter realized that they should be baptized. As Paul said so many years ago. “In Christ, there is no slave nor free, no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, help us to love each other and all others as you have loved us. In your holy Name. Amen. Alleluia!

The Day of Pentecost Year B May 23, 2021

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35. 37B
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27 – 16:4b-15

Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told his followers to stay together and pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Earlier in chapter fifteen of John’s gospel, he told them and us that he is the vine and they and we are the branches, that we and our Lord have a bond and a relationship that is like a living organism. We depend on him and each other for life itself.

Now he is going to leave them, and he tells them that, if he does not go to be with God, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, cannot come. And he tells them something else. He says that there are many tings he cannot tell us. And then he says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” That is one of our Lord’s statements that we can spend our whole lives thinking about and praying about. 

In a profound sense, the Holy Spirit is now, day by day, guiding us into the truth that Jesus was not able to share fully when he was here on earth.

After the Ascension of our Lord, the apostles are in deep grief. How will they get along without him? What will they do? How will they make their decisions? Who will guide them? They are very sad, but they do what he told them to do. They stay in Jerusalem, they remain together and they pray and wait for the Spirit to come.

The city is full of people who are there to observe the Feast of Weeks, the celebration of the spring harvest fifty days after the Passover. This is why there are people from all over the known world in Jerusalem at that time, from all the areas surrounding the Mediterranean sea.

The apostles are gathered there, too, saddened but faithful, missing Jesus but doing exactly what he said to do—waiting and praying.

Suddenly, there is a powerful wind shaking the house where they are staying. It is the ruach, the desert wind, the wind of the Spirit. Tongues of fire dance over their heads and they burst out speaking all the languages in the known world, sharing the good news about Jesus so that everyone can hear and understand.

People flock there from the surrounding area, and they hear these simple men from Galilee speaking their own languages, speaking God’s peace and love heart to heart.

Some people think that Jesus’ followers are drunk. Peter explains what is happening and preaches and teaches from the prophets about the coming of the Spirit and about the ministry of Jesus. As a result, three thousand people are baptized. This is the beginning of what we now call the Church. This is the birthday of the Church.

Ever since that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been guiding us. In our epistle for today, Paul tells us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

Like Jesus’ followers two thousand years ago, we have stayed together, we have prayed together, and once again we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the divine energy coursing through the vine and the branches, enlivening the Body of Christ, the Church. The Holy Spirit is God at work in us and in the world, Wherever we see a spirit of love, caring, unity, and respect, the Spirit is at work.

This has not been an easy journey. Thanks be to God for the grace that has guided us to this day. Thanks to each and every one of you for your faithfulness, determination, grace, patience, flexibility, resourcefulness, humor, love, gentleness. and caring.

Today, after over two thousand years, the Church celebrates the bestowing of the gifts of the Spirit, gifts of love, gifts of healing, gifts of energy to extend God’s love to all we meet, gifts of expressing that love from one heart to another so that we and others can feel and know God’s love.

Our Lord told us that the Spirit would lead us into all truth, and each of us and all of us together are still learning more of that truth. One of the truths that Jesus was trying to tell us is that, because he has gone to be with God and because the Spirit has come to us, Jesus can be with everyone at once, all over the world, everywhere in the creation. Loving God, may your shalom touch every heart.

Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Shalom of God. Amen. Alleluia!

Easter 7A, May 24, 2020

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

Our opening reading today describes what happened on the feast day the Church celebrated this past Thursday, the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. He has been telling the disciples that he has to go to the Father and that he will send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. 

There he is with them on Mount Olivet. They ask him if he is going to bring in his kingdom. He tells them that it is not for them to know the timing, but then he assures them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and that they will be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth.”

Let us take a few moments and think about this. Jesus has been telling them that he will go to be with God and will send the Holy Spirit, but there is a huge difference between hearing him say these things and standing there watching him rise into heaven, leaving them alone and grief-stricken. 

We can imagine that the apostles felt completely lost as they watched him ascend. He said he would not leave them comfortless, but I think they felt sad and lost as they gazed up into the heavens and saw him disappear behind that cloud.

Two angels appear and ask them why they are staring up to heaven. These angels obviously are not very sympathetic. Then the angels tell them that Jesus will come to them again. This seems to help. They recall that he had told them that he would come again.

Sometimes the Bible leaves things out. We can imagine what a shock it was for the apostles to see Jesus disappear. They had spent every waking moment with him for somewhere between eighteen months and three years, depending on which gospel we are reading. In any case, it was a long time. They had shared meals; they had prayed together; he had taught them; when they had questions, there he was to answer those questions. When they wondered what was the best course of action,  he was there to guide them. Now, he was gone. What would they do? Who would be their leader? We can imagine that perhaps they wept. Perhaps they felt abandoned. They could have felt a whole flood of emotions.

But the scripture does not address that. It simply says, “Then they returned to Jerusalem.” When they got there, they went to that familiar upper room. And Luke tells us who was there—Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. Also Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the other women who had been there through it all. And Jesus’ brothers. And we are told that they constantly devoted themselves to prayer. He had told them to wait and pray, and the Spirit would come to them, and that is what they did.

We were not physically there when all of this happened, but this story is our story. We did not have the great joy of spending several years with Jesus in a literal sense, but we do have the privilege of knowing him because we have spent time in community together with each other and with him. We have felt his love. He has taught us as we have read the scriptures together. He has led us as we have sought his guidance in prayer together and individually. We have shared the Eucharist, the meal at which he is our host. We have talked to him and listened to him, individually and corporately.

We have not literally stood and watched him ascend, yet we have gazed in awe at the beautiful window over the altar at Grace. As we have looked at that window, we have joined the apostles in watching Jesus ascend, and we have tried to figure out which apostle is whom.

We have not experienced in a literal sense the shock of watching our beloved Lord ascend into heaven, which may be a great blessing, because we have not experienced the sense of loss they must have felt. But we have experienced his presence with us.

That is the important thing. We have experienced his presence. We are his sheep. He is our good shepherd.

Our gospel for today is our Lord’s prayer to God for us.  Jesus says to God, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine.” At other times he has said that he and God are one. I have no doubt that the apostles felt that, as they were walking and talking with Jesus, they were walking and talking with their loving God. As Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

At the end of our gospel, Jesus prays, “And now I am no longer in the world, but they ( meaning his followers, us) are in the world.”  And then Jesus prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

As we stand and watch out Lord ascend to be with the Father, and as we realize on deeper and deeper levels that Jesus is God walking the face of the earth, and as we think of all the time we have spent with our Lord, sharing Eucharist with him and learning from him, and as we realize more and more profoundly that Jesus, God, and the Spirit are one, and as we pray, we may be able to get a sense of what was happening with the apostles all those years ago as they stayed together and prayed, as he had told them to do, and waited actively, expectantly, faithfully, for the coming of the Spirit just as we will do this week as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost.

Jesus asked God to protect us, his followers, so that we may be one as Jesus and God are one. Our Lord was praying in a world where a ruthless empire could kill you for no reason, just as Covid-19 can snuff us out. Our Lord prayed for protection for his followers, and I am hoping and praying that each of us can feel that protection coming from God so that we can feel as close to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Jesus did to his heavenly Father. And I hope and pray that this sense of closeness with and protection by our Loving God will bring you a deep peace, even in the midst of this most distressing pandemic. Our loving God is as close as our breath. Our loving Shepherd. Jesus, is leading us. May we wait and pray for the gifts of the Spirit at Pentecost. 

May we pray together the Collect for Ascension Day, p. 226.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he  fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in gory everlasting.  Amen.

Easter 2A April 19, 2020

Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

This is the Second Sunday of Easter. The Easter season goes from Easter Sunday until the Day of Pentecost. We often call this period the Great Fifty Days of Easter, to remind ourselves that this is a long season full of joy and culminating in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

During the Easter season, all  of our readings are from the Greek Scriptures, the New Testament. This is another way to remind ourselves that we are an Easter people. And we say Alleluia! often during this season.

Our first reading today is Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost. Peter proclaims the Good News of Jesus to the crowd which has just witnessed the flames dancing over the heads of the apostles as they share the love of Jesus in all the known languages of the world. Our  second reading, from the First Letter of Peter, is a song of praise to God, “who has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Peter writes, “Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”

And then we have our gospel. Every year, on the Second Sunday of Easter, we read this wonderful lesson from the gospel of John. The disciples have not yet left for Galilee. They are in the room where they had been staying. Only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” have actually seen Jesus. Peter and John have gone to the empty tomb, but they have not seen the risen Lord.

It is the evening of that first Easter. They have locked the doors for fear of the authorities. We can understand why they have done this, They are terrified. They remember the rigged trial, the whipping, the crown of thorns, the taunts, the mob yelling for him to be crucified, and the horror of the crucifixion itself. Only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” have actually seen the risen Jesus. The disciples know what the Roman Empire can do, They know what the religious authorities can do. They have heard that Jesus is risen, but only two of them have actually seen him. There is every reason to fear.

Suddenly, silently, he is in their midst. He walks through the walls and locks that fear has put in place. “Peace be with you,” he says. He brings them his shalom, the peace of his kingdom. He shows them his wounds. Jesus lovingly moves through all the barriers we humans create. Now he appears in this room filled with terrified disciples and fills the space with his peace, his love, his healing, his forgiveness. And he gives his followers the ministry of reconciliation. Peace, shalom, he says, and calls us to build his kingdom of love and harmony. He fills their hearts and minds with his presence, Now they realize what has happened. He is alive!

Thomas is not there that first time. The disciples tell him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas needs to see the risen Lord for himself. As Herbert O’Driscoll points out, Thomas has given his heart and life to Jesus, and now all he knows is that Jesus is dead. 

A week later, Jesus comes a second time to convince Thomas of the truth. Thomas does not even have to touch our Lord’s wounds. He bursts out in a hymn of praise, “My Lord and my God!”

Now, over two thousand years later, we are gathered, not in a room or a church building, but in our own homes and on Zoom. Last Sunday, Andy rang the bell at Grace Church, and Deb Peloubet let us know that indeed the bell had rung to proclaim our Easter joy. Now, we have gathered again. As the old song says, “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.”

During this pandemic, we are no strangers to fear. Fear is all around us. Death and disease are all around us. In a profound way, this pandemic is almost more scary than the Roman Empire. It has moved across the earth in only a few months, infected 2.25 million people and killed 158,000 people.

It would not take much for us to be filled with fear in the way that Jesus’ followers were as they locked themselves in that room. We can understand Thomas. He wanted the facts. So do we. We want to follow the science. We want to be sure to develop adequate testing both for the presence of this powerful virus and for the antibodies which it leaves once a person recovers. And we want to find treatments. And we want to discover a vaccine that will protect people against this New Corona Virus, Covid 19. We are very much like Thomas.

We know we cannot give way to fear. We also know that we cannot take this virus lightly. We have seen too many people congregate on the beaches during Spring Break and carry the virus all over the country. We have seen what happens in states that wait too long to “Stay Home, Stay Safe.” So, we respect this virus. 

And we grieve. We grieve over the deaths of courageous and dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health workers who have given their lives to save others. And we grieve over the deaths of elderly folks in nursing homes and senior housing facilities where the virus has spread so quickly and taken so many lives. We grieve for all who have lost their lives in this pandemic.

We remember the angel who told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid.” And we remember that Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid.” And we look at the risen Jesus through the eyes of Thomas, who would not believe it from others but had to see for himself, and we say, “My Lord and my God!” 

And we remember the words of Peter, the leader of the apostles, the man Jesus named as the rock on whom he would build his Church, the faithful follower of Christ who wrote a letter to inspire the followers of our Lord in the midst of persecution: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”

And finally, we remember the words of our Lord, “Peace be with you.”

A peace so deep and so strong that it goes to the roots of our souls and draws up his living water to sustain us and to make the world new. For the peace which he is giving us is his shalom, his kingdom, his reign of love and wholeness and harmony over the whole wide earth. His kingdom will come. And we are helping him to build that kingdom. Amen.

Pentecost 11 Proper 13B RCL August 5, 2018

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51:1-13
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

Last Sunday, we looked on as King David lost his moral compass and spiraled downward, beginning with adultery and going on to murder. These events seem almost unbelievable when we think of David, the beloved hero of his people, the faithful and courageous shepherd-king. But all of these things did happen, and they remind us that we humans are frail and fallible.

Back in Old Testament times, if a king became corrupt or broke the law, a prophet would be the one to confront the king and hold him accountable. In our reading today, Nathan is called to that difficult and dangerous vocation.

When we humans go off the skids and begin to believe that somehow the law does not apply to us, the usual kinds of confrontation from other humans often do not work very well. But Nathan is a prophet called by God, and a wise and courageous man.

He tells a story of a poor and loving and faithful man who has a beloved ewe lamb whom he treats as a member of his family and a ruthless wealthy man who takes the ewe lamb and feeds it to a traveler. King David is outraged at this inhumanity and injustice. And then Nathan tells him that he, King David, is that man.

Nathan also tells David that there will be serious and tragic consequences for his immoral behavior. At this point in the spiritual journey, some people continue to insist that they have done nothing wrong. To David’s credit, he confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nonetheless, strife and tragedy will mark his family life from now on.

Our psalm for today, Psalm 51, is the psalm we recite on Ash Wednesday as we begin our Lenten discipline. This penitential psalm is an appropriate response to the story of David’s actions and to our own awareness and acknowledgment of our sins.

In our gospel today, Jesus and the disciples have fed the large crowd of  over five thousand people and have crossed the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. The people get into boats and follow Jesus to the other side.

Our Lord tells them that they are following him because of the physical food he gives them. He calls them and us to seek the food that leads to eternal life. As his followers, we know that he means the food of his presence. We know that he is talking about the nourishment and energy that comes from spending time with him, time thinking about the scriptures and sharing in the Holy Eucharist, the feast of thanksgiving in which he feeds us with his life and energy so that we can carry out his ministry here on earth as his living and vibrant Body.

And he says something that will always live in our hearts and minds, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Our epistle for today, from the Letter to the Ephesians, is, in my opinion, one of the most important passages in the Bible. Paul is encouraging us to lead lives worthy of our calling as followers of Christ. Our lives are to be marked by humility, gentleness. and patience, and we are to live together as a community of faith in the unity of the Holy Spirit. We may have different ideas about things, different opinions, but we know that we are one in Christ Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Then Paul reminds us that we have all received different gifts from the Spirit. Some are apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers and rescuers of dogs and some who help children and young people and some who minister to elders, some who help folks who have the disease of addiction, some who make places more accessible, or pay the bills, or sew, or knit, or clean, or help feed people, and the list goes on and on. All are doing the work of ministry and building up the Body of Christ. And, Paul says so wisely, we are all growing to maturity in Christ.

We are all growing together; we are all knit together as the parts of a body are knit together. We are all called to use our gifts, and we are called to “Grow up in every way into…Christ.” We are called to become as much like our Lord as possible, with his grace, and to work together in harmony. As Paul says, all of this “promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”

The whole purpose of our life together in and with Jesus is to share his love, to be his eyes, looking on people with his compassion, his hands reaching out to welcome and heal.

This passage, Ephesians 4:1-16, and 1 Corinthians 12, are St. Paul’s clear and powerful descriptions of what it means to be the Body of Christ doing his ministry here on earth. Grace Church is doing this, with God’s grace and the help of the Holy Spirit.

There is so much to meditate about in today’s readings. David’s tragic story reminds us that we are all sinners. We all get off track at times.  With God’s grace, we acknowledge our sins and get back on the path toward God. Jesus is the true bread from heaven. Every time we gather for Eucharist, he feeds us. When two or three are together in his name, he is with us, He is with all of us at every moment in our lives. This is a gift beyond measure. We can always turn to him and ask him for help.

Paul, a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, met the risen Christ on the Road to Damascus. He was blinded by the light of Christ.  When his sight returned, he became the apostle to the Gentiles. As he founded churches around the Mediterranean, Jesus gave him the vision of what a Christian community is called to be, and he shared that vision with us. We thank our Lord Jesus Christ for his life and ministry and for the gift of life together in and with him. May we continue to minister faithfully in his Name. Amen.

The Day of Pentecost  May 20, 2018

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Today we are celebrating the Feast of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are waiting and praying. Their community has survived the betrayal of Judas. Under God’s guidance, they have chosen Matthias to complete the company of the apostles. They are all together in the house where they have been gathering, and suddenly there is a sound like the rushing wind as the Holy Spirit fills the house and flames of fire dance over their heads and they burst forth in all the languages of the known world the world around the Mediterranean Sea.

God is bringing forth a new thing, God is giving birth to a new community, God’s big family, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it. The apostles are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of God’s love so that each person there hears this wonderful news in his or her native tongue.

And just to make sure that everyone understands, Peter completes this extraordinary event with a sermon. God is fulfilling the prophecy of Joel, that the people will see visions and dream dreams, and God will pour out God’s Spirit on all people.

In our gospel for today, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will come, and will lead us into all truth. The Spirit is still leading us into the truth about the depth of God’s love for us and the call of our Lord to help him to build his shalom of peace and love.

In our epistle for today, Paul talks about this birth process of a new thing, a new vision for life, the vision rooted and grounded in God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love.

God’s love is so great that when we cannot find words to pray, the Spirit prays for us “with sighs too deep for words.” When we become wordless, God hears our prayer and voices it for us.

We say that the Day of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The apostles could have become swamped by sorrow and anger at the betrayal by Judas, but they did not. They asked God’s guidance and, with prayer and care they chose Matthias to complete God’s team called to spread the good news.

Today, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, giving the followers of Jesus the gift to be able to share the truth about Jesus. He came among us to share his love, healing, and forgiveness, his vision of peace and harmony and wholeness for all people and for the creation. And on Pentecost, the apostles received the gift to share that Good News with everyone who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world—to share that good news heart to heart—not just on an intellectual level, but in a way that could be received by the heart, the center of will and intention as well as thought, emotion, and intuition.

The Spirit continues to lead us into all the truth. Not just emotionally, not just intellectually, but on every level. What did our Lord mean when he called us to love each other as he and God love each other? As we answer this question for ourselves and walk that journey, we find that  barriers come down and we move closer and closer to his shalom, God’s deep peace and harmony over the whole wide earth and the entire creation.

As we go out into the world today, let us remember that the Holy Spirit has touched our minds and hearts and will and intention and understanding on every level and has called us to share God’s love on a deep level—heart to heart. Often we will share God’s love by actions rather than by words.  To paraphrase an old saying, “Share the good news of God’s love. Use words if necessary.” Amen.

Easter 7A RCL May 28, 2017

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, it is forty days after the first Easter. Jesus has died on the cross; his followers have gone to the tomb and found it empty; word has spread that Jesus has risen, During these forty days, many of his followers have seen the risen Lord.

Imagine how they are feeling. He has died. He is risen. What is going to happen now? He has told them that he will have to return to the Father, but that he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them. They have no understanding of the Holy Spirit. What they do know is that they have spent every waking hour with Jesus for a long period of time, They have shared meals with him. He has taught them. When they have had questions or needed guidance, they have gone to him and he has helped them. He has been there, like a light in the darkness. He has been the wisest of guides when they needed advice. Now, he is going to leave them.

The apostles are gathered at the Mount of Olives, a short distance outside of Jerusalem. They ask him if the kingdom of David, our Lord’s ancestor, is going to be restored. He does not answer them directly, but he tells them and us that we humans do not always understand or know God’s timing. What we can do is to be ready at all times to do God’s will. Looking back over two thousand years, we know that the Kingdom of God has been growing all that time. They have no way of knowing that, on the Feast of Pentecost in a few short days, the growth of that Kingdom, God’s shalom, will leap forward with the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

At the Mount of Olives, our Lord tells the apostles and us, “….You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Here they are, grieving and a bit afraid, wondering what they are going to do without him, and he gives them and us this commission. We are his witnesses to the ends of the earth. He is counting on us to continue his work. Then he is lifted up into heaven. And this beautiful window depicts that scene.

I think they felt many things. I think they felt lost and very sad. But they did not lose faith or give up. They did not run for the hills. The text tells us that they went back to Jerusalem. And what did they do? They did exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do. They gathered together, the first community of followers of our Lord, and they prayed. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, tells us that there were certain women with these first followers, including Mary, the mother of Jesus and, most certainly Mary Magdalene, and others. They waited together and they prayed together.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is praying for the apostles and for us. In this prayer, Jesus tells us that he and God are one. He says that he has completed the work that he came to do. He has taught the apostles and us how much God loves us. He has shared with us the powerful truth and the healing power of God’s love for us and for everyone. And now, he is depending on the apostles and on us to share that love to the ends of the earth.

Jesus is going to return to heaven, but before he does that, he prays for God’s protection for the apostles and for us. Think of that, Our Lord prays for God’s protection for us.

In our reading from the First Letter of Peter, written to slaves and aliens in Asia Minor who are undergoing persecution, we hear some advice that can help us as we face challenges. Peter tells us that God’s Spirit is resting on us. He advises us to cast all our anxiety on God, because God cares for us. He tells us to discipline ourselves and stay alert. He counsels us to remain steadfast in our faith.

And then Peter concludes with this inspiring prayer,”…the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” Peter echoes Jesus’ prayer for us. God is protecting us even now.

God is always with us; Jesus is with us; the Holy Spirit is with us, to restore, support, and strengthen us. Challenges will come along, but we are not alone. God’s power and love are with us.

We are looking forward to the Feast of Pentecost this coming Sunday. We know that the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles and gave them the amazing gift to speak heart to heart to every person gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

The apostles and the others gathered with them did not know that, They knew that Jesus had told them to stay together and pray and to be ready for the power of the Spirit to come to them. But they had no idea what this meant until it happened to them and they began to use the gifts of the Spirit to spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness and healing to a world ruled by a vast and powerful and ruthless empire. But they had faith. They gathered and prayed.

That is what we are called to do. We are called to take some time this week to prepare for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit still comes and touches people’s hearts and lives in this day and age. If you have something red, feel free to wear it to symbolize the flames that danced over the heads of the apostles.

Let us again pray the Collect for this day on page 226:

O God, the King of Glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Day of Pentecost Year C RCL May 15, 2016

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17, (25-27)

On that first Pentecost, people were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world. It was the Jewish feast of Pentecost, a festival much like our Thanksgiving. But scholars tell us that there were many Gentiles there as well.

Jesus had gone to be with God. He had told the apostles that he would not leave them comfortless, that he would send the Holy Spirit. They stayed together and prayed. They chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot so that the company of the apostles would be whole and ready to do ministry.

They were together in a house somewhere in Jerusalem when it happened. There was a sound like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the house. Tongues of fire rested over each of their heads. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in all of the known languages of that time.

Some people thought they were drunk, but Peter explained that the prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled, that God would pour out God’s spirit on everyone.

Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. From this moment on, the apostles will be traveling around the Mediterranean basin planting communities of followers of Jesus wherever they go.

Our epistle for today is brief but powerful. We have received a spirit of adoption. We are children of God. Because of the life and ministry of our Lord, we have been brought so close to God that we can call God Daddy or Dad or Mama or Mom. Because of our Lord, we have an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe.

Our gospel is part of Jesus’ last teaching session with the apostles. Philip says to Jesus, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied,” And Jesus tells Philip and us that, in seeing him, we have seen God. Jesus is God living a human life. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. The almost unbelievable quality of love which Jesus shows to all people is God’s love. Jesus and God are one.

Then Jesus tells us that “the one who believes in me will do the works that I do.” In other words, the fact that we bier in Jesus means that we are called to carry on his ministry here on earth. We are called to reach out in love to others; we are called to feed the hungry and to give clothes and shelter to those who need them. We are called to follow Jesus as our model, to live as he lived.

Jesus tells the apostles that he will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with us, to lead and guide and energize us .

After this teaching time with the apostles, called his Last Discourse, Jesus was crucified. We know that one of the apostles, John, was there at the foot of the cross. We do not know where the others were. It was the saddest day in the history of the world.

But then people began seeing the risen Christ. Two of them walking to Emmaus saw him. He appeared to Peter and the others on the beach. He came through the locked doors of the upper room. Gradually they realized that he was alive. And they gathered as he had told them to do, and they waited together, and they prayed.

It must have been very strange for them to realize that he was alive. More and more people had encounters with him. And then he ascended to be with God. He told them that he had to do this so that the Spirit could come to them.

It is one of the mysteries of our faith that, because of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is alive in every corner of the creation at all times. Jesus is here with us now, and he is with people all over the world.

When the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, they were able to share the Good News in every language. They were able to speak of God’s love in such a way that their message reached deep into the hearts of all the people gathered there.

That message has come down to us over the centuries. God loves us so much that God has adopted us as God’s children. God loves the whole big human family.

I would like to ask you to help me end this sermon by singing together an ancient chant. The words date back to a Latin text from the 9th century. The tune was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. and was published in 1865. John Henry Hopkins Jr was the son of our first Bishop, John Henry Hopkins. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont in 1839 and his master’s degree from UVM in 1845. He taught music at General Theological Seminary from 1855-57, was rector of Trinity Church in Plattsburgh, New York from 1872-1876 and of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania from 1876 to 1887. He delivered the eulogy at the funeral of President Ulysses S, Grant in 1845.

This beautiful hymn calls on the Holy Spirit to come to us and fill us with the gifts of the spirit.

May the Holy Spirit fill us this day and always.  Amen.