Pentecost – A

                                                                                                                                                                        Acts 2:1-21

                                                                                                                                                                        John 20:19-23

                                                                                                                                                                        June 3, 2017

                                                                                                                                                                        St. Columba’s

 

           In the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Intro

 

           Last week, we talked about what it must have been like for the Disciples when Jesus Ascended and returned to the Father.

 

           We thought about their pain and confusion as they were losing Jesus again.

           Once again they had to face the world on their own – a world that was angry and judgmental, and full of disbelief.

 

           But as he left, Jesus gave them a promise;

                      - He promised that his followers would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8)

 

           And the Disciples believed his promise and waited for it to be fulfilled.

 

I. Coming of the Spirit

 

           A. We hear once again in our first reading that amazing story of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

                      1. How it came with a great rush of wind, and appeared like tongues of fire, lighting on the Disciples heads.

 

                      2. How they were empowered to rush out to tell people the Good News of Jesus.

 

                      3. And the Spirit made it possible for them to be understood by people from all over the known world.

 

                      4. And in the end, thousands of people came to believe in Jesus that day.

 

 

           B. The coming of the Spirit was not a private mystical experience, but a public outpouring of the Divine presence that touched them all.

 

                      1. The universal mission of the Church is symbolized here with the specific naming of nations.

 

                      2. Here the confusion of the Tower of Babel has been overturned by the power of the Holy Spirit, and all humanity is brought together.

 

                      3. Then Peter stood up and proclaimed to the wondering crowds that they were witnessing nothing less than the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (2:28-29), in which God pours out the Divine Spirit on all humanity – a declaration of new life made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

                      4. These are no longer scared followers wondering what’s next for them now that their leader is gone – these are empowered Apostles – witnesses to the saving love of God.

 

II. Gospel

 

           A. Our Gospel reading gives us a different version of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

                      1. Remember, in his Gospel, John takes a more theological than historical perspective – and it’s important for him to tie the giving of the Holy Spirit to the power of the Resurrection.

 

                      2. Our Gospel is a continuation of the events of that first Easter morning: Mary Magdalene has already been to the tomb and reported to the others that she has seen the Lord.

 

                      3. Yet, they were still unsure and questioned if this was just her imagination run wild – when suddenly, there’s Jesus, standing among them.

 

                      4. He greets them with the traditional greeting, “Peace be with you.” 

 

                      5. But his greeting is far more than a simple hello;

                           - for the peace that Jesus brings, as one commentator said, “is an assurance of God’s transforming love to a world that is beset with confusion, fear and turmoil.” (Synthesis)

 

                       6. Then, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

                      7. Remember, spirit, in Hebrew is ruach, and means breath – so quite literally what Jesus is doing is giving his friends the breath of God, to guide them as they were sent into the world.

 

                      8. Just as the Holy Spirit had been present with Jesus in full measure throughout his ministry, this same empowerment would be available for the disciples as well.

 

           B. As he does this, Jesus says to his friends, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (v.21)

 

                      1. The mission that had been entrusted to Jesus by the Father is now to be carried out by the disciples.

 

                      2. As Jesus had been empowered by the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry, this same power will now be given to the Disciples.

 

                      3. Thus Jesus breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

 

III. Being Sent

 

           A. And just as the Apostles were sent – so WE TOO are sent – to do the very same thing – to tell others about the wonders of God’s love for them.

 

                      1. And just like the Apostles, we are not left to flounder at our own wits end – Jesus gives US the Holy Spirit as OUR Comforter and Guide.

 

                      2. That’s what we celebrate today and every Pentecost: that the church has been empowered by God’s Spirit to carry on the ministry of Jesus and to be his presence in the world.

 

           B. And this same Spirit continues to generate life and enable ministry in the church today – by giving us the GIFTS we need to make it so.

 

                  1. In our New Testament lesson, St. Paul outlines some of these gifts.

 

                      2. But his list is by no means exhaustive – the Holy Spirit didn’t just come up with Paul’s list and then stop creating gifts – there are as many gifts of the Holy Spirit as there are people who have them, and the Spirit is always coming up with more.

                      3. The important thing here is that they are all from the same Spirit – and they are ALL needed for the building up of the Body of Christ.

 

                      4. In other words, EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE – and we need them all to be able to do the things that God has given us to do.

 

                      5. That means it’s up to us to use our gifts to share all the wonderful things God does for us and how very much God loves us.

 

Conclusion

 

           Writing about Pentecost, the commentator Susanna Metz says:

 

                      “All we need to do to claim the effectiveness (of that first Pentecost) is to begin.

 

                      “It’s what Peter did.

 

                      “He opened his mouth and fearlessly spoke the truth of God.”

 

           She then goes on to say:

 

                      “In each of our communities of faith WE have a chance to be a tongue of fire: encouraging, supporting, inspiring.

 

                      “Pentecost should remind us all that we, too, have been blessed with the power of the Spirit; infused with the gift of God’s grace; and anointed to open our mouths and share that blessing.”

 

           May this Pentecost be for us an opportunity to share our blessing with those we love, and those we don’t love yet – as we meet them in our world that is angry and judgmental, and full of disbelief.

 

           May God use us and OUR GIFTS to melt the hearts hardened by life with the blessing of God’s love.

 

Let Us Pray

 

Almighty and most merciful God, grant that by the indwelling of your Holy Spirit we may be enlightened for your service, and use our gifts to be your servants in the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN.

(BCP p. 251-adapted)


              Easter 7 – A

                                                                                                                                                                        John 17:1-11

                                                                                                                                                                        Acts 1:1-14

                                                                                                                                                                        May 28, 2017

                                                                                                                                                                        St. Columba’s

 

           In the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Intro

 

           What do you call the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost?

 

           Well, several names have been suggested.

 

           Some call it “Ascension Sunday” – as our first lesson focuses on Jesus’ Ascension, which took place 40 days after his Resurrection, the feast that was celebrated last Thursday.

 

           Others have called today, “Waiting Sunday” as the Disciples waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

           And others have called it, “Expectant Sunday” for much the same reason – as the Disciples waited expectantly

 

           I would like to suggest that we might call it “Get off your duff and do something” Sunday – for that is what the Angels seem to be telling the Disciples in our first lesson.

 

I. Ascension

 

           A. In our first lesson, from the Book of Acts, we hear once again the story of Jesus ascending to God.

 

                      1. Following the Resurrection, Jesus spends 40 Days with his Disciples, teaching them and preparing them for their work in the world.

 

                      2. After this time of preparation, Jesus took them out to the Mount of Olives and there he gave them his last words.

 

                      3. He said, “This is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will baptize with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

 

                      4. And he went on to say, “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.”

                      5. And then, as they were watching, He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 

 

           B. That certainly would have grabbed the attention of the congregation.

 

                      1. But imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus disappeared from sight.

 

                      2. Once again, they were losing Jesus.

 

                      3. The relief and joy they must have felt after the Resurrection was again being crushed by uncertainty.

 

                      4. It was the ‘men in white” who reassured them that He will come again as he promised.

                                 - They would not be left alone.

 

                      5. The Disciples might have stood there with their necks craning to get one last look for ever had not those two Angels said to them:

                                 - “What are you looking at?

                                 - “He’ll be back, just as he said he would.

                                 - “Now get off your duffs and do something.”

 

                      6. And they gathered in that Upper Room and prayed and waited for what was to come next.

 

           C. We like the Disciples are called to be Jesus’ witnesses.

 

                      1. We are to be his witnesses in “Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria” – and in Camarillo, in Mission Oaks, and in all Ventura County, and to the ends of the earth.

 

                      2. We too have been called, not to keep staring off into heaven wondering what to do next – but to be Jesus’ witnesses.

 

                      3. We are to tell other people about Jesus and the difference he makes in our lives – and show forth that difference in our lives.

 

                      4. And the good news is that we don’t have to do it alone, because Jesus says He is going to help us.

 

                      5. He will help us by sending the Holy Spirit to guide us – AND, in the Gospel, Jesus says he will pray for us.

II. Jesus Prays for US

 

           A. Our Gospel reading comes to us once again from that FIVE chapter long “farewell discourse” given by Jesus during the Last Supper in the Gospel of John.

                      1. We’ve been hearing pieces of it for the last two Sundays, and here is Jesus still going on and on.

 

                      2. In this final prayer for his Disciples, Jesus sums up the significance of his earthly life.

 

                      3. He has finished his mission he was sent to do, and now he asks that God’s glory be revealed through him.

 

                      4. He then goes on to pray for God’s protection for his Disciples, who are understandably confused and frightened of the future.

 

                      5. Jesus prays, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

 

                      6. And as Jesus prays for his Disciples, and sent them out – so now he sends US out.

 

           B. Just as now WE are the ones in the world – so now WE are the ones for whom he prays.

 

                      1. But just what does it mean to be “in the world”?

 

                      2. WE, like the Disciples before us, are called to be Jesus’ witnesses IN the world.

 

                      3. We are called to be IN the world – actively engaging it and bringing God’s love to it;

                                 - we are NOT to be OF the world, following the siren call of what the popular culture thinks is important;

                                 - but in a very real sense, WE are sent TO the world – to bring God’s love and God’s grace to the very ones popular culture casts aside.

 

                  4. That is what we are called to do as Christ’s witnesses in the world.

 

 

           C. And as we do this – Jesus is praying for us.

 

                      1. The disciples for whom Jesus prays in the Gospel are our examples – as Jesus prayed for them when He sent them out – so now He prays for us as he sends us out.

 

                      2. Think about that – isn’t that wonderful news – Jesus is praying for us – for US – for you and me!

 

                      3. Have you ever thought about that?

                      - How does it make you feel to know that Jesus is praying for YOU?

 

                      4. It can be a little scary – and a bit overwhelming at times – but think of it, JESUS IS PRAYING FOR US.

 

                      5. So if Jesus is praying for us – how can we not step forward and do the ministry we are called to do?

 

                      6. If Jesus is praying for us – how can we not be successful?

 

                      7. And the key for US is the same as it was for the first Disciples – to be constantly in touch with Jesus through prayer.

 

                      8. Look what the Disciples do after the Ascension in our first lesson, they were “constantly devoting themselves to prayer” – and in Luke’s Gospel version “they were continually in the Temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:53)

 

                      9. That’s what we need to be doing too, devoting ourselves to prayer – so that we can draw strength from Jesus as he prays for us to be his servants in the world.

 

III. What We need to be Doing

 

           A. So that’s why I think this should be “Get off your duff and do something” Sunday.

 

                      1. That’s what the Angels said to the Disciples after Jesus’ Ascension – and that’s what Jesus is calling us to do as well.

 

                      2. As I said before, we need to be IN the world – actively engaging it and bringing God’s love to it.

 

                      3. But we might be worried, “What if I make a mistake?”

                      4. There’s know “what” about it – we will make mistakes, we will have set backs – but we need to pick ourselves up and get back in the game.

 

                      5. As British author Neil Gaiman put it, “I hope … you will make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

 

                      6. And as we are doing this SOMETHING – Jesus is praying for us.

 

           B. Now, the best way for us to be IN the world and bringing God’s love to those who need it, is really very simple – we simply need to be open and welcoming.

 

                      1. And who knows, when we are open and welcoming we may be actually welcoming Jesus himself, as we welcome new ideas and new energy from those who come.

 

                      2. I recently heard about a sign that is hanging on the door of Coventry Cathedral – you may have heard about it too.

 

                      3. It’s a sign that puts all this into perspective for us – if we truly mean it and live it.

 

           C. Here is what it says: “A Cathedral Welcome”

 

                      We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich, comfortable, or dirt poor.

 

                   We extend a special welcome to wailing babies and excited toddlers.

 

                      We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woken up or just got out of prison.  We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven’t been to church since Christmas 10 years ago.

                      We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit moms, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps, or don’t like organized religion. (We’re not that keen on it either.)

                      We offer a welcome to those who think the Earth if flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because Granny is visiting and wanted to come to the cathedral.

 

                      We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither.  We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids or got lost in the city centre and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters, and you.”

 

           D. That’s what it means to be welcoming.

                      That’s what it means to be IN the world.

 

                      1. It may be a little uncomfortable at times – some of those make me a little antsy – but if you’re going to be open and inviting – and WELCOMING – than you have to welcome everybody and mean everybody.

 

                      2. So how can we live this out here?

 

                      3. The first step is to talk with your family and friends – tell them the difference that Jesus and St. Columba’s makes for you – and then INVITE them to give it a try for themselves.

                                 - St. Columba’s day with all its fun and the picnic is right around the corner and that’s a perfect time to invite someone.

 

                      4. Another way is to help out in our booth at the Fiesta this year.

                                 - The Fiesta is a little later this year – July 15th and 16th – there will be a sign-up sheet in the narthex and we could use your help, again to simply be a presence and to help share the good news of God and St. Columba’s to those who ask.

 

                      5. These are just two ways, there are as may possibilities as there are people willing to try – you simply have to step out and give it a shot – take a chance – and remember Jesus is praying for us.

 

Let Us Pray

 

           Lord Jesus Christ, you prayed for your Disciples that they may be your witnesses in the world: Grant that we who are called to service in you name may be strengthened by your Holy Spirit and empowered to serve you day by day; this we pray to you, as you pray for us. AMEN.                                   (GBL)


Easter 5 – A

                                                                                                                                                                        John 14:1-14

                                                                                                                                                                        May 14, 2017

                                                                                                                                                                        St. Columba’s

 

           In the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

I. George Herbert

 

           A. Nestled somewhere within the Age of Shakespeare and the Age of Milton is George Herbert.

 

                      1. George Herbert was brilliant, wealthy, well-born, and a favorite of the King and court.

 

                      2. Yet, to the astonishment of a generation of prominent Englishmen, he abandoned a promising career in public life, took holy orders, and accepted a call to the humble parishes of Fugglestone and Bemerton.

 

                      3. As he put it, “Methought I heard one calling, ‘Child.”

                                 - And I replied, ‘My Lord.’”

 

                      4. Herbert was born on April 3, 1593, in Montgomery Castle, Wales, one of ten children.

 

                      5. After his father died when George was 3 ½, his mother moved the family to London to see to it that her children were educated.

 

                      6. During this time, his Godfather, the poet and priest John Donne, had great influence on young George’s life.

 

                      7. In 1609, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge with the intention of becoming a priest, but eventually he became the University’s Public Orator.

 

                      8. This brought him into contact with the Court of King James the first, and the King himself.

 

           B. But he left public life and began once again studying divinity, and in 1626, at the age of 33, he was ordained a Deacon and later a Priest.

 

                      1. In 1630, he became rector of two tiny country parishes of Fugglestone and Bemerton.

 

                      2 And it was there that he came into his own and wrote much of his lasting poetry and his prose work, “A Priest in the Temple; or the Country Parson.”

                      3. His Biographer, Izaak Walton, portrays him as a model of the saintly parish priest.

 

                      4. He was unselfish in his devotion and service to others, while also giving of his time and money to rebuild the church and rectory at Bemerton.

 

                      5. Izaak Walton writes that many of his parishioners “let their plow rest when Mr. Herbert’s saints-bell rung to prayers, that they might also offer their devotion to God with him.”

 

           C. But, alas, his time in Bemerton was to be very short, as George Herbert died of tuberculosis, just three years later, at the of 40.

 

                      1. Shortly before his death, he gave a collection of poems, entitled “The Temple” to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, reportedly telling him to publish the poems if he thought they might “turn to the advantage of any dejected pour soul,” otherwise to burn them.

                             - Thanks to Ferrar, they were published not long after his death.

 

                      2. Herbert described his poems as a “picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul, before I could submit mine to the will of Jesus my Master; in whose service I have found perfect freedom.” 

 

                      3. Several of his poems have become hymns in our hymnal, including: “Teach me, my God and King;” “Let all the world in every corner sing;” one of my favorites “King of Glory, King of Peace;” and “Come my Way, my Truth, my Life;” of which I will say a bit more in a minute.

 

                      4. In short,  George Herbert made a lasting contribution to the church’s life in his writings and especially his poems.

 

                      5. But his also left the example of a small town pastor, both in his book and in his life.

 

             6. As one person noted, “It was in tiny Bemerton, and not at the mighty Court of St. James, that George Herbert found depth and meaning in life.

                                 -  “At Bemerton he was able to witness for his Master in unselfish service to others.

                                 - “He had learned the age-old lesson, as he wrote, ‘Nothing is little in God’s service.’”

II. “The Call”

 

           A. So with all this in mind, I’d like to look with you at one of George Herbert’s poems that is a response to today’s Gospel – “The Call” or “Come my Way, my Truth, my Life.”

 

                      1. You have it on the little hand out that was given to you with your bulletin.

                      2. And as we proceed, I am leaning heavily on a homily at our recent Clergy Conference given by Dr. William Countryman.

 

                      3. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (14:6).

 

                      4. And in his poem, George Herbert writes:

 

                                 Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:

                                 Such a way as gives us breath,

                                 Such a truth as ends all strife,

                                 Such a life as killeth death.

 

                      5. For Herbert, Jesus IS truly the Way yet, not a narrow way, but a broad highway that gives us our very breath.

 

                      6. Jesus is also the Truth – there can be no  STRIFE, when we follow Jesus on the Way of life.

 

                      7. And Jesus is the Life – the ultimate power of God, who by his dying and rising again destroys DEATH and makes everything new.

 

                      8. In the next stanza Herbert adds a number of additional allusions and offers real food for thought in the way he develops his theme:

 

                                 Come, my Light, my Feast my Strength:

                      - and then he describes them

                                 Such a light as shows a feast;

                                 Such a feast as mends in length

                                 Such a strength as makes his guest.

 

                      9. Such a strength as makes his guest?

                                 - What could Herbert mean by this?

 

           B. To help find an answer, Dr. Countryman turned to another of Herbert’s poems, you have it on your handout:

                                 Love Bade Me Welcome 

           Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back.
           Guiltie of dust and sinne.
           But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
           From my first entrance in,
           Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
           If I lack'd anything.

           A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
           Love said, You shall be he.
           I the unkinde, ungrateful? Ah, my deare,
           I cannot look on thee.
           Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
           Who made the eyes but I?

           Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
           Go where it doth deserve.
           And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
           My deare, then I will serve.
           You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
           So I did sit and eat.

 

                      1. So who is this STRENGTH as makes his GUEST – LOVE

 

                      2. As Dr. Countryman put it: “Sooner or later we must all consent to be loved;

                                 - and then to love God in return; and love others – all those who God loves.

 

           C. This love is summed up in the last stanza:

 

                      Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:

                      Such a joy as none can move,

                      Such a love as none can part,

                      Such a heart as joys in love.

 

10:15           1. I hope that when we sing this hymn at communion, you will join in with George Herbert and his love of Jesus.

 

                      2. And that you will take your poetry sheets home and ponder them this week and see how Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for you.

III. The Way for US

 

           A. When Jesus says to Thomas and the rest, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life, he is summing up his ministry for them – and US.

 

                      1. Jesus IS the Way – he is the one who leads to the Father.

 

                      2. His very life and teachings, his mission and servanthood exemplify the WAY his followers are to live.

 

                   3. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus is identified as the TRUTH.

 

                      4. Right from the start in the Prologue, Jesus is described as being “full of grace and truth. (1:14)

 

                      5. And Jesus is also identified as the LIFE, “in his was life, and the life was the light of all people.”(1:4)

 

                      6. So that those who believe in Jesus, and follow him as the Way, will know Truth, and have everlasting Life in him.

 

           B. I invite you to ponder this, NOW and in the days to come: How is Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life for YOU?

 

                      1. How has he been the Way, the Truth, and the life for you in the past?

                      2. And how would you like Him to be the Way, the Truth, and the life in the future.

 

                   3. Ponder these things in your heart – and pray that they might be so.

 

Conclusion

 

            I leave you now with one of George Herbert’s most powerful poems that urges every corner of creation to praise God with all it’s being:

 

                      Antiphon – from Antiphon (I)

                      Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing:
                      My God and King.
                      The heavens are not too high,
                      His praise may thither fly;
                      The earth is not too low,
                      His praises there may grow.

                      Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing:
                      My God and King.
                      The Church with psalms must shout,
                      No door can keep them out;
                      But above all, the heart
                      Must bear the longest part.

                      Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing:
                      My God and King.

 

Let Us Pray

 

           Our God and King, you called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  AMEN.                                                                      (HWHM p. 247)