Bread (and Faith) for Tomorrow

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

There’s an online class I’ve been flirting with taking.  It’s offered through Harvard’s free online program and it’s called, “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.” It covers such things as how heat works with various textures and amounts, how to vary ingredients and temperatures, depending on weather conditions, and even how some of the stranger food creations – foams and gels and such—are made.

There’s a big part of me that feels like if I just had the right information, took the right course, or read the right book, I would never make mistakes in the kitchen. Nothing would ever be burned. Nothing underdone and no strange reactions. I would know exactly what to do if the room were especially humid, or dry, if the oven cooked fast or slow, if the quality of the ingredients varied, and other such things. I like to imagine that, armed with information and knowhow; I could control the outcome and ensure the results.

I would not do very well in a world with manna: that food we hear about in the reading from Exodus, that mystery referred to in the Psalm.

Manna was that strange flakey stuff that God gave in the wilderness. It was good one day at a time. There were no assurances that it might come again. But you couldn’t save it. It was daily manna and like chicken salad at a summer picnic, if it weren’t eaten right away, it would spoil. Left unnoticed, manna became wormy. Put it in the sun, manna would melt. This “manna” was food, but it was also more than food, because manna was meant to be consumed with a side of faith. And more than a side of faith, really—it took ALL one’s faith to be receptive to God’s care. It took faith to rely upon the Lord to lead through the wilderness. It took faith to go to sleep each night trusting that there would be manna for the morrow. Perhaps it’s from that old, ancient story that the prayer began to be formed that would pray for daily manna, or daily bread.

When we pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” this is part of what we’re praying for. It’s a reaffirmation that no science class, no proficiency in the kitchen, no steady source of food or income can sustain–ultimately. We need bread not just for right now, but for tomorrow, too.

Biblical scholars like to point out that the grammar of the Lord’s Prayer actually conveys this sense of praying for tomorrow, praying for bread of the future. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, reflects on this as he connects manna with the bread of Holy Communion:

“…Some people in the early church understood [this phrase from the Lord’s Prayer] to mean the bread we want for tomorrow or even the bread of tomorrow; “give us today tomorrow’s bread”.

And they’ve thought that might mean give us now a taste of the bread we shall eat in the Kingdom of God. Give us a foretaste of that great banquet and celebration where the universe is drawn together by Christ in the presence of God the Father.

And so … Holy Communion is, at one level, bread for today, it’s very much our daily bread, it’s the food we need to keep going; but it’s also a foretaste of the bread of heaven, a foretaste of enjoying the presence of Jesus in heaven, at his table, at his banquet…
Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

Today’s Gospel picks up just after Jesus’ miracle with the loaves and fishes, his feeding of the five thousand (that we talked about last Sunday). But this week, people are still hungry. It’s not so much that they want to eat more, but they want to see more—more magic, more signs, more proof that Jesus is God, come to meet them. Jesus lays their hunger bare when he tells them, “don’t look to me to feed you. At least not the way you’re expecting it. You’re looking, but not seeing. Look deeper, for the food that endures for eternal life.”

But the people persist. They remind Jesus that God gave the people of Israel that sign of the manna in the wilderness, so can’t Jesus give them something miraculous like that, something really convincing?

But Jesus says, “Look to God for the true bread from heaven. Look to God for the bread that comes down and gives life to the world.” And then Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

If we stay in relationship with Christ, we are fed, spiritually and in every other way. But often, the spiritual equivalent of junk food is easier. We grab a spiritual nutrition bar and run. Stepping away from the table of the Lord, we drift away. And every relationship changes a little with distance. It’s often like with an old friend, we forget to return the call, to send the note, to respond to the email. And so time passes, and we get disconnected. We’re surprised when big news happens to our friend and we haven’t been a part of it, until we stop to realize that we’ve drifted, we’ve lost touch.

I recently heard a long distance runner interviewed on television. They asked the runner how much water she would drink and whether it mattered when she drank it along the way. She explained that she had to be careful to drink water before she actually felt thirsty. Otherwise, if she waited until she was thirsty, it would be too late, and her body would already be somewhat dehydrated, and she would be operating as less than capacity.

Isn’t the spiritual life a little like a marathon, in that way? If we wait until we notice the absence of Christ, if we wait until we feel God’s distance, then it takes a lot more to feel the strength, the consolation, the encouragement, the faith, we may need. And so, the Church invites us to eat and drink regularly, at this table, in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

By taking into ourselves the Body of Christ, we become one with Jesus and the Father through the Holy Spirit. Communion happens to us. Communion overtakes us. Communion is God moving toward us and inviting us closer. Communion is our reaching out toward one another and even reaching beyond the church into the world.

Bread for today is a gift. Bread for tomorrow is our prayer. We are called to live with hope and with faith for whatever is ahead. We have challenges in our personal lives and we may have worries. God invites us to have faith that when tomorrow comes, God will give us the resources we need. We have problems that seem unsolvable, but with tomorrow’s bread, perhaps God will also give us new answers, creative solutions, and deeper insight.

Late summer is a good time for us to think about what it means to live by faith. There is still time for vacation, but plans are already being made for a new year at school, a new program year at church, a new season for business or work of any kind. In what ways, might God invite us to look for “bread for tomorrow?” In what ways are we invited to clear out the cupboards, the hiding places, the storage areas that build up our confidence, and rely on God for strength, for nourishment, for sustenance? Might God be calling us to a new place of faith? Might God be calling us to live a little more closely in touch with him, listening more closely for the new word, looking for intently for that which will feed and sustain and grow the Body of Christ into the future?

Jesus reminds us of the Communion that matters more than any other—the union with him, through his Body and Blood. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sharing the Food and the Feast

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

Elisha and Jesus make it look easy, don’t they? Presented with a hungry mob, they each open the equivalent of their kitchen cabinet and see it as mostly bare. But then, something happens. There are a few odds and ends, and with the intervention of God, enough is made.  Not only enough, but plenty—with leftovers.

Too many people have spent too much time during the pandemic, doing the first part of that—looking into the pantry and finding it bare. Over the last year, we saw on the news and in our city the long lines of people that looked like pictures from the Great Depression—people desperate for food for themselves and their families. Even as the city reawakens and many businesses have reopened, food pantries report about 30 % more people needing food than before the pandemic. It’s estimated that some 2 million people in the state of New York don’t have enough to eat, and one in five children go hungry. 

And so, as we gather around this Holy Table for the Bread of Heaven that sustains us spiritually, we don’t pretend for a minute that food comes easy or obviously.  God wants to make a feast and for there to be leftovers, but sometimes that includes us, as well.

In today’s version of the feast of the multitudes, it seems like Jesus does three things. 

First, he has a vision: Jesus can imagine people being fed. He can see it. Last week the Church read Mark’s Gospel and we skipped over Mark’s version of the feeding of the thousands. Had we read that version (or Matthew’s or Luke’s, for that matter) we would have seen a remarkable lack of vision on the part of the disciples. The disciples there look at the situation and only see a problem. They don’t identify with the other people and they see the hungry crowd as God’s problem, not theirs.

But today’s version of the story is different. According to John, Jesus is the first to notice the people’s need and he then almost quizzes the disciples to test their vision. For Jesus, the vision is real, even though the means of achieving the vision might not yet be clear. And so the first step in planning for leftovers is having a vision.

Next, Jesus shares the vision as extends an invitation. He makes it clear that he needs help. Turning to Philip, Jesus asks, “Where are we to buy bread…?” Philip responds like the disciples in the other Gospels: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough ….” Notice how Phillip talks about money. He’s a realist. He knows what it is to earn a wage. He knows the market. But even though he may be good with numbers, he’s slow to catch the vision of Jesus. Andrew is quicker. Andrew gets the vision and imitates Jesus by inviting others in. It’s Andrew who locates the boy with a few loaves and a few fish. Sharing in the vision of Christ, Andrew sees possibility in the boy’s offering. Like Jesus, Andrew doesn’t know exactly how it will end, but he invites the boy to be a part of the solution and moves forward.

First, there is the vision of Christ that the people would be fed.
Then invitations go out to enlist the help of others.
And finally, the third piece to this process toward leftovers. Jesus prays.

It might be tempting to see Jesus’s prayer as a stop in the story, a slowdown in the action. But it’s really just the opposite. Prayer is action in high gear. It’s concentrated effort. It’s energy condensed, channeled, and directed toward God.  

St. John Vianney (the 19thcentury priest known for his simplicity and spirituality) used to say, “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.”

This is what happens when Jesus prays. People notice because of the quality and the focus and the love. The disciples see him and add their prayers. Then the people see the disciples praying and add their prayers. On and on it goes as priorities shift in prayer from our will (our hunger, our hope, our desire) to God’s will (the world’s hunger, the world’s hope, the world’s desire.)

The story of Jesus feeding the multitudes invites us to get involved:

  • To share in the vision that all would be fed. That all would get enough to eat physically, and that all would be fed spiritually.
  • To accept the invitation of Christ and to invite others. Jesus doesn’t make the miracle all by himself. It takes Andrew to look around and see the kid with loaves and fish, and it takes the kid’s industry and willingness to share.
  • It takes prayer—the prayers of Christ that all would be fed, and our prayers joining to make more, raise the spirit, and finally for us to remember that even though we have work to do, we are sharing in what is ultimately the work of God.

In praying to God, Jesus was reminding himself and everyone else that the work they were about to do—this multiplication of bread and fish—was not their work at all. It’s God’s work in which they are privileged to share.

In the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus again took bread. He blessed it, broke it, and shared it. And we do the same.

At this Holy Table and the various tables we might make holy as we use them in the garden, at the tables in the Mission House, in the tables of restaurants and homes, and wherever we celebrate the feast, may the Holy Spirit enable us to move with God’s vision, invite others, say our prayers and always plan for leftovers.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reconciled through Christ

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

Yesterday’s memorial service for Dudley Stone brought together two worlds: the world of the parish church and the world of the theatre. To most of us, that combination of people seemed right and natural. But this has not always been the case with the Christian Church. Though theatre as we know it grew largely out of medieval cathedral communities and their dramatic and humorous re-telling and ad-libbing of biblical stories, the church often was at odds with theatre and acting.—both of which were thought to be corrupting influences.

Here in New York, St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church is nicknamed the Actor’s Chapel, our own Church of the Transfiguration since 1870, when the Little Church graciously hosted a funeral for a notorious actor. Often joining us through Zoom Evening Prayer from St. Stephen’s Church in London is the Rev. Lindsay Meader, who is Lead Theatre Chaplain for the Diocese of London and Senior Chaplain of Theatre Chaplaincy UK.

Whether we think of the theatre world versus the church world, or some other possible opposing group:  Democrats/Republicans, Vegans/Meat-eaters, Vaccinated/Unvaccinated, and that deadly rivalry: Yankees/Mets…. We seem to have a tendency to spot “the OTHER.” Having diagnosed “the other” asserts our own identity, and the longer we go in that direction, the more solid are the walls we build – whether real or imagined.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians gets to the point pretty directly, though Paul writes in terms that may sound strange to us today. Paul writes about the circumcised and the uncircumcised, hardly a topic one might expect for a Sunday morning in July. But he’s really just using shorthand for a conversation about Jews and Gentiles, Gentiles being everyone who is not Jewish. By the time of the Letter to the Ephesians, the early Church was filled with at least two kinds of people—some were former Jews who had decided to follow Christ. Many probably still thought of themselves as Jews, even though they had, in many places, been driven out of the synagogues. But these Jews who followed Jesus were also successful at inviting non-Jews to join the movement. There was the Ethiopian Eunoch, there was the Centurion Cornelius, and before long there were many, many more.

But there’s a conflict going on in the early church at Ephesus. It’s not exactly clear what the problem is, but some scholars think it has to do with new Jewish converts who felt like, since they were Jewish (circumcised), they gained a more immediate entry and a higher status in the community than those who were Gentile and had never been Jewish. Among some early communities there was even the question of whether a Gentile man who joined the Christian Church should become circumcised like a Jew in order to be a good Christian. Should Gentile women adopt the customs of faithful and orthodox Jewish women? These questions may sound strange to us today, but they were HUGE question for early Christians.

It’s in this atmosphere that Paul preaches, “You who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.”

Paul goes on to write with assurance to the newly converted, “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”

Paul says that we, all of us, are to be one household. If you go to Israel today and look at any of the archeological sites you can see what a household in the first few centuries looked like. It might be a couple of rooms, but then when the children grew older, a sleeping loft might be added on. Then when a child grew up and got married, an addition would be built on to the house, and so the household grew. With each new addition, another room would be added. It didn’t matter if the new person was liked or disliked. It didn’t matter whether they brought anything in particular to the household. What mattered is that the new person was family, and they were welcomed, and they were included.

While the media and perhaps a bit of animal instinct in us easily feels threatened by those who are different or who appear to be on opposite sides of an issue, sometimes the information is skewed. Several days ago, an opinion piece in the New York Times by a health care policy professor at Harvard points this out. Dr. Anupam B. Jena points out that while “While the politicization of the pandemic is undeniable, the focus on it has obscured a simple truth: Everyone has made sacrifices, no one has been spared, and the shared experience of the last year and a half has been sorely underappreciated relative to the differences.”  (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/16/opinion/covid-risk-birthdays-study.html, accessed July 17, 2021).

The data also suggests that while there are some large disparities that fall along political lines — in vaccinations, self-reported mask use and closures of businesses and schools — people’s actual behavior may not have been as polarized. What people were willing to take risks for during the pandemic have been quite similar.

He goes on to explain the enormous number of people who gathered – even at the height of the pandemic—to celebrate birthdays. Other big issues like whether adolescents should be vaccinated show differences among political affiliation and geography, the differences are not always as great as the media suggests.

There is a temptation to be with those who agree with us. The new Viking Cruise commercials shown on PBS offers its message, “welcome back to the world,” that their trips provide the opportunity “connect with other like-minded people.”  While we all might feel those urges from time to time—can you image a more boring world:  one in which everyone agreed with all of your opinions, assumptions, prejudices, and values?

In today’s Gospel, even Jesus seems to want to cordon off the faithful, and pull them away. It’s a little bit like here, as in a few other places, Jesus suggest, “these are the ones to whom I’m called to minister among. These and no more.” And with that, Jesus tries to go off to a “lonely place.” It’s almost as though Jesus, himself has enough of a following, an already-full-plate, a more-than-full agenda. But then, before long, Jesus understands that God’s love is for everyone, and that there is no end to the wideness of God’s mercy, to the fullness of God’s fellowship.

Whether it is the worldwide Christian Church trying to get along, or the Episcopal Church, or a local parish like this one—the good (but sometimes difficult) news of the Gospel is that all are welcome.

It doesn’t matter if you are a life-long Christian or even a theater person! It doesn’t matter if you are still trying to figure God out. God spreads a table before us in the presence of those who trouble us. God anoints us with holy oil, and fills our cup until it’s overflowing. God’s goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

May God continue to remind us of his holy welcome, and may God continue to show us how to welcome one another.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Sense of Faith

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

As we all know, one of the strangest effects of COVID-19 has been the way the virus often affects the senses of smell and taste. One study has suggested that almost 80 per cent those with COVID lose their sense of smell or taste.

Because of COVID, or perhaps just because of this time of year, our senses can feel a bit heightened, can’t they? There have been days this spring, when it was almost overwhelming to walk through the park because some of the trees were so fragrant—almost to be stinky. We’ve been hearing firecrackers, and will hear the thunder-like sounds of the fireworks tonight. We see green, with all the rain, and we see people—a welcome sight after a year of distance and quarantine.

As advanced as humankind seems to be and seems to be becoming, we really are usually people of our senses, aren’t we? When we’re cooking, we go by smell and sight to determine if something is cooked. When we plant in the ground, we look for shoots or sprouts to know whether something is, in fact growing. When someone promises to undertake a certain task or project, we wait and we listen and we watch to see what will happen. We look for evidence.

But when it comes to our relationship with God, so often, we’re called to live by another sense, or by something beyond sense—we’re called to live by faith. Like a parent teaching a child to walk, it can feel like God is urging us, teaching us, pulling us up so that (as St. Paul puts it) we can learn to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel is called upon again and again to walk by faith, to believe that God is leading him and is showing the way. In today’s reading, Ezekiel is warned that there are going to be lots of people who will not get it. They won’t understand. They will try to see, but their eyes will fail them. They will try to hear, but their ears will be of no use. But, God says, “if you’re true to yourself, and true to the person I’ve called you to be, then they will know one thing: a prophet has been among them.” So don’t be afraid, don’t be dismayed, just keep praying and moving and being faithful.

Jesus has the same problem in many places as he preaches and teaches and heals. In today’s Gospel he runs into local opposition. The very people who know him best cannot reconcile the Son of Mary with the Son of God. It’s doesn’t compute. It’s doesn’t flow. It can’t be charted out and explained and rationalized and proven. To perceive Jesus as the Christ, to receive Jesus as the Son of God, come to redeem us and live in us and be with us through death and into everlasting life— this takes faith.

There are lots of ways of developing our sense of faith.

First, there’s the lessening of other senses, in order to promote a particular sense.
In the Fourth Century, women and men left the cities and went into the desert to look for God. These desert mothers and fathers and those who have taken matters of the Spirit seriously ever since have prayed for a balance in the senses so that faith might be developed more strongly. There is a tradition in some places of maintaining “custody of the eyes” so that one’s gaze might be directed more upon God. There is the tradition of fasting, so that one’s hunger would be less for carbohydrates and more for Christ. There is the tradition of silence so that the inner voice of God’s Holy Spirit might be heard. Christian ascetics take seriously this spiritual training of the senses—the training, itself being a kind of faith—so that a deeper faith and reliance upon God might be developed and sustained.

Second, we can train the senses. Aromatherapists and oenologists know this, but also, many others. Those who lost their sense of smell because of COVID are encouraged to do a kind of “smell training.” Pick a smell you used to really recognize: the smell of coffee, of lilac, a particular fragrance. And practice breathing it in, over time, and many have found this helps bring back their sense of smell quicker. Doctors suggest one try this for a few minutes, twice a day.

And in some ways, “smell training” is a little like “faith training.” Jesus encourages us to ask, to reach out, to pray—whether we believe or not, whether we have the words or not. And the Church traditionally invites us to pray twice a day—Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

And third, there’s simply asking for God’s presence. If you’re trying to develop your sense of faith, praying is one good way to do it—the Lord’s Prayer, the Serenity Prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis, or even just the simply prayer, “Help! God, if you’re there, answer.”

The old question of which comes first: the chicken or the egg has an analogous one arising from today’s scriptures. Which really comes first? Faith or evidence of faith? Faith or mighty works? “Jesus could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” It’s as though somehow their unbelief, their lack of believing, their disbelief, and their skepticism prevented them from seeing or receiving any miracle that Jesus might do among them.

But we can all deepen our sense of faith. Whether it’s through long walks, visits to quiet places, a retreat or even silence in the midst of a crowd, may we take some time this summer to practice training our senses, and to include in that an openness to developing a deeper sense of faith.

May the Holy Spirit develop within us the kind of faith that leads us through loving trust; that allows God to work wonders, make miracles and do mighty works.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Open to Healing

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

Broadway re-opened last night with its first show since March of last year. Early in the show, Bruce Springsteen said, “I am here tonight to provide proof of life.” Traffic, shops and restaurants, tourists, less restrictions on masks and socializing—it all kind of helps us “provide proof of life,” as Springsteen put it.

As people of faith, affirming life is what we do—and it’s at the heart of our scriptures. I love the first reading today, so much, and am surprised it’s not used more at funerals–

God did not make death,
And does not delight in the death of the living.
For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome . . .
God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity . . .

On this last Sunday in June, celebrated as Pride Sunday, when LGBTQ people celebrate with color and craziness—it’s about life. While we enjoy rights and privileges in most parts of this country, there are still 71 jurisdictions in the world that criminalize sexual activity between persons of the same gender. Eleven countries use the death penalty against homosexuality. I will not be visiting the legendary rock churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia any time soon, lest they learn of my marriage and put me in jail for a year.

And so—for all of its extravagance and pushing the envelope—LGBTQ celebrations are about affirming life. They’re about celebrating the power of life to go on, even in the face of prejudice, in the face of violence, in the face of fear or injustice, in the presence of a pandemic—whether it be of AIDS or SARS…. We affirm life and thank goodness our church is on the side of life and more life.

Today’s first reading sings of the power of life, and in the Gospel, we see people who move towards the life of Christ in search of healing. And they find it. Through Jesus Christ, they find new life.

Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue, sees Jesus approach, and when he does, he falls on his knees. Jairus is a religious big shot, one of the very sort of religious leaders who so often is threatened by Jesus. But here, Jairus is reduced to his knees, like a begger. His daughter is sick, and so nothing else really matters to him at this point—not his position in the synagogue, not his wealth, not the rest of his healthy family, not his own health— instead, here he is begging, hoping, praying for help because his little girl is sick and things are looking bad.

Fast forward a bit to Jesus making his way to the village where Jairus’ daughter lies. Mark the Evangelist loves to begin a story, interrupt himself with another story, and then complete the initial one—and that’s what he’s doing here. Jesus makes his way, but a huge crowd surrounds him. While probably everyone in the crowd had his or her own prayer, hoping Jesus might answer it, one lady in particular reaches through the crowd and places her hand on Jesus’ robe.

It is desperation (which is a kind of faith) that makes her do it. She has tried everything. She has gone to doctors—this one and that one—and there is no help. If she were living in our day, no doubt she would have seen even more doctors—(if her health care plan allowed it) specialists, technicians, geniuses, quacks—anything, anyone, to try to help her. And so, the woman pushes forward, she reaches out. She practically lunges at Jesus in what is her final prayer.

Jesus feels power go out of him. The woman is healed and is made whole again. She is restored to life. But this story is an aside, an insertion into the other story of Jesus going to the house of Jairus.

And so, back to the other story line. Jesus makes it to Jairus’ house. He sees the little girl and is told that she has died. But Jesus touches her, he tells her to get up, and she is healed. She is made whole again. And she, too, is restored to life.

The scriptures leave us with miracle stories, stories more wonderful, so much better than belief, that we are tempted to leave them in the land of storytelling. We are perhaps tempted to leave them with happy endings in the realm of make-believe.

The scriptures today don’t explain everything. They don’t give a recipe for miracles, but they do point us in the direction of God’s healing.

From the stories of Jairus’ daughter and the woman in the crowd we can see that for there to be healing, there are usually at least two conditions present:

The first is that there is an openness to God, a reaching towards God.

And the second is that there is what could be described as a “reaching towards God with others.”

The first is faith. And the second has to do with being in relationship. Faith is present whenever there is healing. But this is not to suggest that healing is somehow proportional to faith. There are some preachers who may suggest that. They will tell you that if you don’t see the healing in your life, then clearly you’re not praying the right way, or you’re not praying hard enough, or something else in your life is out of balance. But (I think) there’s a special place in hell reserved for such preachers.

Though Jesus says to several different people something to the effect of “your faith has made you well,” it does not necessarily follow that if one is not well, one doesn’t have enough faith. Faith is usually present when there’s healing, but it’s the kind of faith that is open to God’s moving. We sometimes limit our expectation of healing because we look for a cure. But sometimes healing brings something different from a cure. Healing can give us new strength. It can give us new confidence. It can bring us Christ himself. In healing, God works like a good doctor, working best when we give God room to work, not limiting God’s work by what we think we want or think we need. With such faith, we can pray for healing, resting in the knowledge that God works and wills nothing but the very best for us.

Faith is a part of healing, but notice also that in scripture, as in experience, healing rarely happens in isolation. It happens when two or three are gathered. It happens when one is brought into community by prayer, or by intention. Sometimes the reaching with others involves touch. In the Gospels, it was often the touch of Jesus himself. Sometimes it was the touch of friends who brought one into relationship with Christ. And after the Resurrection and Ascension, it happens that through the touch of the disciples, God’s healing begins to spread. It’s not so much the apostolic succession of bishops that makes the miracles happen. Instead, it’s apostolic succession as the deposit of faith and hope is passed down person to person, faithful community to faithful community.

And we pass it on, still.

In our day, we may be tempted to think that healing comes only through professional healers with medical degrees, or at least through specially gifted people who are healers, but the truth is that, more often than not, healing happens through ordinary people, when we reach for God together, with the touch of one person to another.

Ann Weems is a poet who writes about our relationship with one another, the relationship that can encourage healing. In one poem, she writes,

I see your pain and want to banish it with the wave of a star,
but have no star.
I see your tears and want to dry them with the hem of an angel’s gown,
but have no angel.
I see your heart fallen to the ground and want to return it,
wrapped in cloths woven of rainbow,
but have no rainbow.
God is the One
who has stars, and angels and rainbows,
And I am the one
God sends to sit beside you
until the stars come out
and the angels dry your tears
and your heart is back in place
rainbow blessed.

Whether we walk in parades and wave flags, or make a call and send a note. Whether we simply pray for ourselves and others—we can’t say exactly when, where, and how God’s healing may come. We don’t even always know what that healing will look like. But what we learn from the scriptures today is that, like Jairus and the woman who touched Jesus, if we reach for God, and if we reach for God with one another, the conditions are good for God’s healing to flow.

Let us pray for healing. Let us look for healing. And may the almighty Lord be now and evermore our defense and make us know and feel that the only name under heaven given for health and salvation is the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In that name, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


He is the Way.
Follow him through the Land of Unlikeness;
you will see rare beasts and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
you will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love him in the World of the Flesh:
and at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

                     W. H. Auden For the Time Being (a Christmas Oratorio)

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Traveling with Christ

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

After a long year of being cooped up, a lot of people are beginning to travel, or at least beginning to think about travelling. Many families are getting together for the first time, this Father’s Day weekend, to celebrate Dad, or the memory of Dad, or to combine with Juneteenth, or simply to give thanks for vaccines and the ability to move around and be together.

Maybe for all these reasons, as I listen to the scripture readings for today, I hear in them a kind of travel narrative. In today’s readings there are accounts of people who have been places. They have seen things, and they have been changed. 

In the very short reading from Job, God reminds Job that Job really has not been to as many places as he thinks. But God takes Job back.  But then in words and images God recounts to Job what it was like at the beginning, when God laid the very foundation of the earth. When God says to the very seas themselves, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed.’” No, for all Job’s experience, put in that context, he really hasn’t seen very much at all.

With a word [God] called up the wind–
an ocean storm, towering waves!
You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out;
your hearts were stuck in your throats.
You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk,
you didn’t know which way was up.
[But] then you called out to [the Lord] …
[and] he got you out in the nick of time.
He quieted the wind down to a whisper,
[and] put a muzzle on all the big waves.  (The Message, Psalm 107)

This trip across the Sea of Galilee quickly becomes the kind of travel story you hope you never have to tell—“Remember the time.” Remember that time in the storm. Remember that time when we got lost. Or even more tragic, remember that time when it felt like a storm and we lost someone we loved. The disciples are afraid and so they wake up Jesus who looks at them with surprise. He speaks and the storm is stopped. The disciples are stopped. Time is stopped. “Peace. Hush. Be quiet. Be still.”

Faith is movement. If we are in love with God, and or if we have the slightest bit of belief that God is in love with us—that love will change us. It moves us from place to place. I don’t know where this travel narrative of Holy Scripture intersects with your own movement today. It may be you’re in a good place, settled with your faith, confident with your relationship with God, collected in the midst of a sea of calm. Some of you are in that place: give thanks and draw strength from this time. 

All kinds of storms come our way.  Family can sometimes blow through our lives like an unruly storm. Sometimes we feel adrift and in a boat all alone. At work the winds can pick up now and then and we feel under attack. In relationships, the seas are not always calm. Even our church seems sometimes to be moving into deep waters, feeling alone in our particular boat while other churches seem to prefer the safety of the land, or the assurance of charted waters. But our faith allows us to be like those first disciples: to hang on to each other for the ride, to stay close to God our savior, and to look ahead without fear. 

W.H. Auden names well the landscape of our lives. Of Christ our travel guide, he writes


He is the Way.
Follow him through the Land of Unlikeness;
you will see rare beasts and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
you will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love him in the World of the Flesh:
and at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

                     W. H. Auden For the Time Being (a Christmas Oratorio)

We don’t always pack the way we should.  We’ll forget things here and there.  The weather may change on us. As Anne Lamott has written, “The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” (Traveling Mercies).

We have the little things that sustain, but even more, we have God our Savior surrounding us, leading us, pushing us, holding us, carrying us, loving us always and forever. 

May we look out for each other along the way. May we enjoy the scenery and be strong and faithful travelers.

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

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Faith that Grows Seeds

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

 

We’re very sorry, but the audio connection with Facebook failed for our June 13 recordings. We are trying to find answers for this and apologize for the problem. 

The written version of the sermon is here:

On this first of the ordinary Sundays, the Third Sunday after Pentecost, our worship returns to a familiar pattern.  We again have a prayer of confession.  We use green on the altar and in the vestments.  The music and hymns lead us to think about God in all God’s majesty and mystery, in broad and sometimes general ways.  The Church continues to observe feast days here and there, almost like exclamation marks in the narrative of God’s love for us, but most of the Sundays through the summer offer us space to grow and develop, to think and mature in our faith. And especially in today’s scripture readings, there’s a lot that is growing.

Growth runs through our scriptures today. In Ezekiel, God plants a tree as a symbol and reminder that God tends and cares for all his creatures, no matter what may come: storm, drought, or disaster. Both Ezekiel and the Psalm reminds us that those who allow God to do the planting–who let God be the Master Gardener—all those will flourish and bear fruit and live fresh, new lives season after season, even into old age.

Today’s Gospel comes in the form of a parable, or several parables—those stories that allow us to identify with various characters as the wear the story again and again. Because of this, whenever we read or hear a parable, there’s an invitation for us to step inside and try on some of the different characters and attitudes. Which one speaks to us today? Which one fits best? Which one challenges or offers comfort?

For example, in today’s story, you may identify with the sower, the one who plants seeds and hopes for the best. Whether seeds or seedlings, the hope is that there will be growth. It may be an idea or a practice or a project that you’re just beginning. You do a little to get it started, but then it’s out of your hands. It may be taken out of your hands, or other things may grow to overshadow your project—maybe there is the equivalent of a storm, or maybe the birds in your world eat up the seeds you’ve sown. But if you’re the sower, you make an initial investment and then over time, you have to manage your relationship to the seeds you’ve planted. How much will you try to control? How much will you let go? When will you ask for help?

On the other hand, you might hear today’s Gospel and identity a little with the seed. Perhaps you feel like you’ve been placed in a certain place—a family, a relationship, a workplace, a social situation. Where you’ve been placed might be fertile ground with lots of resources and room for growth. Or, it might be a rocky place, full of challenges and rough spots.

Or maybe you’re just trying your best to put down roots somewhere, trying to find something that will stay still long enough to enjoy the sun, to absorb the rain, to find the energy and life within yourself to grow, to expand, to become.

For a number of reasons, one can feel like the seed—waiting on outside forces and trusting God. One can feel as tiny and insignificant as a mustard seed. But it’s those times that it’s especially important to remember that built into every seed–deep down–is the capacity to grow into something useful and beautiful.

The birds, too, play a part in the parable. The birds take shade. They find rest and refuge. Someone else has done the major planting and much of the growing, but one day, the birds too, might be called upon to add just the right component to God’s unfolding kingdom.

Jesus tells these parables to help us understand what he calls the Kingdom of God. This “Kingdom of God” is not so much a literal place as it is EVERY PLACE–, every place where God’s intention is allowed to take root and grow. The kingdom is full of mystery—it grows at its own rate. Some parts can be planned, laid out, and organized. But other areas of the kingdom are up to God’s own good grace—we have to let go.

Given where we are moving out of the pandemic, it might be that we feel like any seeds we might be trying to plant are either inconsequential or get blown away in the storm of the day. 

But that’s where faith comes in. With faith, we can also see God’s movement and growth in the hidden places. We see what initially looks only like pain and misery. We see disease and violence and poverty. We see a terribly distorted version of the world God has created. But then, with eyes of faith, we look closer. We can begin to see the seeds for compassion, for sharing, for sacrifice, and for healing.

Today we baptize Dylan, who is just beginning to grow. In that way, she’s like a little seed, full of potential and wonder, beauty and love. In baptism we add water. With Holy Oil we add nourishment. And with our prayers, we lift her into God’s love so that the light of Christ bloom in her life to bear good fruit.

Friends, the kingdom of God grows around us and within us. May God continue to grow us in faith and love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Corpus Christi Sunday: Reflecting on the Sacrament of Holy Communion

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

This morning, weather permitting, some churches will be taking the Holy Sacrament and leaving church.  They’ll be leaving the church building and walking through the neighborhood.  A few churches did this on Thursday and others do it today in a celebration of Corpus Christi Day, carrying the Blessed Sacrament out into the world, for all to adore and celebrate.

When I was first ordained, I served at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and the practice there on Corpus Christi is to move through Times Square and then back into the church.  Every year, we would end up with ten, twenty, maybe fifty people following us back into church.  A part of it felt absolutely medieval, but another part felt like exactly the right kind of expression for a church in Times Square.

I still remember the rector of another parish hearing about the outdoor procession and getting very upset about it He was offended, he wrote in a newsletter article.  He felt that this walking through Times Square with the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood was a “dangerous practice,” since the Sacrament might easily be defiled, disparaged, or misunderstood.

Christian history reminds us of conflicts between Christians and often—mixed up in the politics and the power plays—there were differences in belief around the Eucharist (the Greek word for “thanksgiving”) or Holy Communion.  The extreme Protestant view (Baptists, some Presbyterians and others) would hold that the bread and wine (whether fermented or unfermented) are symbols and reminders of the loving meal Jesus shared with his disciples in the Last Supper.  The extreme Catholic view, which many call “Transubstantiation” holds that through the words of the priest, the bread and wine substantially and objectively become the body and blood of Christ.  Each Mass is (what some have called) an “unbloody sacrifice.”

Those of you who know the Anglican tradition or are used to the Episcopal way of viewing things will not be surprised to know that the Anglican view (of which the Episcopal Church is a part) is somewhere in the middle.  Our church’s official belief is in the Real Presence, though we don’t specific or demand that one understand the mystery of the Real Presence in exactly the same way.

Anglicans often recall the words of John Donne(1572–1631): “He was the Word that spake it;  He took the bread and brake it; And what that Word did make it; I do believe and take it”  (Divine Poems. On the Sacrament.)

In addition to historical conflicts and modern-day differences, the Holy Eucharist brings danger also when we take it seriously.  It can be dangerous because it can change our lives.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel puts it, “my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” And that’s where the danger really begins.

We can think about what it means to “abide in Christ,” to take the Body of Christ into our bodies by noting what our Book of Common Prayer says about the Eucharist.  Way in the back of the Prayer Book is a section call simply “The Catechism,” and in the part about the Holy Eucharist, the Catechism outlines what it calls “the benefits of the Eucharist.”

“The benefits we receive are the forgiveness of our sins, the strengthening of our unions with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment in eternal life.”

And hidden within each of these benefits, there are dangers and possibilities.

When we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are forgiven. We are forgiven again. Our sins are washed away at Baptism, but the ongoing accumulation of sin in our life meets its match in Holy Communion. Saint Ignatius of Antioch called the Eucharist the “medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, … that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.” This is dangerous medicine, then, for anything or anyone who might be interested in keeping us in sin. The devil will not look on such medicine as innocuous or harmless, nor will his minions. And so, the Eucharist helps us. Like good medicine, it increases our resistance level. Like vitamins, it strengthens us.

The second benefit according to the Catechism has to do with strengthening our union with Christ and with one another. In a culture that suggests we should live only for ourselves, that we try to obtain all that we can for ourselves with little regard for others; in a culture that in any way lifts up people like the Kardashians as important, relevant or meaningful—- the unifying work of the Blessed Sacrament is dangerous stuff.

In Communion we are reminded that we need each other. The common cup and common bread underline that we are not so different from one another as we are sometimes led to believe. Barriers of race and class and education, differences of national origin, or sexual orientation or marriage status are dissolved in the common chalice. They are diluted by the cleansing water of the Holy Spirit. And the blood of Christ, which is to say the blood of God our Creator, restores us into once again being fully human even as it fills us with what is fully divine.

Finally, the Body and Blood of Christ, this holy Sacrament, gives us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Mindful of the present, grateful for the reality of here-and-now, we are made aware in the Eucharist that we are also living toward a great feast that has no ending.

On Memorial Day our country paused to remember those who have died in service for us, for freedom and for the opportunities that this country symbolizes.  Danger and promise are all wrapped up in the idea of service, but we honor those who have died for our country, just as we honor those who have died for Christ by stepping through fear and danger and holding on to faith.

Strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ, let the danger begin. Let us risk blasphemy, as Jesus did, as we try to show the Body of Christ to the world. Let us risk being misunderstood, as Jesus did, as we go out of our way to feed the hungry, to lift up the poor, to release those held in captivity. And let us risk the danger of faith, as our Savior Jesus did, taking up our cross daily and following him wherever he leads.

Jesus says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day …. the one who eats this bread will live forever.” May we live into these words, both dangerous and delicious.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dancing with God on Trinity Sunday

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

We regret that on May 30, our  11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist did not broadcast properly on Facebook Live. Please join us again next Sunday.

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

Jesus tells Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  Older translations used other terms, with Jesus saying that no one could see the kingdom of God unless the person was “born again” or “born anew.” Nicodemus asks him, “How can this be? How can someone be born when they are old? How can that happen?”

Jesus goes on to try to explain to Nicodemus what he has tried to explain to his friends, to the people at Cana, to the woman at the well, to the tax collectors and the religious officials. Jesus tries to explain to Nicodemus what he had tried to explain to his disciples again and again and again: that one must be open to the spirit. One must be open to the cleansing of baptismal waters. One must be open to God as God moves and makes his way among us. For God has SO loved the world, that God has come into it. God was born in the world, that we might be born again and born to eternal life.  To be born again, to be born anew, to be born from above– has to do with our being open to God however and whenever God comes to us.

The way that God calls us, the way that God meets us, can change over time. For the person who grows spiritually, the way we perceive God and the ways in which we meet God should change over time. A child who is loved by her parents may easily understand God as a parent. Learning to love the stories of Jesus, we may come to know God most powerfully through Jesus. Listening to God through the whole of life, the ups and downs, and all of the mysteries—we may become more attune to God as Spirit.  God finds us through whatever means meets us best.

The early church spoke of the Holy Trinity as having to do with God’s indwelling, with God’s mutual outpouring and movement into. The Trinity was understood as a dynamic: the Father always pouring love and light and energy into the Son, the Son always pouring himself into the Spirit, and the Spirit moving back into and around the Father and the Son. The word that some theologians have used to describe this continual activity of God is very close to the Greek work for dance, and so it became a popular way of speaking of the Trinity as a kind of dance of love. Brian McLaren puts it well when he writes,

“The Father, Son, and Spirit live in an eternal, joyful, vibrant dance of love and honor, rhythm and harmony, grace and beauty, giving and receiving. The universe was created to be an expression and extension of the dance of God—so all creatures share in the dynamic joy of movement, love, vitality, harmony, and celebration.” (Sojourners, March 2006)

With God there’s always dancing. And we can never be quite sure where God may lead.

In San Francisco, there’s an Episcopal Church that worship God with dancing in mind. The Church of St. Gregory of Nyssa is a church that was founded to try to reclaim the sense of wonder and celebration of the early church, and a famous part of their liturgy includes dancing.  Dancing is so much a part of the church, that when they built a real worship space some years ago, they did it with the particular idea of making room for dancing, for crowds and crowds of people to dance around the altar and with each other.  But even more amazing to me than the dancing parishioners is that on the walls, all around the inside of the church’s rotunda, there are pictures of the faithful—faithful saints of every age, class, custom, and condition—88 saints, and they’re all dancing.  

Dancing together are Sojourner Truth, Miriam, Origen, Malcolm X, Elizabeth I, Iqbal Masih, and Teresa of Avila. You can see who’s included HERE.

One of the longest-named holy people in from the Anglican Tradition is Samuel Joseph Isaac Schereschewski, a missionary who went to China to share the Gospel.  But arriving there, he became ill with a disease that left him paralyzed, so his plans changed.  Rather than give up, he stayed, and worked slowly and painstakingly at translating the Bible into Chinese, which he did.  As he put it, “except for the illness and the wheelchair,” he could never have accomplished that particular work.  And so, Schereschewski is pictured there, too, in his wheelchair, holding on to Ella Fitzgerald on his left and Pope John XXIII on the right.

This picture of saints dancing reminds us that “to dance” often appears to involve primarily the body.  But as any of us who feels awkward, or constrained, or restricted in any way knows, the dance begins inside long before it ever manifests itself.  The dance can be interior and intensely spiritual. The dance can be outward and explicitly political, such as the silent, haunting dance of the mothers of the disappeared who protest the violence and disappearance of their loved ones in El Salvador, in Chile, and in too many parts of the world.

God invites us to join in this dance of love—the love of God that overflows into all of creation. It doesn’t matter if we feel a little awkward. It doesn’t matter if we don’t think we know the steps or that we might stumble and fall occasionally. We’ll learn the steps. We’ll lean on each other, and we’ll continue to grow stronger in God’s love even as we invite others to join us.

May we, like Nicodemus— like all the matriarchs and patriarchs, saints and martyrs—may we be born from above. May we be open to God in whatever way God reveals, and may we have the faith to join the dance of God’s eternal love. 

In the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Gifts

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Celebration of the Community Eucharist.

The written version of the sermon is here:

Just before the pandemic, I went into a hardware store on the Upper East Side and was surprised to find myself in a conversation about the Holy Spirit.  I was wearing my collar and the person behind the register noticed it and began with, “You’re a minister. Can I ask you a question?” And I said, “Sure.” He asked, “Do you believe in the gift of the Holy Spirit?”  But before I could answer or ask exactly what he meant, he went on to express what I often associate with Pentecostal Christians. He wanted to know if I, personally, had received the gift of tongues.  If I had, he wanted to come and visit our church. But if not, then he would pray for me.”  It was one of those times that I wished I had more scripture committed to memory so that I could have answered his Bible-quoting with some of my own—as if that might accomplish anything.  I got out of the store as soon as possible, leaving him a little disappointed in me.

I think a lot of us associate gifts of the Spirit with that sort of dramatic, over-the-top experience. Speaking in tongues, snake handling (like we read about them doing in Appalachia) or instant healing, like they used to show on television and probably still do somewhere.

But the story from Acts is about the Holy Spirit’s wild and unlimited flow into the world.  The Spirit is not restricted to a couple of strange behaviors. 

In his First letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul describes a fuller picture.

There are varieties of gifts [ Paul says] but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

That loaded word, Pentecostal, has to do with the Day of Pentecost, the day we celebrate today. The “pente” of Pentecost is just like the “pente” of Pentagon. It means five. And Pentecost is the day that is fifty days after Easter. Originally, this coincided with the Jewish feast of weeks, or Shavuot. As we heard in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, that fiftieth day after Easter was when the Holy Spirit appeared to the disciples in a strange and dramatic way. They were overcome by something, and they were changed.

The Acts passage says that the apostles received a gift of tongues, that each one could hear others speaking in a language that made sense to each. And while that is no small thing, there are other places in scripture that talk about the gifts of the spirit. The spiritual gifts go far beyond the ability to speak in tongues or understand another’s tongue. Pentecostalism is the religious movement that highlights the gifts of the Spirit, but especially the gift of tongues, and arose especially in the late 19th century, as a movement of evangelical revival in Great Britain and in the United States. Pentecostals are the people who participate in this movement, like the man I met in the hardware store.

But there are other spiritual gifts.

As I’ve grown in my own faith, and especially as I’ve grown in my own experience of the Church and Christians who populate the Church, I’ve changed my mind about what a Pentecostal looks like.

As I reflect on MY experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church, I see what Paul is talking about. There are those with gifts of tongues, but the way I’ve seen it is not so much through the miraculous speaking and understanding of languages.  But instead, I think of the teacher I know who is able to put complex thought into simple language, so that it can be understood. I think of the person who always has just the right word of grace to speak—which brings peace, brings healing, and brings hope. I think of the person who can speak the truth in the midst of cloudy gibberish.

When I hear Paul’s description of spiritual gifts, I think of those who work for the “common good,” as Paul puts it. And there are those who participate in miracles—not just miracles of healing (and they do happen– sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly).

In Romans 12:6-8, Paul again talks about different spiritual gifts.  He says,

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; administration, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

The Day of Pentecost invites us to not only pray for new spiritual gifts, which we do and will continue to do in the season after the Day of Pentecost.

But also, and especially THIS Pentecost, I think the day also invites us to take inventory of the ways the Holy Spirit has moved among us in the last year and to give thanks.  The gift of fortitude has been by our side. The gift of resilience continues to keep us flexible and open. The gift of tongues has allowed us to speak and hear and encounter God through technology and computer programs we never thought we’d become so good at.

On this day, we celebrate the coming of God’s Holy Spirit in surprising and startling ways. Let us be open to God’s Holy Spirit and let us all be more faithful Pentecostals.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment