St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 2015 Sermon
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Jim Campbell

Do we have enough Red around here today?  Welcome to Pentecost!
 
There are some really great messages and themes that come forcefully from our 1st reading today from Acts 2, describing that Pentecost scene in Jerusalem:  “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.  And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”
 
One message I found comes from David R. Henson, an Episcopal priest in California:  “The God of Pentecost doesn’t have an official language.  This is the shocking revelation of the day of Pentecost, but one often lost amid the day’s more bombastic metaphors of rushing winds, descending doves and intoxicated disciples with tongues touched by fire.  But in a country with a history of suppressing other languages in the name of unity and imperialism and in a nation where some still push English-only legislation, this is the message of Pentecost we need to hear.  Because Pentecost, at its fiery heart, is not only about language, but it is also an act of divine rebellion through language.  It is the windswept protest of a borderless God, standing against humanity’s misguided preference for the empty language of the powerful.  In Pentecost, God speaks against humanity’s tendency to force unity through sameness and exclusivity, to conflate righteousness with homogeneity, to demand people conform to arbitrary standards of respectability and to do it all in God’s holy name.”
 
For all who will hear it—Pentecost has a message of inclusion and acceptance at its very best!
 
Another theme relates to the Holy Spirit and what this spirit means to us!
 
Our Stewardship Canon Lance Ousley wrote about this day:  “As I read all of the lessons available to us this week, I am struck by a common theme of being filled by the Holy Spirit and the implications that has on us to make room for the Spirit in our hearts.  It is hard to be filled with the Spirit if we have poured other things into our hearts leaving no room for God.  And it is hard to speak and live God's love without the Spirit in our hearts.
 
This is especially sharp in American culture where money and material possessions are given such a high standing in our social status.  The bumper sticker that reads, "The one who dies with the most toys wins," may express this warped ideology best.  So how do we counter that cultural message with the truth of, "The one who dies with the most love wins".
 
The teachings of the Early Church are clear about the need for us to empty ourselves so that we may receive the illumination of the Holy Spirit and experience spiritual union with God.  This emptying is the clearing out of those worldly things which hinder our spiritual development with God-filled hearts.  And I think it is important to note that this emptying our hearts to make room for the Spirit is about our filling up others with God's grace and love we have found in Jesus Christ.  This is our Pentecost life as fonts of Christ's love in the world, for the world.  But it is hard to do that if we are "of the world."  So it is incumbent upon us to empty our hearts of the love of worldly things, including money, to burn brightly for Christ in the world.  Isn't all this part of our Baptismal Covenant?”
 
I cannot say this any better myself!
 
And yet another view about Pentecost comes from Christine Paintner, a Benedictine Oblate who lives as a monk in the world in Galway, Ireland: “If, when Pentecost arrives, you do not find yourself perplexed or amazed, consider releasing the tight grip of your certain thoughts and make space for holy surprise.
 
Sunday is the feast of Pentecost, that glorious final day of the season of resurrection. The Apostles are together experiencing bewilderment over how to move forward when the Holy Spirit flows among them and breathes courage into their hearts. If we have stayed committed to our pilgrimage this Easter season this far, then we may still wonder why we have journeyed so long and still are full of fear and unknowing.
 
It says that those who witnessed this event were "amazed and perplexed." Some were confused, others cynical. Peter reminds the crowds of the words the prophet Joel declared, that all will be called to dreams and visions, all will need to be attentive to signs and wonders.” 
 
 
My view is that we always ARE called to dreams and visions, and to be attentive to signs and wonders.
 
I saw some of those signs and wonders this past weekend at Camp Victory—Boys Camp.  An easy wonder was being in the place we were, with woods all around and a beautiful lake, but also that the weather was so fantastic it made anything we wanted to do work great!  But much more wonderful was the gift of our kids there.  Of the 11 who came this year, nine were returnees, eight from our first year of camp.  In this third year of camp, these kids have done a lot to shape how we put together camp from what we experienced from their first year at camp. It is truly amazing how they have become a community of now 7-14 year olds who play together and help each other, and also interact with the adults, both men and women who conduct the camp.  For the two new kids who attended, they took a big risk coming into a group they did not know, but both came with their own gifts and identities to share.  For most of these kids, they have gotten to do archery, fish, ride in canoes, and make many crafts and smores and play games and sing a lot and do silly exercises for the first time at this camp. They also have gotten to be leaders and defer to others and even praise them at appropriate times, and listen to adults who care about them.  They truly get it—be safe, yet have lots of fun, and treat each other well.  It is becoming a real joy to be with these kids and understand how they are growing and maturing.
 
Although there is no formal religion associated with this camp and this place and these kids and the adults, I believe that we all feel somehow the spirit is at work in everyone there, and we cannot get enough of the experience of it all.  It is a glimpse of what we can feel in our everyday lives, too, if we just let the Holy Spirit in and move us where it will!


 
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