Bring Life

Mark 5:21-43

It seems very appropriate to begin a series on “Healing Hands” with the sharing of two instances in which healing comes from touching or being touched by Jesus.  In these, and other passages, it is clear there is something life-giving about the touch of Jesus.

On the surface these verses seem to give us a formula for healing, we just need to figure out where to connect with Jesus and then reach out, we don’t even necessarily need to ask.  Not too difficult for people who know Jesus, the son, is with God the Father, connected to each of us through God the Holy Spirit, all of the time.

We don’t have to listen to the conversation in the village square to figure out where Jesus is walking, we already know.  So the finding is easy.   Now we just need to ask and then healing comes, even life out of death kind of healing.  We trust in that power every time we pray that those we love will be healed from whatever illness, injury, or situation they are facing.

I believe in that kind of healing, I have witnessed it, as I suspect many of you have.

The difficult thing is how do we deal with the times bodies are not healed, when we face burying our children, our spouses, our friends way to soon, when the same prayers are lifted in health crisis facing two brothers-in-laws and one sister becomes a widow and the other doesn’t.  How do we reconcile this morning’s scripture with the realities of what seem to be requests for help left unanswered.  We might begin to ask a myriad of questions including wondering if our faith is insufficient or God isn’t listening.  We might wonder how we can bring life to others.

This passage helps us address those questions. Helps us work through what seems to be inconsistency, when we go deeper than what seems like a quick fix.   It helps us see that healing can be cure, it can be repaired relationship or new direction for our lives, as much as it can be assurance that we don’t face anything alone, that we can trust God with everything, including our loved ones and our very lives.

One of the things I think we see in this scripture that helps us experience healing is that Jesus takes interruptions in stride.  He experiences what we all do, he has a day of teaching planned and he gets interrupted by a request for attention to one sick child, changing his direction and focus; then while handling that interruption with grace and compassion, he is interrupted by the woman in the crowd touching the hem of his robe even though she never planned to be an interruption.  Then he is interrupted by disciples who can’t understand how he discerned he was touched with a large crowd pressing in on him, then interrupted by the mourners at the home of Jarius. Through all of the interruptions, he is responsive to the needs of those around him, he finds ways to model and teach how to live into the kingdom of God.

I think His example calls us to see potential for offering healing, of bringing life to all those situations that interrupt our plans, of putting compassion before agenda.  That “there is no task more urgent than to bend to assist those who seek help” [1]

As this journey of healing unfolds, we see Jesus does not prioritize on the basis of who the community thinks is important.  Jarius is a leader in the synagogue, respected by the people.  Jesus can gain some prestige and validation by helping him out.  It is clear, Jarius doesn’t see it that way as he falls at Jesus’ feet and begs him to come and, just as clear, Jesus isn’t in it for the fame.  He limits who will witness his interaction with the young girl, focusing on her instead of what the invitation could mean for his career.  He also put the request of Jarius on hold while he stops to build relationship with the woman who touched him.

Through his actions, Jesus restores the now healed bleeding woman to her community, taking the time to remove the stigma of being unworthy she has carried for so many years, as well as declaring with his actions that she didn’t make anyone else unclean either.

The daughter of Jarius receives new life, but Jesus doesn’t stop with the miraculous, he recognizes the child’s ongoing basic needs, calling those caught up in the miracle, to go find something for her to eat.

Jesus reminds us that all people are important to God, regardless of social rank, age, or community assigned value, Regardless of where they grew up, what they wear, what house of worship their parents attended, if any, or what they neighbors say about them.

Jesus draws attention to the need to meet the basic needs of persons to feel loved, worthy, part of community, as well as physical needs such as food.  The miracles were wonderful and meaningful, but the lasting healing, the true bringing of life came in the ordinary things we can so easily dismiss as less important.  Relationships, food, water, and clothing, all a source of healing.

This morning on the news was the story of a little girl who noticed a classmate had “broken” shoes.  She told her parents, who helped her buy him a new pair.  When they gave him the shoes it made a difference in his life and others who needed help stepped forward.  Out of that act of healing came a shoe drive and many others are learning someone cares about them.  An ordinary thing, New shoes, now a source of healing.

We can all bring life to others through ordinary things, and in so doing share miracles we may never witness or understand, but which allow others to encounter Jesus.

It is in the ordinary things of bread and wine that Jesus invites us to remember he will always respond to our touch, to our request for help with compassion and understanding.  That we are never alone.   How that is possible, remains a mystery, but the witness of scripture affirms it is true.  There is healing at this table we share today.  Let us receive it, and share it.

[1] New Proclamation Year B 2006

The “How” for the “Who” that is You

Last week I suggested that each of us are the “Who” God sees with eyes that the world around us can’t.  That we are the “Who” God has gifted to share God’s story with those around us as only we can do.  That we need to see others as Horton sees the “Who,” as important no matter what size or how visible they are to everyone else.  I invited us to not be shirkers in the corner like Jo-Jo playing with a yo-yo, instead of working with the others to make enough noise that their unique presence is made know to everyone.

It today’s scripture, David is the “Who” God sends to make a difference.

David is small by the standards of his family, his community, the Israelite army, and the Philistines.  When Samuel came to his father’s town to anoint a new king, David’s father does not even think to invite him to the special worship service.  The Prophet Samuel is surprised at God’s selection of David.  David’s brothers taunt and tease him about his role of taking care of the sheep.  King Saul questions whether he has any chance against the formidable Goliath.

David is as small as the “Who” on the speck that lands in the jungle of Nool, in the eyes of his world.

God sees David differently.  God sees David’s heart and knows the skills and gifts he has which will help him declare God’s kingdom to the doubters in his own community and those who don’t know anything about God.

King Saul and his army see Golaith as a challenge that is undefeatable.  They see a giant nearly 10 foot tall. They see a huge bronze helmet on his head and nearly 150 pounds of armor. Bronze shin guards and a bronze sword. They see a spear that was like a fence rail with a tip that alone weighed over fifteen pounds. They see his shield bearer walking ahead of him.

They see as their community and culture sees.

Within their understanding, this is a fight they can’t win.

David sees with God’s eyes.  David sees that this giant of a challenge isn’t impossible if met with the gifts, talents, experience, wisdom and other resources God gives those who are in relationship with God.  David has experienced God with him as he fought off bears and lions, while protecting and caring for his father’s sheep.  David has used his experiences to develop skills that keep him connected to God and which make him better and better at what he is called upon to do to serve others.

Although King Saul and the others doubt David has any kind of chance, King Saul gives him permission to try.  But even then, Saul tries to meet the challenge the way he has been trying to meet it and failing.  He wants to outfit David with his armor, to go out to meet Goliath on Goliath’s terms.

At first David, seems to accept that approach which hasn’t worked yet, trying to wear the armor which was made for another man, for a different kind of battle, with tools for a different set of skills.

Then he stops, recognizes that God already equipped him to meet this challenge.  That the armor and tools designed for someone else, will only weigh him down.  That claiming God’s faithfulness to equip him for any challenge, using the gifts and talents he already has, is the only way to successfully meet the giant standing before him.

As the “Whos” God has sent into this place and this time to live into His kingdom in such a way that others see our love for God and neighbor in undeniable ways, we face Goliaths every day.

We face the challenges which seek to undermine the importance and power of God.  Challenges that lead us to believe they are insurmountable.  Bronze helmets filled with ideas and actions in direct opposition to a God who calls us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God[1]

Glimmering  armor that blinds us to the true motives behind the flashy show of strength.  Bronze shin guards that convince us we can’t make a difference anyway.  Sharp swords swirling around our heads that make us believe we need to retreat into what was, because we are powerless to bring about change and we don’t have sufficient resources.

When we do recognize that God is calling us to meet each challenge without fear, others often try to get us to meet that giant by putting on the the armor developed for the stature and skills of someone else.  They push us to take on the style, words, methods, schedule, and skills of others, who often are sitting back convinced that whatever the challenge is, avoidance is better than meeting it face-to-face.

David meets the challenge that is Goliath drawing from his knowledge of and relationship with God, from his experience meeting difficult situations in the past, and his ability to see the importance of helping others see God’s faithfulness.  I doubt that there was one Israelite or Philistine present that day who didn’t fully understand God was with David.  From a world-view the odds were stacked so high against David succeeding in meeting the challenge, that only God could have made it happen.

For a very long period of time, no one had looked at the situation from a God perspective, not even the King God had put in place.  They had been challenged, mocked, threatened for days, with everyone looking to solve the problem from a negative, we can’t possibly succeed, it isn’t worth the risk, perspective.

It takes the Spirit moving in David to open his eyes to the possible ways to approach the dilemma before his faith community.  He gathers information, looks at what has worked and what hasn’t in the past, assesses his own capabilities, and relies on his understanding of God in structuring his response.  He tries on the armor  before figuring out there is a better “How” to meet the challenge tapping the resources unique to who he is.  He finds the “How” that works for Him as he relies on God.

The “How” for the “Who” that is You – might be to be willing to take the risk to meet the challenges we face to introduce others to the God we know to be faithful.   Giving one genuinely listening moment, one person at a time.  It might be taking some time in the field with the sheep protecting and caring for them, without looking for what’s in in for us.  It might be giving the freedom to someone who has a vision for a new way of addressing the challenges to do it without burdening them with the armor of the way we have always done it.  It might be a variety of “Hows” working together for the good of the Kingdom according to the skills and resources of each unique “Who,” fully equipped for the work you are called to do for the glory of God.

David and Goliath is not about armies, war, power, and wealth.  David and Goliath is about seeking God’s direction in meeting those things of this world that want to keep us from living the way God calls us to live.  That want us to be in conflict, to be afraid, and working to be stronger, wealthier, more important that the next person.

“You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” David says.

David and Goliath is about accepting “Who each of us are and “How” each of us is already equipped to make a difference for the Kingdom if we cast of the armor designed for the world and pick up the stones God provides.

The “How” for the “Who” that is “You” comes through your developing relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit and with your brothers and sisters in the faith who help you see the skills and vision God has given you.  The “How” comes through Passion, Laser focus on God and neighbor.  It comes from our faith which tells us that the way of God, the way of life, the way of truth-telling and honesty and integrity, is stronger than the way of the sword or spear.[2]

 

[1] Micah 6:8

[2] Discipleship Ministries Lectionary Calendar Fourth Sunday after Pentecost 6/21/18

You are the “Who”

Last week we talked about the Israelite religious leaders deciding a King would do a better job of keeping them safe in their threatened reality, than God’s prophet.  God let them have their own way and selected Saul as the first King.

God gave them what they wanted, a King who looked and acted like the Kings of their neighbors.  A King who fit their image of who can be a good leader.  A King they would accept because his appearance and demeanor were the way they envisioned.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before Saul was focusing more on Saul’s needs than God’s direction and not only were his leadership responsibilities suffering, but so was his spiritual connection to the One who had chosen him.  He became all that Samuel had warned the people would come with the installation of a King who fit the standards of the world, and was even worse.

Samuel is devastated by this turn of events.  He had put forth his best effort to lead the people and to support Saul in his new role, but perceived the dismal situation as his own failure.

On top of that, he had stood up to Saul when Saul defied God’s leadership and was now a marked man. Dejected, disappointed, and likely frightened for his life, Samuel has hidden himself away hoping to stay under Saul’s radar. In this morning’s scripture we join Samuel and God’s interaction as this is unfolding, learning that God wants Samuel to anoint a new king.

Samuel sits mourning. He isn’t actively doing anything except moping around feeling sorry for himself and the way things turned out.  By all appearances he feels useless and has lost the desire and energy to see and hear what God would have him do now.  He seems to have given up.

God has other plans.  Pushes him to stop dwelling on what went wrong and to actively work to make things go better in the future.   Samuel listens, goes, and puts a new plan into motion, recognizing that it will not be an instant fix to the Saul disaster, but that it is forward looking and God directed.

As the story unfolds, we find that God chooses the youngest son, the one left behind to tend the sheep while the rest of the family responds to the invitation to attend a special worship service with an important guest speaker.  God does not choose any of David’s seven brothers, even if they seem to have the stature, skills, intellect, crowd appeal, of the people’s image of what a King should be.

God is aware of even the smallest, sees and values his abilities.

Remember Horton in the Children’s story.  Horton hears the “Who” living on the speck of dust, looks beyond the confinement of his reality as understood by his community to recognize that he might be a speck to someone bigger than he, and to recognize the “Who,” though small, has value.

Multiple times in scripture we see God pushing us to see the world as God sees it, to look at the heart and not the appearance, to value those the world views as without value.  In a way, invites us to imagine as Horton imagines, that there are other ways to look at the current set of circumstances in which we find ourselves.

One of my friends posted https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fboredpanda%2Fvideos%2F10156824131049252%2F&show_text=0&width=560“>this video for Father’s Day …

Many of us recognize qualities in this father which remind us of our own in this clip.  Even if that isn’t our experience, we can catch a glimpse of how God the Father relates to us.

God knows Samuel still had some dancing to do and won’t let him stay sitting down and crying.  God didn’t just command Samuel to get up and go, God reaches out and guides Samuel into the dance that taps into what he has learned serving God for all those years.  God sticks by him. God shows him how to get the job done, as this dad does for his daughter.

God reaches out to David, gives David the time and work experience, to grow into a deep relationship with God, which allows him to Dance as a Leader, even with some missteps along the way.

We may feel a bit like Samuel.  We may feel we failed, no one listens, we can’t do any more than we have.  We may be sitting off in the dark hoping we don’t have to try to share God’s love with anyone, because it’s too hard and they don’t listen anyway.  We may feel used up.

We may feel like Jesse, that God must be looking for someone who fits the leadership profile of his neighbors.  That any of his older sons would be a good King, because of their appearance, strength, and skills.  We may feel the only answer is the one that fits in the box we think is the only one available to us.

We may feel like David, small, relegated to the chores his brothers don’t have the time or the desire to complete.  Forgotten in the field, while the others are invited to grander things.

We need to recognize that God isn’t done with any of us yet.  God isn’t just in the wings cheering us on.  God is beside us holding our hands, showing us the moves, connecting us with others.  Lovingly guiding us through whatever God has called us to do.

Others may overlook us or we may overlook ourselves, but God, who “looks on the heart,”  knows who we really are and appreciates our dreams and intentions and has important work for us to do for God’s kingdom.

Being chosen doesn’t immediately change David’s life.  A few years later his older brothers go off to fight, David is left at home to take care of the sheep.

David’s leadership skills were honed in the little things.  God values the small things we do.

Let’s take a look at Horton surrounded by those who don’t understand the value of seeing beyond the set of rules set by our culture.  (Video)

Horton sees beyond the expected, to the unexpected, to the value of persons no matter their size, community structure, home of origin.  He is willing to risk his comfort and safety to protect the potential he sees in those persons whom others choose not to see, or hear, or to build relationships with.

1 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17  “At the judgement seat of Christ, we are all to be seen for what we are”  God sees us as we are and does not overlook us.  We are responsible for what we do and say.  Because Paul believes that he was responsible for doing the job Christ had given him, he was willing for people to say he was crazy.  He knew that Christ’s opinion of him mattered more than theirs.[1]

Horton’s community thinks he is crazy for protecting those who they cannot see.  Samuel’s contemporaries probably wondered what he was thinking choosing David as the next king.  Our community may think we are crazy for doing the job Christ calls us to do, for putting relationship with God and neighbor above personal gain, fame, power, and sometimes fun.  For inviting others to join us on this journey.  For joining together to call the Spirit to set our hearts on fire.

In our weakness and invisibility, God’s power is made known.  Aware we can’t do it on our own, we come to understand that we are the “Who” God sends to serve, to love, to lead, to tell God’s story.

Horton reminds us that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” And in the end, it is a very small shirker named JoJo, who is playing with a yo-yo instead of making noise, who, when he joins the other Whos to make enough noise, saves the community.  You are the Who who can make a difference; Who can catch a view from God’s eyes.  Let’s make some noise.

[1] Worship for Kids: June 17 2018

The “Why?”s that lead to prayer”

1 Samuel 8:4-22

Last week we began looking at how God leads us through the transitions of life, and how even when those transitions come in the midst of the cracks in our lives, when we choose to listen for God’s voice, to embrace and help others embrace the transitions, the light of Christ’s love for us and for others shines so brightly others are drawn to figure out why we are not crushed when hard pressed on every side, how we avoid despair when perplexed, how we are always in community even when persecuted, how we keep from being destroyed when struck down.

In essence, we looked at the “What” to which we are called.  This week we look at ways we can work with the “Why?” questions which often follow our recognition of “What” transition through which we are moving.

We all have “Why?” questions.  Anyone with a young child in the house knows that there is an endless stream of them.  Each answer shared bringing another “why?” until we suggest they go ask someone else because we ran out of answers or stamina.   “Why are zebras black and white? Why does soda fizz so much?  Why does Winnie the Pooh like honey so much?  Why do people get sunburned?  Why?

This morning we heard the people of Israel ask “Why?”  “Why can’t we have a king like other nations?

Samuel was getting to a point he could no longer meet the demands of leading the people.  The elders, sensing a transition needed to take place, didn’t wait for a word from God, which was how Samuel came to be God’s prophet.  They determined for themselves change was necessary and they wanted a king like their neighbors had.  During the time of the judges, of which Samuel is part, Israel had been a theocracy, ruled by God.  The elders point out that Samuel’s sons aren’t fit for the task because they are more interested in leading in such a what that they benefit personally from their decisions.

On the surface that may be a reasonable reason to ask for a king.  But it doesn’t take into consideration that God had handled that same kind of situation when he called Samuel, instead of allowing Eli’s sons to be God’s voice to the people.  Samuel had remained faithful to God and to those he served.  There was no reason to doubt God could take care of this situation as well.  Only a desire to have what other nations had, an attitude of their knowing better than God what was the best for them.

Focused on having their own way, they reject God’s way.  They pattern their plans after the world rather than living into God’s kingdom.

Samuel’s not as ready as Eli is to embrace the transition.  He may think he can get his sons to do the right thing, or maybe he understands the change to a King is not faithful to God’s plan.  God’s reassurance that the people are rejecting God, not Samuel, and God’s encouragement to Samuel to outline exactly what the consequences will be, indicate it is more about following God’s plan than about not accepting that his sons have messed up, although it may be a little of both.

Samuel is likely full of “Why?”s  Why did my sons decide to serve themselves rather than God?  Why are the elders picking now to push for a transition?  Why, when I’ve done everything God asked of me, are we facing this request?  Why, do the people want a King? Why don’t they listen?

Many of the children among us and perhaps a few adults, love Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses.  The stories of  magnificent palaces, grand balls, wonderful things to eat and beautiful clothes to wear, important position and power, all draw us into the fairy tale.

The Israelites didn’t have Disney princesses or Meghan and Harry, but the kings they saw in the neighboring communities drew them to consider it preferable to a prophet-led government.  Their neighbors had armies and weapons.  Thinking they could protect themselves armed with nothing but a prayer probably didn’t make much sense to them.

Their world was changing, nomadic life was giving away to more centralized power, they were under siege and having a difficult time finding hope in their reality.  Although God’s faithfulness and power was part of their experience, they decided it wasn’t enough and they wanted what they wanted when they wanted it.  They tackled their “Why?”s by what seemed to work for their neighbors.

We often face “Why?”s   Why do we struggle financially and the person down the street lives in a big house and drives a fancy car?  Why aren’t there more people joining us in church on Sunday morning?  Why does it seem there is always one more health problem to contend with?  Why did another friend or family member just die way too early? Why?

We can choose to address those “Why” times by looking for answers according to the wisdom of the world in which we live.

We can choose to do what Samuel does.  We can pray, working through what we are experiencing with God.  We can hear God’s word for us in the face of our “Why?”  We can hear God reminding us of our role, and God’s, in the midst of our situations.  Maybe we can sense God reminding us that God still has good work for us to do, even it it’s not what we’ve been doing and even if the outcome of our work won’t be what we had hoped for.  Maybe we can sense God nudging us, just a bit, to get over ourselves enough to let the healing of our hurt begin, and to let a new chapter begin to unfold.[1]

Asking “Why?” helps us work through those overwhelming times of transition, when we work through those “Why?”s with God and the resources God sends our way, particularly others who make it a practice of seeking God’s will in their lives.

There are no quick fixes to the “Why?” seasons of our lives.  But when we are led by the Spirit in prayer, God answers in God’s time and Jesus holds us safe no matter how long it takes.  When all “Why?”s lead to prayer, we will find God’s way through.  Not easy, but always a better choice than the world’s way.

 

[1] Third Sunday after Pentecost 2018 – Preaching Notes – Discipleship Ministries

Out of brokeness

Samuel 3:1-20

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

We face transitions in many areas of our lives.  This time of the year, maybe even a little bit more than usual.

Graduations from pre-school, high school and college.

Weddings, new homes, new jobs, and more.

The Clothing Depot we support is transitioning from one location to another.  Some of the United Methodist clergy with whom you have established relationships, Ray Noel and Sara Merle are transitioning into retirement, Tony Hipes who has served at Medina and Beth Malone at Lyndonville are transitioning to new appointments and we will welcome new neighbors.

We have a number of high school seniors who we will recognize as they transition into new directions and focus in their lives.  Our Annual Conference ordained three new Elders and a Deacon on Saturday and they will transition into a new role in the life of the church.

Jackie, who has worshiped with us since Lent, is transitioning to a new home and community.

These are only a few.  Transitions touch us all on a regular basis.

For the next few weeks we will consider how God leads us through transitions.

We heard for the second time this year the story of God calling Samuel to service.   I find it interesting that the lectionary brings this particular passage up again so soon.  Yet God calls Samuel three times before he and Eli figure out it is God’s voice Samuel hears.  It may be we need to go back to the scripture more than once to realize it speaks a word to us.

We find Samuel and Eli at a point of transition.  Samuel’s task since coming to live at the temple has been to serve Eli and to learn about serving God.  Eli’s call was to serve God and to lead his sons into the vocation of the priesthood.

As God calls to Samuel, a transition begins for him from student to leader,  At the same time a transition for Eli from leader to mentor/support system begins.

Eli, recognizing that God’s word, rare in that time, is coming to Samuel, has a decision to make.  He can take steps to keep Samuel from recognizing God’s voice in an effort to keep his own position.  Or he can use all of his gifts, experience, and knowledge to help guide Samuel in a way that will help him discern God’s voice and direction.

Eli can try to do things the way they have always been done or he can support and care for the one who can lead into something new.

Discerning God’s will, Eli chooses to not only accept the change, to embrace the transition, but to take an active part in helping to make it happen.

Samuel, looks to his teacher for direction, and in following the advice of one who has a lifetime of service to God, he hears the voice and direction of God for himself.

This transition takes place in the midst of brokenness, as Eli’s sons should have developed this deep, prophetic relationship with God, but instead turn their backs on their calling to serve God and their faith community.  We get a glimpse into a disfunctional family, in which choices made, create cracks in relationships with God and others.

Out of that brokenness, God brings new leadership, provides a lens of accountability for the current leadership which opens up the opportunity for the old and the new to learn from and support each other, both connecting in new ways to the Lord they serve.

Choices Eli makes, as God calls him to transition through the brokenness, could be used as examples of transitions out of brokenness which we hear in the Apostle Paul’s message.

Eli focuses on God’s voice, God’s call on the life of Samuel and on the people he was called to lead.  Paul reminds his listeners that it is Jesus Christ as Lord that is the message, that we are called into service for Jesus sake.

The beauty of this is we are not called because we are super heroes, but we are called while clay jars, fragile, with cracks of different shapes and sizes, called to let the love of God the light of God’s glory, shine through us so others see the face of Christ in all we say or do.

For us that means that in all the cracks of our lives, the choices we make to listen for God’s voice, to embrace and help others embrace the transitions that come, can let the light of Christ’s love for us and for others shine so brightly others are drawn to figure out why we are not crushed when hard pressed on every side, how we avoid despair when perplexed, how we are always in community even when persecuted, how we keep from being destroyed when struck down.

We have the hope of life even in the face of death because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We see God’s grace and glory pouring out of the cracks which would otherwise send us to the junk heap.

Regardless of whether we face transitions which are joyful, painful, chosen or forced upon us, even when we are faced with the brokenness of our jars of clay

if our first priority is to say to God,  Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,

 if our choices are based on the voice of God and the teachers he gives us to help us discern that voice

our transitions will take us closer and closer to our Creator, and allow more and more of God’s light to shine on others

And reflecting back on the children’s message,  more and more water to nourish the flowers along our path.

Life in the Trinity

Isaiah 6:1-8

Romans 8:12-17

As we come together this morning, our thoughts may be swirling with many things.  It is Memorial Day weekend, so we are likely thinking about those who protected our country with their service in the military, especially those who gave their lives on the battlefields and those who made it home with bodies or minds so damaged by their sacrifice they too ultimately lost their lives. We lift prayers that the number of service men and women called to that level of sacrifice will drop to zero sooner rather than later.

In addition to the Memorial Day observances, there are many gatherings already on our calendar and mind as we celebrate the arrival of the summer season, which a difficult spring leads us to appreciate with increased enthusiasm.  There are job responsibilities, weddings, graduations, vacations, and celebrations already filling those few weeks of warm weather we hold dear in WNY.

For some, that short window to plant and cultivate, as well as those flowers that need tending and grass that needs mowing, push us to move full speed ahead from sunrise to sunset, almost every day of the week.

Into that comes that nudge that brought you here today.  A gentle tug on your heart that joining the faith community in worship is important.  That your week won’t be quite the same if you don’t respond to that nudge to come.

We talked extensively about the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives last week and Paul reminds us today that all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  That nudge that brought you into community today, likely the urgings of God’s Spirit, God’s wind pushing you toward opportunity to be in deeper relationship with the Triune God and with each other.

In the Christian Calendar today is Trinity Sunday.  We are drawn to the mystery of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, which we affirm in our creeds, acknowledge in our baptismal vows, proclaim when we share in Holy Communion, yet how three can be one messes with our logical thinking process.  I don’t think we should be concerned with that reality.  It took the early church about 400 years to settle on this doctrine.  How it can be is something we must leave to faith.  How it impacts our lives, something we experience.

The Spirit led Isaiah to the temple to worship God.  The vision he received was not his expectation when he showed up.   He lived in a time of great political turmoil and may have come expecting to find some comfort and hope to calm his soul.  Yet he finds himself in the presence of the living God, God is real, present and challenging him to action.  Open to the Spirit at work, Isaiah experiences not only the power of God but God’s great grace.

I find the image of the train of God’s robe filling the temple striking.  I see folds of heavenly woven fabric unlike anything we can imagine filling the space, with warmth, protection, comfort, and connection while at the same time intimidating in the intensity, majesty, and mystery of the Holy One who wears it.  God’s presence filling every part of creation.

Surrounded by this powerful, holy presence, Isaiah recognizes his personal weaknesses and mistakes, receives forgiveness, and responds to a call to serve.

Most of the time we don’t come to worship expecting visions or mystical experiences, yet the Spirit invites us to come expecting the unexpected; To connect with God in new ways, to discover new insights; find new direction.  God is always present moving in our lives, sometimes so quietly we hardly notice, at times dramatically, abruptly reminding us of the awesome God who loves us so much that God the Son came to walk with us to share in our human experience and to draw us into His divine experience, and God the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s presence.  That reality allows us to see, as Isaiah recognized, that those thoughts, decisions, and actions we take which come from our humanity, do not define us.  We are defined by the forgiveness we receive and the action we take to respond to the Lord, “here I am send me.”

As Paul reminds us, led by the Spirit we are children of God, co-heirs with Christ.  We are drawn into this mystery, called to share in the glory, to see God as our parent, through the love of God and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Son, living in the Triune God through the Spirit who testifies with our spirit.  Actively responding with a life lived reflecting how Jesus teaches us to live.

Last week we talked about how we are “Fired Up” through the Spirit.  Speaking to this week’s scripture, Theologian Leonard Sweet said, “Once Isaiah was touched by the transcending power of God’s Spirit, his response was to be “on fire” for God. Spirit-filled disciples are not snoring their way from justification through sanctification to glorification. They are ‘on fire.’ There is an element of passion, of enthusiasm, of boundless faith that is an inescapable accompaniment to Pentecost disciples. You get one, you get the other. In a world of blind ambition, Jesus’ followers are the ones with blind faith,”

We are in the presence of the power of God.  We witnessed it in the baptism of Evaline, whose life has already testified to the Spirit moving where it will, as we hear in her father’s announcement of her birth:

“So, funny story. Julia Goheen had a c section scheduled for this morning (11/17) at 7:30 am. Well baby had other ideas. After a quick trip on the Medina Ambulance to Strong, baby Evaline June was delivered via emergency c section at 7:49 pm 11/16. She weighed 7 lbs 5.5 ozs. and was 20.5 inches long. Both momma and baby are doing awesome and we couldn’t be any happier. Thank you to our friends and family who have sent thoughts and prayers.”

We all answered the Spirit’s nudge to show up today.  We see it in all of creation as new life unfolds each moment.  We should be “on fire” aware of the Spirit’s movement in our lives, passionate about sharing and serving with others, ready to answer “Here I am, send me,” regardless of what that might demand of us.

 

Today we promised that with God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ.

That we will surround Evaline with a community of love and forgiveness, that she may grow in her service to others.

That we will pray for her, that she may be a true disciple who walks in the way that leads to life.

It is a promise we have made to others, a promise many made on our behalf.

 

It is a promise we cannot keep without passionately following the Triune God, open to the leading of visions, forgiveness, and calls to action we receive as heirs with Christ, and the Spirit which keeps us connected with God and each other.

 

 

Fired Up

Acts 2:1-21

Romans 8:22-27

Since the early 1800’s, the phrase “Fired Up” has referred to someone who is drunk, since 1850, it applied to being angry, and in the 1970s it came to reflect someone full of enthusiasm, energy, and resolve.

Those who play sports know that the locker room pep talks and conversations on the sidelines are often designed to get the team “Fired Up”  to go out on the field or court, ready to do what they are trained to do, to apply the skills and knowledge of the game acquired during practices, and to push forward toward a goal of winning.

As the closest followers of Jesus are gathered, waiting as instructed, they really have no idea about what will happen.  The gospel of John tells us that before he ascended, Jesus told them about the Spirit that will come to them:

The Holy Spirit is an Advocate one who takes your side

Truth-teller, whose words you can always count on

Testifier, who speaks up for you

Prover/Judge, who can see what is right and make it plainly known

Guide who knows the way and is willing to show it to you

Speaker of the words of God

Glorifier of Christ.[1]

But the wind, flames, and speaking so people from all nations can hear in their own languages, probably not what they were expecting.  The “fire” that will “fire them up” so they are compelled to testify of what they know of their risen Lord, is outside of their experience until that moment that the Spirit arrives.  In that arrival, all the skill development, illustrations, examples, practice those closest followers had received walking with Jesus, were called into action by a pep talk more focused and powerful than any coach could ever imagine.

This moment of wind and flames is unique to the birth of the church.  We don’t hear of it happening again as more and more come to believe into Christ.  We do hear of those coming to recognize Jesus as the Son of God, being filled with the Spirit, of having the power to understand what His life, death, and resurrection means in their lives, of feeling the Spirit’s presence in real, physical identifiable ways, of being able to share their faith with others in ways and places they didn’t believe possible.

As we have talked about the Power of the Holy Spirit over the last couple of weeks I suggested that if we fully believed, or understood, the potential of that power available to us we would come to church with protective gear in place.  As the fire descended on the followers’ heads that day, they may have been ducking for cover, but any apprehension quickly fades as they are equipped and overwhelmed with enthusiasm to share their story of faith with all nations.

It is an event which we might file away as an interesting story about the start of Christ’s church.  It may feel like a Disney animated movie which we can discuss and then dismiss as fairy tale with a moral we can apply.

Removed by centuries from those flames, we may find it difficult to get “fired up” about following Jesus.  If we are passionate about our faith, if we have felt the presence of the Spirit at points in our lives, even if we feel it daily, we may struggle with getting “fired up” to share it with others.  We may find it unimaginable that the Holy Spirit fills us and allows us to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enables us.

When our daughter was doing cancer research, she would talk to us about her day, often enthusiastically sharing some scientific process which made little or no sense to us.  One afternoon we were at an event with her mentor, I was lamenting that I often didn’t understand what she was telling us.   He  told me to tell her that if she couldn’t explain it in language that made sense to me, she didn’t understand it herself.  She now explains it to high school students, and me, in languages we can understand, no matter how many different ways she needs to frame the message.

Today, just as on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes to us, bringing us the power to speak in the language of who needs to hear our unique message of Jesus at work in our lives, coming to “fire us up” so we meet those opportunities with enthusiasm.

It may be the language of a hug when someone is lonely, the language of yard work for someone overwhelmed with the tasks at hand, the language of a hot meal and a warm smile to someone who is hungry, the language of a firm handshake with someone who others ignore, the language of not arguing over the small stuff, of offering hospitality to those who we don’t know, the language of technology to those surrounded by electronics, the language of encouragement to those who receive none.

On the day of the Pentecost recorded in Acts, it was about the languages those in Jerusalem used to communicate.  To hear the message in their native tongue “fired them up” and filled them with enthusiasm and understanding of what they heard, so they could share it with others.

On this day of Pentecost, it can be about speaking in the native languages of those who we meet around town, but I believe it is more about feeling the Spirit moving us to meet people where they are, to find areas where we can find a common language in our stories, to listen to the Spirit moving within us to share how faith moves us, how faith makes a difference in us, reflects God’s love for us.

Many of us feel more comfortable speaking in our own language.  We were checking out of Walmart one night this week and the cashier expressed relief that we spoke English.  We asked if she knew enough Spanish to help her understand the customers who speak that language.  She replied that she doesn’t want to learn Spanish because she doesn’t want to know what Spanish speaking customers are saying about her.  I asked why she thinks they are saying “things” about her, and she didn’t have a reason, she is just sure they are.

When we don’t respond to the Spirit moving us to find a language through which we can get to know each others’ stories, we fail to experience the full power of Pentecost, we fail to follow Christ’s call for us to testify.

On Saturday morning, people throughout the world watched as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged their vows.   US Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, who was asked to bring the message, had an opportunity much like Peter had on the day of Pentecost.  He had an audience that extended far beyond those gathered together in the chapel.

Curry chose the common language of Love, which was the reason he noted that everyone showed up Saturday morning.   He brought a message of Love that is unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.  He noted that when love, as Jesus called us to love, is the way, no child goes to bed hungry in this world ever again, justice rolls down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever flowing brook, poverty becomes history, and we all lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.  “When love is the way there’s plenty good room, plenty good room for all of God’s children,” he preached.

He noted that scientist theologian, “de Chardin said that fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history and that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.”

I think that fire of love is among us.  The Holy Spirit so visible on the day of Pentecost, still bringing us the power to share love in languages others can understand.  Blowing through our souls, calling us to be “Fired Up” to testify to the love of God that we experience in a relationship with Christ, in the language of those who need to hear.

We need to harness that energy of fire so the world hears of Christ’s love in their own language.     amen

[1] The Lectionary Lab Day of Pentecost for Year B (May 24, 2015)