Weekly Lessons and Sermon
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Have you ever heard the old joke about the woman who cuts off the ends of her beef roasts?
Thinking that cutting of the ends makes the roast better, you learn that the woman really just cut off the ends because her mom always did.
Turns out: HER MOM cut the ends of the roast because that was the only way she could get it to fit in her small oven pan.
What if: There was a baking pan big enough to accept the roast just the way it is?
Well… This is what Pentecost: and the birthday of the church is all about.
The sending of the Holy spirit:
Which allows for a big enough roasting pan:
To encompass everyone: just the way that they are.
Or to use another image:
The church, inspired by the loving care of the holy spirit:
Is a big giant umbrella.
I want to share with you today an excellent childrens book, that illustrates this.
Not that the book looks at the big umbrella as the church:
But we can certainly see the similarities.
This book is called, “The Big Umbrella” written by Amy June Bates.
By the front door…
There is an umbrella.
It is big.
It is a big, friendly umbrella.
It likes to help.
It likes to spread its arms wide.
It loves to give shelter.
It loves to gather people in.
It doesn’t matter if you are tall.
It doesn’t matter how many legs you have.
Some people worry that there won’t be enough room under the big umbrella.
But the amazing thing is…
There is always room.
I hope you can see,
How the umbrella is like the church.
Or at least:
How the church SHOULD be like the umbrella.
Welcoming everyone in:
Nomatter what they look like:
No matter how big or small.
No matter where they come from.
And this is one of the primary messages of Pentecost:
A day that teaches us to celebrate diversity:
And all of our differences.
On that first Pentecostal day,
The Bible tells us that God’s Holy Spirit visited the disciples in a special way.
The rush of a mighty wind blew the timid disciples right out of their upper room and into the middle of a very diverse crowd of people.
In fact, the Spirit gave these people from many different lands:
Who spoke many different languages:
The ability to understand the message of Jesus and the love of God.
The message of Pentecost is that God loes variety:
And sends a variety of gifts to all different kinds of people so that God’s presence can be known everywhere there are people.
There’s room under the big umbrella.
No matter where we come from,
What we look like, or what language we speak.
BEFORE that first Pentecost:
Before the sending of the Holy Spirit:
The message of Jesus was fairly limited.
Sure the disciples, and close friends of Jesus knew all about it.
But they were also hidden away in the upper room.
The followers of Jesus were limited by language barriers:
Unable to share the Gospel to those who spoke different languages.
But those limits were broken when the Holy Spirit pounded through the upper room in a wild rush of wind:
Opening the doors:
Spreading the big umbrella over the entire world.
“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they
may be one, as we are one.”
In the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus’ prayer:
The prayer that he prayed the night before he died.
Kind of an interesting reading to hear on this seventh Sunday of Easter.
But then again: There’s a reason for that:
Because it brings us full circle.
On the night before he was arrested:
Jesus prayed a prayer for his disciples:
A prayer for everyone who would believe in him:
A prayer for us:
A prayer for the world.
To be one:
Just as Jesus and the Father are one.
To be one.
To be one with all people.
To put aside our differences:
To be in loving community:
To end the fighting:
To end all wars:
To be one.
This is a big prayer.
An astonishing prayer.
A prayer that seems almost impossible.
We might be tempted to say, “Who are you kidding, Jesus?”
“It didn’t happen in your time:
What makes you think it could ever happen in ours?”
But Jesus told his followers that they should be one in this world:
in their culture and their time.
It goes along with Jesus always reminding the disciples, and all of us:
That the Kingdom of Heaven is here –
not something that will come in the next world.
But to be one right now. Right here.
Its an echo of Jesus’ teachings on eternity:
The past, the now, the future:
All of it: In its fullness.
That they all may be one.
It’s not just about “later.”
It’s not just something to wish for, long for, or hope for in heaven.
And what’s cool about Jesus:
Is that he ALWAYS talks about these things in positive statements:
As his dream for the world:
Not as a “yeah right”
Not something sarcastic:
But something that he believes is actually possible.
Something that he believes is actually REAL.
It’s as if Jesus is saying to God:
“This is my wish: This is my dream:
That those who believe would be one:
just as you and I are one.”
He says it as if he expects it to happen.
He says it as if he thinks we understand what he’s talking about.
But Jesus knows what he’s talking about.
Whether WE know what Jesus is talking about is an entirely different thing.
And maybe that’s just the thing.
Maybe we just don’t know what “unity” means
When Churches throughout the centuries have battled, and split off from one
That’s not being one.
When the human obsession with being right consistently puts up roadblocks
against Jesus’ prayer.
That’s not being one.
But how can we even understand the image that Jesus gives us:
About our own unity as the mirror of Jesus and the father being one?
That’s pretty hard to understand.
That’s pretty hard to fully know:
It’s one of those things:
Like the peace of God which passes ALL understanding.
Beyond our comprehension.
Beyond our understanding.
But that’s no free ticket to give up.
To let the seeming impossibility of unity and one-ness make us quit.
So we have to look for the oneness.
It is our call and our duty:
To seek it in God and in each other.
And Oneness with God means being at one with all of God’s gifts:
Cultures, peoples, nations:
And every single bit of our own human existence.
The joys and the sorrows.
The fears and the strengths.
To tear apart one bit of our gift is to put a tear in the beauty of oneness with God:
And oneness with each other.
I’m thrilled that we’re back to receiving communion together in a semi-circle
(rather than in a single file line)
It’s a great image of our “one-ness.”
But please remember:
That “one-ness” doesn’t mean “the same.”
Being the same, is not the basis of unity.
Just like Jesus and the Father are not “the same.”
Love is the basis of unity: and nothing else.
Being the same: is not unity.
When St. Paul said that there was no more male or female,
Jew or Greek.
He didn’t mean that men and women would be morphed into some other form of
Or that Jews and Greeks would become one new nationality.
He meant that each of us:
In our uniqueness would look with love on all the other creatures of God.
He meant that we would see beauty in the gifts that others have,
Instead of being jealous of another’s gifts:
Or thinking that our gifts are better than someone elses.
He meant that:
All of the gifts matter:
And all of them are necessary for us to all be one.
He meant that we should join together to build the Kingdom of God:
The Kingdom of God that IS among us.
This kind of love is hard.
Our human nature makes it hard.
Our culture makes it hard.
If we take Jesus’ words seriously, we’ll hear that the outpouring love that IS God:
Is there for all of us.
In all of its different ways:
And we’ll strive to let it guide our words and actions.
I know that you’ve heard me say a lot of this before.
But I’ll say it again and again.
That not all of us are called to do the same things:
Even though we are “one”.
We need it all:
We need everyone:
We need priests:
And we need lay readers.
We need activists:
And we need people to pray silently at home.
We need teachers,
And we need listeners.
We need the young,
And we need the old.
Is all of it taken together.
Pooling our gifts together.
And praying together:
Praying that God might open our minds and hearts:
Relinquishing some of our own needs to be in control:
Or our own sense of whats “right.”
Praying to receive new knowledge.
Asking God to change our minds when its needed.
And to be tolerant and hospitable to others:
Not only for their sake:
But for ours.
Because we might learn something from those who come with new knowledge
And This is our heritage.
This is who we are: as Christians:
The ones who are striving to be “one”
With God and one another:
In old ways, and in new ways.
In today’s Gospel reading,
Jesus says: “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. “
“In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me;
because I live,
you also will live.”
This is one of Jesus’ most beautiful promises.
The promise that we will be taken care of:
Never orphaned, or left alone.
God promises to take care of us.
And this isn’t anything new.
Throughout all of human history--
God has promised to take care of His people.
And over and over again,
God sends others to help with that mission.
Noah built an arc.
Moses climbed a mountain.
Isaiah brought a prophesy of hope.
Jesus was born in a barn.
Died on the Cross.
And was gloriously resurrected.
After his resurrection: Jesus Returned to Earth,
Before eventually ascending to the Father,
And finally sending us the Holy Spirit.
That’s what this Gospel reading talks about:
Jesus’ ascension into heaven,
and the sending of the Holy Spirit to continue to take care of us.
What’s funny is that in John’s Gospel,
Jesus is talking about this even before his arrest and death:
Not after his resurrection.
Today, we’re still in the Easter season,
But our Gospel reading transports us back to Holy Week:
To the time right before Jesus’ death:
And even then, Jesus promised the post-Easter sending of the Holy Spirit.
According to John,
Jesus’ final words before his arrest point to his ascension into heaven,
And ultimately Pentecost:
The sending of the Spirit.
Following his death,
When Jesus is resurrected,
He’s first resurrected to earth:
He lives on the earth,
Spends time with his friends,
And he prepares them for the future:
The future where even Jesus had to leave this earth.
Where even Jesus had to ascend to the Father.
Even after dying,
Even after all that:
Jesus still had to leave this earth.
Still that’s not the end of the story.
Death wasn’t the end.
Resurrection wasn’t the end.
Even the ascension into heaven wasn’t the end.
Still, that’s not the end of God’s earthly care for us.
Because even after Jesus leaves,
He sends his Holy Spirit:
His holy spirit upon the earth to care for--
And fill the souls and bodies of God’s people.
Promising to never leave us orphaned.
Jesus said that you will know the Holy Spirit,
Because he abides with you.
And is IN YOU.
God never leaves us.
The risen Christ dwells in us:
As the spirit of truth.
We talked about this last week:
When we made our own holy water:
And put it in the “stoop” at the entrance to the sanctuary.
We talked about dipping our fingers in the holy water as a reminder of this
dwelling of Jesus within us.
The spirit living within us.
We receive this spirit at baptism,
And that same spirit continues to transform us into the body of the risen Christ in
Because of God,
Because of that spirit dwelling within us,
We are never alone.
We are never left as orphans.
We need to understand that God is not up in the clouds.
Not Far Away--
Not Looking Down--
But God is really and truly--
Always WITH YOU.
Before moving to Wisconsin:
I spent seven years as a church camp director at an amazing place called
Thunderhead Episcopal Center.
One of my primary tasks,
Was writing the program for each summer camp:
Putting together the actual lessons and learning that kids would experience at
A number of years ago,
I wrote a camp program that focused on God working through popular music.
The Holy Spirit MOVING,
Through top forty radio.
I know it sounds kind of crazy,
But the idea of God living—dwelling within us is kind of crazy too:
Sometimes even hard to believe.
And of course, there are some songs:
That are clearly not God.
But at the same time, there are songs that point to God:
To God living and moving in the world.
We explored some of those songs at camp that summer,
One of them was Pharell Williams’ “Because I’m happy.”
And there was one in particular that relates to today’s Gospel reading.
The popular country group, called Lady A
Had a great song in 2013 called, “Compass.”
The chorus of the song proclaims:
let your heart, sweet heart
Be your compass when you're lost
And you should follow it wherever it may go.
When it's all said and done
You can walk instead of run
'Cause no matter what you'll never be alone.
THIS is what Jesus is talking about.
No matter what, when it’s all said and done,
You will never be alone.
Because God is with you.
To be your compass when you’re lost.
With you wherever you go.
And I don’t mean this to sound cute and adorable.
Because it’s actually pretty serious business.
That it seems kind of crazy:
Kind of hard to believe:
Beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend.
Our opening collect today speaks to this directly.
To remind us that God dwelling in our hearts is not cute.
It’s not trite.
Completely and utterly real.
The collect says,
“O God, You have prepared for those who love you
such good things as surpass our understanding.”
God has prepared for us,
Things that are beyond our understanding.
Beyond our knowledge.
Beyond our imagination.
Beyond anything we could ever hope or dream for.
The collect continues:
“Pour into our hearts such love towards you,
That we, loving you in all things and above all things,
May obtain your promises,
Which exceed all that we can desire;”
God makes promises that EXCEED all that we can desire.
(I love that: EXCEED: PAST, BEYOND, MORE THAN)
Exceeding all that we can even DESIRE.
So much so:
That we can’t even fully know what those promises are.
Because it’s beyond anything than we could ever want.
More amazing than anything we can ever hope for.
We are not alone.
We are never orphans.
Surely, we shall never be dead.
Because the promises that God makes us.
The presence that God consistently brings to us:
Dwelling within is,
Is bigger than all that--
Including anything else we can ever ask for or imagine.
Today's sermon was a discussion on Holy Water, and its importance in reminding us of our baptisms. We talked about holy water also reminding us that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We installed our own holy water stoop (which is a little bowl on the wall holding holy water.) We then made the holy water--with the reminder that a priest can't make holy water alone! A priest MUST have someone else present in order for the water to be made holy. We also filled tiny jars for people to take their own holy water home. These jars will continue to be available for people, and so will the holy water in our stoop at the entrance of the sanctuary!
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.