Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

"A Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow"

The day of Pentecost has come. Fifty days from Easter and counting. The word Pentecost means fifty days and so we move through time and as we do we encounter God the Father, God the Son and now God the Holy Spirit. The Hagia Sophia as she is known in Eastern Christianity. “She” because the word “Sophia” is obviously in the feminine form. And so it it from the beginning that the church has taught that our encounter with God is a complete experience, one of totality, in which God is more than a static Being but one in dynamic community.

God is One.
God is the One who creates us.
Jesus is the One who saves us
And the Holy Spirit is the One whose breath comes to us like a mighty wind.

There is another word from the Hebrew Scriptures the word “ruach”. It can be rendered “breath” or “wind” and in the account of the Pentecost experience from the book of Acts the breath and winds of God have a significant force behind them, so much so that they are called “a mighty wind”. 

The very sound of the word “ruach” has the quality of imitative harmony because its sound reflects the reality it seeks to describe; hence “ruach” sounds like what “breath” and “wind” are. And yet the meaning of the word involves holiness, sanctification and wisdom. The words “ruach” and “Shophia” are used in the Hebrew Scriptures to describe the Wisdom Literature.

The Pentecost experience challenges some of the stricter teachings of Judaism.  God’s Spirt and Wisdom are not only for the select, the elect or the chosen of God. No, this spirit and this experience is a generous outpouring of God’s mighty breath and wind upon all flesh and in every language, so that God’s mighty work could be understood by all including; “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in their own languages.” And so on, and so on, and so on for ever and all around the world, even to the far reaches of Old Cape Cod in a language we can now understand.

The word “ruach” and “Sophia” also contain within them the overtones of prophecy. It took a while for Paul and Peter get the point, but in this moment in Acts, Peter hits the nail on the head. He understands well what the prophet Isaiah says 
`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.’
I hope you appreciate how stunning this proclamation would be to the people within the hearing of the Apostle at that time.

I’m sure even then folks would ask; “Where then do we draw the line?” But the Pentecost experience is a generous one. Peter and Paul and increasingly all the others came to understand that the Gospel’s largesse was not for the chosen, the elect or the select, but for all.

The Psalmist understood how generous God’s compassion and love were. You cannot spend much time at sea without an appreciation for God’s amazing diversity and creative joy.

In the appointed Psalm for today we hear this exultant refrain;
“Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number, *
creatures both small and great.
There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.
All of them look to you *
to give them their food in due season.”
~Psalm 104:26-28

Yes, you heard right; God made a whale just for the pure joy of it; just for the pure fun of it. Who can say that God does not rejoice in the creation when we become fully alive to what God intends for us?

The Holy Spirit continues to pour out on us and the whole world we live in. In overwhelming numbers the Irish have voted for equal access to marriage for all her citizens. Ireland is the first nation on the planet to vote that way in direct referendum. God’s love is not only generous, it is inclusive and unconditional. Sometimes that love will be proclaimed more persuasively outside the teachings of the prevalent church. The Roman Church was officially against it. But the Pope has recently introduced a Spirit into our discussions and treatment of one another that is entirely different in tone than what has gone before. Thanks be to God! Perhaps someday we will all catch up to the teachings of the early church and her experience of God’s comprehensive and unconditional love. In the meantime, today in Ireland, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

It is a new day for St. John’s, I hope you don’t miss it. It is a brand new day. God’s mighty winds are moving among us. God’s breath is breathing within us. In fact, it has been said that God is closer to each of us than the very next breath we take.

But the Pentecost experience is not confined to a personal experience but to one that moves among us like a mighty wind. God is searching every heart for joy. More than joy God is looking forward to what is coming together for us. Paul’s words apply directly to this congregation; “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

I do hope you are praying for your church as you pray for your search committee. Pentecost is celebrated in so many places as the birthday of the church. Our finances are lagging behind just now, probably as much as $48,000 or more in reference to what it will take to provide for a full time parish priest. The question for us as we move toward our next stewardship campaign, do you really want a full time parish priest? God knows this church needs one. Given the fact that your current interim priest is serving with you on a part time basis, you can easily afford the budget you have for this year.

But when you have a full time parish priest and pay for housing on the Cape, health coverage, and pension, then you’ll be incurring some significant expenses.

For this great Feast Day of Pentecost all we need to ask of one another is prayer. We’re doing fine just now. But if we want to maintain our position as a full time parish with a full time parish priest, if we want to pay a sexton, and a youth minister, or a christian education director, we’re going to have to consider what the Holy Spirit is stirring us up to do with the mighty winds of her sanctifying wisdom and her prophetic utterances.

For now all we need is your prayer. When a church rests on prayer she rest secure indeed. Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as our Advocate. I find it reassuring that Jesus is our Advocate and that God’s Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us all.

There is a birthing among us of God’s Holy Spirit. Such a birthing provides for God’s Church. We are and have been a family for a good long time. Two thousand years as a matter of fact. This particular portion of God’s family, like all families, has had its good days, and its not so good days, its trials and tribulations as well as those times of triumph and satisfaction.

God knows you folks have been through plenty in these past few years but look back at our history. The Reformation or now what our brother and sister Christians in Egypt and other parts of Africa are enduring. We do not have the luxury of resting in our past, whatever side of the fence you may rest your sentiments. We only have today and tomorrow. There is only this Pentecost and this birthing we have to work with.

Jesus sends us this Advocate for a reason. Your prayers are needed as I said for this church and for your search committee. God is at work among and God is about to do a new thing.

I hope you are aware of it as fully as I see it in you.

And now may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be among us this day and for evermore. Amen

Fr Paul

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