Sunday, June 30, 2019

You are Welcome Here! ONA Sunday/World Pride

The importance of story. How do we tell our story? How do you tell your story? Whose story is the right one? It is said to the Victor goes the myths and the monuments. What happens when there is no victor?

I stood beside the AIDS Memorial Quilt for 5 days. It is a huge monument. So big in fact it could never be displayed as a whole again unless they were to lay it out in the desert. It is almost 20 acres in size and that is without walking paths between each 12-foot square. To the victor goes the monuments?

So today I am lumping the 50th anniversary of stonewall and ONA Sunday all together. So, I am wondering who remembers stonewall. I mean really remembers it as a significant event? The main stream news coverage was minimal, to zero. What is actually worse is it was not the first event that many never heard of…

“May 1959 - Transgender women, drag queens, lesbians, and gay men clashed with police at Cooper Donuts, a hang-out for them and street hustlers who were frequently harassed by the Los Angeles police department (LAPD). Police arrested three people, including John Rechy (a famous author in the los Angeles area who writes on gay culture and is still alive today) but other patrons began pelting the police with donuts and coffee cups. The LAPD called for back-up and arrested a number of rioters. Rechy and the other two original detainees were able to escape.

September 1964 – New York, Organized by activist Randy Wicker, a small group picketed the Whitehall Street Induction Center after the confidentiality of gay men's draft records was violated. This action has been identified as the first gay rights demonstration in the United States.

January 1st 1965- The Council on Religion and the Homosexual held a costume party at California Hall on Polk Street in San Francisco to raise money for the new organization. When the ministers informed the San Francisco Police Department of the event, the SFPD attempted to force the rented hall's owners to cancel it. At the event itself, some of the ministers and ticket takers were arrested, creating a brief riot.

The CRH was formed in 1964 by Glide Memorial Methodist Church, as well as Daughters of Bilitis founders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. It included representatives of Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and United Church of Christ denominations”[1]

There are 23 events listed in the before stonewall page of Wikipedia…I think the thing that hits me hard is many people believe the at the LGBTQIAA+ community just came out of nowhere in 1969 but we know our stories, we have lived our stories and many people have walked besides us throughout history…

But what happened that night…how is it that, that night is special…

There is a beautiful article that sums up the events that day

The Night the Stonewall Inn Became a Proud Shrine

It was “a bar for the people who were too young, too poor or just too much to get in anywhere

“The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan, which was reopened by a mobster named Fat Tony in March 1967.CreditCreditLarry Morris/The New York Times

By Michael Wilson

June 27, 2019

Hours before it was to become a flash point in the modern gay rights movement and a landmark visited with awe and reverence half a century later as if a shrine, it was just a dark, dingy bar called the Stonewall Inn, just another Friday night in June.

A mobster named Fat Tony with the Genovese crime family had bought the place two years earlier for a song — it had been a restaurant damaged in a fire — and reopened it as a gay bar. The mob owned most of the city’s gay bars, running them as private clubs because they could not obtain liquor licenses. The bars were cash machines.

Fat Tony slapped black paint on the walls and windows and posted a man at the front door. A concrete wishing well, inherited from the restaurant, remained inside the front door. The new owner often boasted that he recouped his modest investment in the first few hours of opening night in March 1967.

There were two bars and rooms for dancing to the jukebox. Bartenders made drinks with cheap liquor served out of bottles bearing brand-name labels. Dirty glasses were dunked in dirty sinks. The drinking age was 18, and broke kids who couldn’t afford a drink held empty beer cans all night to fool the waiter.”[2]

The legend says…I said legend says the gay community had been in mourning because Judy garland had just passed away on June 22 the bar had just been raided two nights before and several other bars were raided and a few shut down in the previous weeks…they had enough a group ended up across the street from the bar yelling in protest, others joined in, someone threw a rock, a brick or a bottle no one knows for sure but several officers ended up barricading themselves in the bar till back up could arrive.

A year later NY had a rally to commemorate pride and Los Angeles had a parade, a church event…Wait what? The first gay pride parade was a church event. Let me quote an op ed from Advocate magazine. It speaks a little of the history of pride but more importantly it speaks of us an open affirming congregation, a reconciling congregation

“In 1970 the Reverend Troy Perry, a Baptist minister turned Pentecostal preacher, organized the first Pride parade. Perry had come out as gay in the 1960s and started a church in his Los Angeles home for gay and lesbian Christians. Soon, hundreds filled Perry’s services, many breaking down into tears when they received communion for the first time as openly gay believers.

Throughout the 1970s, gay and lesbian churches, synagogues, and religious organizations appeared throughout the country. Many still exist today. Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City founded in 1973, has rented a special venue this week because their regular sanctuary cannot accommodate the vast number of people, they expect to attend their Pride Shabbat service. Other LGBTQ religious communities that flourished decades ago have closed within recent years as institutions like the Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches now welcome LGBTQ people as equals.

The idea that religion thrives within LGBTQ communities has garnered some attention this year as the first openly gay presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, has made the media circuit describing his Christian faith and how his marriage brought him closer to God. And gay religious characters have started to appear in popular culture. On Netflix’s newest hit show, Dead to Me, the most pious Christian character is a gay man.

To be sure, many religious communities still reject LGBTQ people. Countless LGBTQ Americans suffer through years of trauma as they sit in pews listening to hatred from the pulpit. And without question, the Religious Right’s influence in the Trump administration and state legislatures has enabled an assault against transgender people in all areas of society, from bathrooms to the military, which we must remedy soon. But this is not the entire picture of religion and LGBTQ people, and allies have appeared in surprising places. Just last week my own alma mater, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis stood by one of its teachers when the Archdiocese insisted the school terminate a faculty member who is in a same-sex marriage. The Jesuit high school refused to fire the gay teacher even as the Archdiocese decreed the school could never again call itself Catholic. I have seen several LGBTQ Catholic alumni express gratitude and words of prayer on social media.

When we fail to recognize how religion has shaped LGBTQ communities, our activism, and the aspirational dreams of so many LGBTQ people, we let antigay religious leaders and politicians speak on behalf of all religious people. Someone like Jerry Falwell, Jr. does not represent all Christians. We need to stop indulging the illusion that he, or Mike Huckabee, or Mike Pence, or any other antigay religious figure is a more legitimate Christian than someone like the Reverend Troy Perry who proudly declared, “The Lord is my shepherd and He knows I’m Gay.” We give the Religious Right too much power by perpetually focusing on them.”[3]

I confess when I thought about preaching today realizing this is the first time this church has celebrated a pride Sunday or an ONA Sunday, I was nervous. I didn’t want to make this about me and it’s not. Yes, I am a gay man but more importantly we have LGBTQIA+ children, young people, who are trying to find their way in the world and the voice of hate is strong and the religious right has been controlling the dialogue. Did you hear todays gospel…? a whole village turned Jesus away…there are too many who know that story personally…

“the son of man has nowhere to lay his head” too many know that story!

“let the dead bury the dead but as for you, go and proclaim the kindom of God!” so many know that story…

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God!” so many know that story.

Nowhere to lay a head….Many young people have to leave their home, their Church their family because they are true to who God has called them to be; “agencies reported working with LGBT youth, with providers indicating that 30% of their clients identified as gay or lesbian, 9% identified as bisexual, and 1% as transgender (for a total LGBT population served of 40%).”[4]

Let the dead bury the dead. Many a person where not even welcome home for a funeral and often learned of family passing months to years later just because they were LGBT+ the other side of that is we had so many to bury in the 80’s and 90’s we were dead tired of funerals and memorial services we were dead tired of fighting our own government just to pay attention to us yet we pushed on, act up fight AIDS was the war cry. And many a soldier fell…

No one puts a hand to the plow and looks back…The kingdom of God that the UCC, the American Methodist church and the UU church envision is one that will continue to move forward to fight for a just world for all and make sure our community doesn’t just survive but thrives.

What does a thriving Church look like?

Open, Affirming and Reconciling Statement

We, the faith community of the Federated Church of Marlborough, celebrate that every person is a beloved child of God, made in God's image and redeemed by God's radical love. We recognize that our LGBTQ sisters and brothers have suffered discrimination and exclusion in many places, including and often caused by the Church. Jesus taught by word and example how we ought to love one another, and we reject using Bible quotations as weapons against the LGBTQ community.

Therefore, we welcome all people to be full members of our community without condition. We welcome persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, race, ethnicity and persons who are physically or mentally challenged. Rich or poor, all are welcome here. We celebrate family in all its forms, and honor, support and bless all loving and committed relationships. We celebrate the rainbow and the richness of diversity. Loving one another as Jesus loves us, and following his example and his commandment to love one another, we rejoice to say that no matter where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.

In that simple statement you have flung open the doors of this community making it possible to broaden our welcome daily. You have declared this a safe place for LGBTQ+ People. You have made it a safe place for those suffering from disabilities, from mental illness, from discrimination of any kind. You have made the way for us to be a migrant welcoming congregation.

We have work to do. Having a simple statement on the wall isn’t enough. We need to do more to reach out to the world around us. Perhaps next June we can do a pride film series not just lifting up the history of LGBTQ folks but also some fun films that show how we can just laugh at ourselves.

Would anyone be interested in having a contingent in one of the local pride events? By local we are talking Nashua, concord or Manchester???

What can we do around mental health and well being? Can we have a mental health fair where we invite local agencies to display the services they provide?

Can we feed our hungry community more than once a Month? I wonder what would a Sunday brunch service look like at the community center?

I wonder about a lot of things and if there are things, we cannot physically do then who can we partner with?

I am honored to be your pastor, I am proud to be a gay married man living here, I am your pastor and teacher but I cannot do this alone…somethings take money…some things take bodies…some things take initiative

Let’s get out message out there let’s live into our extravagant welcome so that everyone knows truly no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey say it with me YOU ARE WELCOME HERE!





Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trinity 101 Trinity Sunday 2019

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
8:1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?

8:2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;

8:3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

8:4 "To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.

8:22 The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.

8:23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

8:24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

8:25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth--

8:26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil.

8:27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

8:28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,

8:29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

8:30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

8:31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Pastor Carol Cavin Dillion from Christ united Methodist church in Tennessee tells the story of when she was the asked if she could speak to the first-grade Sunday school class. The topic was worship, and she was to meet with the children in the sanctuary so that they could get a close look at the baptismal font, the altar, and the paraments.

So she met the youngsters at the front of the sanctuary. The children’s minister had asked her to wear her robes so that the children could see them and they could talk about it. After they toured the sanctuary and talked about colors and symbols, remember the Methodists have a high church style everything has a purpose and everything has a meaning. She sat down with them and asked if they had any questions. One little girl looked down, pointed at the white stole and said, “What’s that thing?”
She replied, referring to the intricate design upon the stole, “It’s a symbol of the Trinity.” “What’s the Trinity?” the little girl asked. “Uh. . . .” For the next five minutes (which seemed like an eternity) she found herself trying to explain the Trinity to a group of first graders.
 By the time she finished hemming and hawing, they looked so confused! How in the world do you teach a bunch of six-year olds about the most complicated theological concept in the book? The answer might be just to wait until they’re older. A six-year-old is too young for Narnia, much less the Trinity!
Perhaps we should wait till they’re teenagers. Or even adults.  Because we adults can handle such theological complexities, right? We’ve been to school. We’ve studied literature and algebra and biology and philosophy. Heck, some of us even have a Masters and PhD! surely it’s easy for us to understand and explain the Trinity Right?
Okay Go…
A professor in a seminary jokingly once tried to explain it like this: “It makes perfect sense. God is three . . . is one . . . is three. Get it?”


Okay this concept is hard to wrap our brains around.  And I admit it is not even part of everyone’s theology.   But I grew up with it and so I wanted to explore the concept. It has been explained like the Shamrock.  The Trinity just as the shamrock is one plant with three leaves; God is one God with three faces.  Then there is the water metaphor as H2O can take three forms in ice, liquid, and steam, so God has three forms. The Trinity!

To be honest the Trinity is one of those elements of faith that tends to be taken for granted.  It is a foundation of what many Christians believe about God, yet I would venture to say, that most don’t even try to wrap their minds around it. We believe in God the creator, Christ the redeemer and the Holy Spirit the sustainer and we speak of the three as one and just leave it at that.

Today, the first Sunday after Pentecost, is known as Trinity Sunday. But do we have any idea what we’re talking about? Is the Trinity just an obscure concept that we give lip service to because the church calendar tells us to or the traditions we came from declare it as absolute doctrine? Does it have anything to do with our daily living? Think about it—what does the Trinity mean to you?

In our readings this morning and throughout our worship this morning we have heard references to God and how God self is revealed to us.  In the opening of Proverb we hear speech of wisdom and it is spoken of in the feminine which is a common concept of the spirit.  Then later it proclaims how “I” was given birth before the first acts of creation this is often heard of and referred to as Jesus. Mathew calls us all to baptize in the name of the trinity. In John Jesus expresses unity with God and the Holy Spirit, and he speaks of three unique persons doing three different jobs: Abba God shares the Son; God the Son stands among the disciples, teaching of the spirit; God the spirit helps interpret and teach the truth that comes from Abba God and the Son.

We often speak of God as the creator and God loves creation and wants us to love creation as well. One way that God teaches us how to love creation and one another is in the person of Jesus Christ. As John and the other gospel writers tell us, Jesus walked alongside us on this earth to show us the face of God. And in Jesus’ death and resurrection, God becomes our Redeemer. Now, we spend a lot of time in the church talking about Jesus. We learn about Jesus’ teaching, his example, his healing, and his love. The gospel stories give us something tangible to hold onto. Jesus gives us all sorts of guidance on how to live our lives. It’s not hard to find ways that Jesus is relevant to our lives.

The concept of A Trinitarian or triune god speaks of God in relationship. Abba, Son and Spirit have always existed in relationship, loving relationship, with each other.  Lady wisdom declares I was there in that moment of creation alongside the Son and Abba.  I was having fun, stirring the elements, sparking life and rejoicing in the dance that was creation.  In the opening verse of the song “The Lord of the Dance” it states:

“I danced in the morning when the world was young
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth
  That energy that drives the dance…that energy that makes us want to dance. That is spirit and the dancer is Jesus and God the music of the universe.

For many of us, that Spirit is very relevant to our daily living. We recognize the Spirit’s activity all around us: in those little nudges to call someone or pray for someone, in the peace that surrounds us before we undergo surgery, in the inspiration that comes when we’re teaching or praying, in the board meeting where truth is spoken and consensus is reached. Many of us know the Spirit as our sustainer, our inspiration, our daily guide and yes the mischief maker.

We see daily evidence of God our Creator. We strive to follow the concrete example of Jesus the Christ. We look for signs of the Holy Spirit around us. Individually, the three persons of the Trinity make sense to us. But what does it mean for the three to be one and the one to be three? Abba God, Son, and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. One in three in one. Ice and liquid and steam. Three leaves of a shamrock. What power can this mysterious concept have for us?

Whether you relate most to God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer, or the Holy Spirit
 Sustainer, the mystery of the Trinity has something to teach us. There is something beautiful and powerful about a God in three persons. There is something God can reveal to us when we ponder the mystery of the Trinity.

The triune God of our faith is a mystery, revealed to us only partially and gradually.  God goes way beyond our human capability of comprehension and understanding and our language.  Yet we are offered an opportunity to reach out, touch, and try to understand how these three, these three in one touch and bless our lives.  Heck, it wasn’t until long after the stories of the creation of all, the passing on of the stories of God active in our world...Long after someone decided to write down the stories then collect them into a book, did we even conceive of this nature of God.

In the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, there is an icon of the Holy Trinity painted by Andrei Rublev sometime around 1400 C.E. For those of you who are unfamiliar with icons, they are pictures that are used in prayer. Believers are to gaze at them prayerfully until they become like a window into the heart of God. God can reveal Godself to us as we are praying through the image of an icon. This is the image on the bulletin cover.

This icon takes as its subject the mysterious story where Abraham receives three visitors as he camps by the oak of Mamre. He serves them a meal. As the conversation progresses he seems to be talking straight to God, as if these 'angels' were in some way a metaphor for the three persons of the Trinity. In Rublev's representation of the scene, the three gold-winged figures are seated around a white table on which a golden, chalice-like bowl contains a roasted lamb. In the background of the picture, a house can be seen at the top left and a tree in the center. Less distinctly, a rocky hill lies in the upper right corner. The composition is a great circle around the table, focusing the attention on the chalice-bowl at the center, which reminds the viewer inescapably of an altar at Communion.

On one level this picture shows three angels seated under Abraham's tree, but on another it is a visual expression of what the Trinity means, what is the nature of God, and how we approach God. Reading the picture from left to right, we see Abba creator, Son the redeemer, Holy Spirit the Sustainer.

Rublev gives each person of the Trinity different clothing. On the right, the Holy Spirit has a garment of the clear blue of the sky, wrapped over with a robe of a fragile green. So the Spirit of creation moves in sky and water, breathes in heaven and earth. All living things owe their freshness to her touch. The Son has the deepest colors; a thick heavy garment of the reddish-brown of earth and a cloak of the blue of heaven. In his person he unites heaven and earth, the two natures are present in him, and over his right shoulder (the Government shall be upon his shoulder) there is a band of gold shot through the earthly garment, as his divinity suffuses and transfigures his earthly being. The Creator seems to wear all the colors in a kind of fabric that changes with the light, that seems transparent, that cannot be described or confined in words. And this is how it should be. No one has seen Abba, but the vision of Abba fills the universe.
The Creator looks forward, raising a hand in blessing to the Son. this gesture expresses a movement towards the Son. The hand of the Son points on, around the circle, to the Spirit. In this simple array we see the movement of life towards us; we are the fourth being at this table, the life flows clockwise around the circle. And we complete the circle The Spirit touches us, even though we do not know who it is that is touching us. The spirit leads us and moves us in ways we are unaware until we look back.  In moments of stillness and clarity, then can we see where the spirit, the hand of God has touched and moved us.

It is interesting to note that each of these great winged creatures have staffs for a journey.  They each have a staff because we are on a journey and instead of flying on ahead, avoiding all trials and trouble they walk with us, beside us on our individual journeys in this life here and now. [1]

In many traditions, this concept of the trinity is a doctrine; a belief written in stone that must be believed, three separate beings and yet one God.  I perceive them more as aspects of God.  Different parts of one personality or being.  The three are in communion with each other as we are one community and yet each one of us is a unique expression of this community.  The Trinity is a community of Love.

As we think about the community of love that has been within God since the beginning of time, the trinity. Let us understand that there is an invitation for us to be part of that community. Just as Andrei’s icon shows us a place at the table so we can see it for real, as the invitation stands open to all in this community and at the Communion table, God’s table.  As we see real, concrete examples of how God has created us, redeemed us, and sustained us, let us respond with love and gratitude. Let us add our love to the Trinity’s communion of love.

Let us allow God to be revealed in our community. The concept of the Trinity teaches us that no one ever stands alone. As soon as we accept God’s love and reflect that love back out to the world, we are members of a community. We cannot be a community without being connected to one another. If we are to embrace the triune aspects of God the creator, Christ the redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the sustainer then we are called to embrace each other as community and reach out beyond these walls to those who challenge us, need us, who are hungry for a message of love. The love we find in the Trinity, in the communion, we find with one another, is not just for our own sakes. It’s for the sake of the world. It’s meant to be shared. [2]
The world needs love. The world needs grace. The world needs community. May the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer—help us to share the message of the Trinity with all creation. [3]

[1] sacred heart pullman, Explanation of Andrei Rublev's Icon of the trinity, (accessed May 14, 2013).
[2] The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2013 (Nashville: Abingdon press, 2012).

[3] David N. Mosser, Abingdon Preaching Annual 2008 (nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007).

Sunday, June 9, 2019

God is up to Something

Todays Psalm for Pentecost Sunday reads in part…

How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
    they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.’ These words demonstrate the ancient Jewish view of the Spirit of God annually renewing the face of the natural world with flowering plant life and also a widespread belief in the activity of a divine Spirit in many religious cultures around the world, both ancient and modern. All life is thereby seen in them as a divine gift of God to a divine creation.

The Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ was ‘ruah’, whose original meaning was ‘breath’ as well as ‘wind’ a word meant to sound exactly or close to what it is Ruahhh... “John tells us how Jesus likened the Spirit to the wind that ‘blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going’  (John 3:8), and this explains why Luke described the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as ‘like the rush of a mighty wind’ (Acts 2:2). In other words, the Spirit is identified as the breath of God, both breathing life into all living things, and withdrawn to let them die.

John’s Gospel describes the death of Jesus on the cross with an unusual Greek expression: he ‘handed over his spirit.’ These words imply that the Spirit given him in baptism is being passed on in his death. He reveals to whom the Spirit is being passed in Christ’s resurrection appearance to the gathered apostles when he lays his hands on them.”[1]

Today’s Gospel foretells of the Holy Spirit coming, the advocate.  We all know the Pentecost story almost by heart. I will return to that story in a bit but for now 

“Pentecost is the day that the gift of the Spirit brings the new life of Christ to the apostles and the scattered people of God. Both evangelists (John and Luke) were writing about events that they themselves did not witness, and so they tended to link their narratives with those Jewish traditions which could best illuminate their significance most vividly, and the experiences that the apostolic Church initially identified naturally as ‘the Spirit of Christ’.”[2]

These understandings of what Pentecost meant or how the Holy spirit came did not happen immediately. There was confusion surrounding the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  There were stories that were simple and stories that were huge exaggerations. There were arguments, misunderstandings and even stories from people who heard from someone who heard from someone who had a second cousin that was there.

I am not making light of our scriptures.  I am simply stating a fact.  There were no accurate recorded histories at the time of Jesus.  There were many writings and different accounts of Jesus life and teachings. Alice Camille write;

“With all the writings floating around the ancient world, who decided which of them rated as sacred enough to be scripture?

This question is technically one of canonicity. “Canon” means norm or standard. The term was first applied by St. Athanasius to a collection of Jewish and Christian writings around the year 350. A fourth-century bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, Athanasius was a powerhouse.

He would later be named “Doctor of Orthodoxy” for his strong defense against heresies of his time. Athanasius attended the all-important Council of Nicaea, from which we get our Nicene Creed. He was a zealous advocate for the divinity of Jesus in an age before the nature of Jesus was uniformly accepted. For all of these reasons, Athanasius was invested in settling the canon of scripture: which books might be counted as the “Word of God”—and which, at best, were just good words.”[3]
It wasn’t until the council of Trent in 1545 that the old testament was finally decided upon. Meaning which books would be allowed in…of course this was in the midst of the reformation and so some books the Catholics choose the reformation tossed out. “Today’s bible owes a debt to these many debates.”[4]

This is why it is said we take the bible seriously but not literally. It is the inspired and inspiring word of God. That word still speaks to us today and allows us to grow and move just as the spirit leads us as we work to bring Gods kindom here on earth.

Fr Robert styles, SJ states;

“We therefore need to understand why Luke saw the celebration of Pentecost as a particularly significant feast for the manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The ancient Pentecost began as a harvest thanksgiving celebration with the creative Holy Spirit renewing the face of the earth. It was the traditional date of the original covenant of the Law of Moses given on Mount Sinai. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD70 this latter aspect of Pentecost was emphasized more exclusively in the synagogues of the Jewish diaspora. It is during this period that Luke wrote his Gospel.”[5]

I find it interesting and calling to my heart today that Pentecost was a celebration of the harvest a celebration of the bounty of the earth and now it is a celebration of the spirit. The renewing spirit of God.  That spirit renews us, renews the church and renews the Earth herself.

   this is the day on which the first believers came alive in their faith,
       the day when the Rock upon which Christ planted his church began to
       support and uphold an incredible new life -
a life that has existed since the world began,
   but which was poured out in a special fashion 
       and took on flesh in you and me 
much as it took life in Jesus, the son of Mary, the son of God 
so long ago.

Pentecost is an event that the world has long been promised and which the people of God have long awaited. With that let me say…

Dzien dobry (Polish), Buenos dias (Spanish), Nyado delek (Tibetan), Endermen aderkh (armarhic), Bari Luys (Armenian), Kali Mera (Greek), Shubh Prabhat (Hindi).  I have just announced good morning or good day in several languages those languages were… (see above).

We are in the Jerusalem of Jesus’ time it is 50 days after Good Friday.  Actually, the name of the Holiday is a Jewish reference. Pentecost is actually a Jewish Holiday a festival of early harvest that occurred fifty days after Passover also known as the festival of Weeks, Shavuot, or the day to commemorate the giving of the Ten Commandments.

It is interesting to note that Christ said in Mathew “Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” So, Jesus was then, the accomplishment of the law and the prophets and the beginning of something new.

Then Later in John Jesus foretells of the coming of the spirit…"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Creator, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Creator, she will testify about me.”

Today is Pentecost and for us that's the birthday of the church,
when the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God came into the
church and gave the church life. John does not tell of the event but it is in Luke that we hear the story.

So here it is Pentecost in Jerusalem and the disciples are kind of hiding out.  They are frightened that the mobs that came for Jesus may come for them.  They come and go very clandestinely. This day they are all gathered, again I must emphasize that all means men women and children, slaves and free. It is reported that suddenly there was a roar as of a rushing wind.  It was so loud that the people who had gathered in Jerusalem heard the noise and gathered around the house.  Imagine hearing the sound of a rushing wind and yet there is none…no wind…no movement just the sound, wouldn’t you want to see what was happening.

So gathered outside are Jewish people from Jerusalem and those who traveled back for the holiday.  There are Greeks and Romans, there were people from what we know as Libya and Egypt, there were probably traders from the Far East as well as Macedonia, People from the entire known world.  Some had come for Passover and just stayed till Pentecost others were there just for that festival.  There were many people and many languages.

So as the crowd is gathering outside those in the house are hearing the same thing, it sounds like a mighty wind is coming and it is all around them.  They are wondering if they have been found, if they are under attack of some kind, or if the world as they know it is ending.  Suddenly a fire appears in the room divides and alights on each one’s head.  They are filled with the spirit and they go out to greet the crowd.

Pentecost is the reversal of what occurred at the Tower of Babel when, because of our sinfulness, because we chose to separate ourselves from God, we became unable to understand one another and then a mighty wind came up and blew us to the four corners of the world.

Do you hear the similar elements here, there was a sound of rushing wind but it did not disperse the people but caused them to be gathered and at Pentecost each heard the disciples proclaim the news in their own tongue. I have always found this one of the most significant passages.  It is not that the Holy Spirit allowed the disciples to speak languages of all the known nations at the time but that the spirit made it possible for all to hear and understand the message of God.  The message that there is new life and a new way to be in the world, away free from guilt and persecution. For as it was proclaimed at the days of creation, it is being proclaimed again, God saw all things under the heavens and proclaimed them all GOOD!

All creation was Good, all creation saw and witnessed Gods spirit, God’s breath, the very Ruah of creation was alive and well in the world.  Perhaps this is why Pentecost came on the festival of harvest.  Gods bounty of the Earth is being celebrated and at the same time God’s bounty of the spirit is gifted.

The nature of this spirit empowers us to live first of all pointing to Christ. The kind of life God intends for us to live points not to us, not to our accomplishments, but to the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit works with our spirit so that we might experience the righteousness of Christ in our lives.

It is this Spirit that comes into our lives, into the church to allow us to spread God’s message of love to all people and to all of God’s creation. It is this Spirit which makes the church, the Body of Christ, the most unique organization on the face of the earth. Because the spirit inspires us and moves us to stand in the face of oppression. 

It calls us to care for the sick, the poor the marginalized and the earth itself.  It calls to mind the early bounty celebration and asks how do we envision our bounty through the gift of the spirit?  How are we being moved?  How are we using our bounty, our gift of the spirit, to renew Gods’ earth and make earth just as it is in heaven?

The church is the most amazing organization in the world! And my friends you and I are part of it, not because we did anything, but because the Holy Spirit has led us, because the Gospel and the Life of Jesus has taught us. The Holy Spirit gathers together, enlightens and makes holy all people on earth and keeps Holy the earth herself.

Rick Kirchoff, Germantown United Methodist Church said this in 2001 at the Opening remarks to the Memphis Annual Conference of the Methodist churches.

When God sends forth the Spirit amazing things happen:

barriers are broken,
communities are formed,
opposites are reconciled,
unity is established,
disease is cured,
addiction is broken,
cities are renewed,
races are reconciled,
hope is established,
people are blessed,
and church happens.

Today the Spirit of God is present
and we’re gonna‚ have church.

So be ready, get ready...God is up to something... discouraged folks cheer up,
dishonest folks ’fess up,
sour folks sweeten up,
closed folk, open up,
gossipers shut up,
conflicted folks make up,
sleeping folks wake up,
lukewarm folk, fire up,
dry bones shake up,
and pew potatoes stand up!
But most of all, Christ the Savior of all the world is lifted Glory 

Yes, welcome to the Pentecost event, 2019, and Happy Birthday to the church!


Sunday, June 2, 2019