|Proper 21, Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 30, 2012||Sermon, Proper 21, Year B||James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50|
|Proper 20, Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 23, 2012||Proper 20, Year B||James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37|
|Proper 19, Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 16, 2012||Proper 19, Year B||Mark 8:27-38|
|Proper 18, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 9, 2012||Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-10, 14-17; Mark 7:24-37||Proper 18, Year B|
|Proper 17, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost||September 2, 2012||Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 5-9; James 1:17-27||Sermon, Proper 17, Year B|
|Proper 16, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost||August 26, 2012||Proper 16, Year B||Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18, Psalm 34:15-22, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69|
|Proper 15, Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost||August 19, 2012||Proper 15, Year B||Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58|
|Proper 14, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost||August 12, 2012||Sermon, Proper 14, Year B||I Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25-5:2, John 6:35, 41-51|
|Proper 13, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost||August 5, 2012||Proper 13, Year B||Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15; Psalm 78:23-29; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35|
|Proper 12, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost||July 29, 2012||Proper 12, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost||Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21|
|Proper 11, Eighth Sunday After Pentecost||July 22, 2012||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23; Mark 6:30-34, 53-36|
|Proper 10, Seventh Sunday After Pentecost||July 15, 2012||Proper 10, Seventh Sunday After Pentecost||Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:1-13|
|Proper 9, Sixth Sunday After Pentecost||July 8, 2012||Sermon, Proper 9, Year B||2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13|
|Proper 8, Fifth Sunday After Pentecost||July 1, 2012||Sermon, Proper 8, Year B||Lamentations 3:21-33; Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Mark 5:21-43|
|Proper 7, Fourth Sunday in Pentecost||June 24, 2012||Sermon, Proper 7, Year B||Job 38:1-11, Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32; Mark 4:35-41|
Day of Pentecost, Year B
Sermon Date:May 27, 2012
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Liturgy Calendar: Day of Pentecost, Year B
The Day of Pentecost—the day on which God gives birth to the church, and also, I pray, a new birth for each one of us as the Holy Spirit enters into us in power.
We can relate to the disciples in the place we find them today in the gospel according to John–
huddled around Jesus, hanging onto every word of the last teaching he will share with them before his arrest, his trial, and his death at the hands of the rulers of this world.
Sorrow and stress and fear are blinding the disciples to the truth, and yet they must (as Ray Brown puts it so well) pass through this hour so that they can overcome their current sorrow to attain the perfect joy that awaits them.
So Jesus shares with his chosen and beloved disciples, the ones who have been with him from the beginning, his words of hope and encouragement.
He will not leave them alone to wander aimlessly, to return to their old lives as if this time with him had never happened.
Instead, he will send the Advocate, who will come alongside them, and enter into them, the One who will guide them along the way of all truth.
The Paraclete, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, is the personal presence of the Risen Christ within us.
Jesus wanted the disciples to know, and he wants us to know, that because he is no longer physically present with us, he enters into us and is now present to us because he dwells in each of us in a new and powerful and transforming way through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In fact, in John’s gospel, the disciples receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus appears to them after his resurrection when they are huddled together in fear in a locked room.
If you were here on the Sunday after Easter, you’ll remember that the Holy Spirit appeared symbolically in our service that day in the form of red tissue paper floating down on us from the gallery.
But John tells us that in spite of the fact that the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they were still lost without Jesus present with them in person. Do you remember the end of John?
The disciples are at loose ends. They can’t figure out what to do, even though they have received the Holy Spirit. So they return to the Sea of Galilee and their old way of life. Peter says, “I am going fishing,” and he and the disciples fish all night, but they catch nothing.
Sound familiar? In spite of the fact that Jesus longs to dwell with us in the presence of the Holy Spirit, when we’re under stress or full of sorrow, we are still lost. We simply return to our past ways of being, to what is familiar, to what we know, because at least we know it. And when we take this route, returning to our old ways, like the disciples, we find that no matter how hard we try, our nets continue to come up empty…..and we continue to be discouraged.
The Christians in Rome had a great deal in common with the disciples.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains to them that no matter who we are, or what particular theologies we hold, we all have one thing in common, and that is the fact that we are sinners.
All of us are sinful, and all of us are in need of God’s forgiveness and presence in our lives.
When we want to do things on our own and depend on our own power, these plans don’t work in the long run, because sooner or later we find ourselves in situations that we can’t fix or work out on our own.
And Paul also knows, based on experience, that no matter how faithfully we live our lives, the time still comes when we find ourselves in situations, as the disciples did, that we can’t control, situations that bring us to our knees because we can’t change those situations, and we find ourselves full of sorrow and /or fear.
And so Paul gives the Romans a word of hope, based on his belief that Jesus does indeed dwell within us in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Now because we have that Holy Spirit in our lives, we have already received the first fruits of the Spirit. Those first fruits are the promise, the glimpse, the foretaste of God’s new world, a world without sin and sickness and death, a world that has already begun on this earth and in each of our lives through the life and ongoing presence of Jesus with us.
This passage from Romans puts the power and the celebration around the coming of the Holy Spirit that we celebrate on this day of Pentecost into perspective— because we’re still lost, we still find ourselves in situations that grieve us deeply, that we are powerless to change.
We don’t always fill full of the power, praise and celebration that the disciples experience in Acts because fear and stress and, let’s face it, our sinful natures blind us to the truth of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
So Paul gives these words of hope to us—those of us who feel weak, powerless and helpless as we travel through our lives, even though we know the truth that Christ dwells in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul tells us this about what the Spirit does for us in our weakness. Take out your scripture and look at that last part of Romans we heard a little earlier.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
I’d like to share two examples of how the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
At the beginning of May, at the Bishop’s spring conference at Shrine Mont, I had the pleasure of spending some time with my friend, Susan Sowers, who graduated with me and is now a priest in Florida.
I hope that someday you all will have the opportunity to meet Susan. She served as a Colonel in the United States Army, and because of her military service, her postulancy for the priesthood stretched over a period of nine years!
When she was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Bishop Lee encouraged her to serve God for a while longer in the military, and so she did.
Before she retired from the Army, Susan served as the officer in charge of all of the Army logistics in Iraq. On 9-11, she was in the Pentagon.
So Susan knows firsthand the feeling of powerless, weakness, the reality that because you’re a soldier, you may be killed at any moment.
We talked about what this feels like while we were at Shrine Mont—going into danger, knowing that death might be moments away, dreading that moment, and yet finding the courage to move forward—Susan says that soldiers carry this burden twenty-four hours a day in their deployments.
As a military leader who felt responsible for the safety of the troops under her and as a woman of faith, Susan knows what it is to have the spirit praying through her with sighs too deep for words.
And on this Memorial Day weekend, we offer our prayers of thanks for those who willingly go into these places of danger and death for the sake of our country, and we hold all of them close in our prayers.
The second example I would like to share with you comes from my own experiences as a social worker in Hospice. In my first week at Hospice as a student intern, I went with a social worker out into the country to the home of a young woman in her thirties who was dying of colon cancer. This was the first time in my adult life I had been with a family who was staring death in the face, losing someone too young to be dying. But this woman was dying, and this family was so devastated.
I felt my world turn upside down, my perspective on life turned inside out. It was as if the whole world had shifted. I had no words in prayer for this situation, and as the weeks and months and years of Hospice went on, I found the Spirit interceding through my prayers that Paul describes so correctly as sighs too deep for words over and over again at the bedsides of dying patients.
And so, Paul’s words are powerful for us here today—
Paul’s words give us the courage to move forward even in the face of fear, even in the face of death, because we have this promise—
That even when we are lost for words, even when we are helpless, even at in our most sinful and depleted moments, the very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
And so God prays in and through us, especially and certainly when we are too paralyzed to pray for ourselves.
The Holy Spirit dwelling within us is a gift from God, and prayer is a gift from God, not our own achievement.
And this is the gift of Pentecost—that the Risen Christ dwells in us, in spite of our unworthiness, and will pray in and through us.
That prayer of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church universal is the prayer of God,
giving us the hope and assurance for the working out of God’s will in each of our lives,
and for the working out of God’s purposes and God’s glory in this world.
Let us pray.
“Come, O Holy Comforter, come in all your fullness and power. Enrich us in our poverty, inflame us in our feebleness, melt our hearts with your love. Make us wholly yours, until your gifts are ours and we are lost in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Father, on God in Trinity of Persons, now and forever. “ Amen.
Resources: The People’s New Testament Commentary, by Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock
The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary by Raymond E. Brown
Closing prayer from the website “Full Homely Divinity,” a resource for Anglican parish life that helps us incorporate our faith into our daily lives.