|Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 31, 2016||Proper 13, Year C||Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21|
|Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 24, 2016||Proper 12, Year C||Luke 11:1-13|
|Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 10, 2016||Proper 10, Year C||Luke 10:25-37|
|Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 3, 2016||Proper 9, Year C||Luke 10:1-11, 16-20; Galatians 6:7-16|
|Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 26, 2016||Proper 8, Year C||Luke 9:51-62, Galatians 5:1,13-25, Psalm 16, 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21|
|Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 19, 2016||Proper 7, Year C||Luke 8:26-39: Luke 24:13-35|
|Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 12, 2016||Proper 6, Year C||2 Samuel 11;26-12:10-13-15, Luke 7:36-8:3|
|Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 5, 2016||Proper 5, Year C||Luke 7: 11-17|
|Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||May 29, 2016||Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Luke 7:1-10|
|Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C||May 22, 2016||Trinity Sunday, Year C||John 16:12-15, Psalm 8|
|➤Day of Pentecost! Year C||May 15, 2016||The Day of Pentecost, Year C||Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17, 25-27|
|Easter 5, Year C||April 24, 2016||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Psalm 148|
|Easter 4, Year C||April 17, 2016||Easter 4, Year C||Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||April 10, 2016||Easter 3, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 3, 2016||Easter 2, Year C||John 20:19-31|
Day of Pentecost! Year C
Sermon Date:May 15, 2016
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17, 25-27
Liturgy Calendar: The Day of Pentecost, Year C
The Day of Pentecost is a day of endings and beginnings.
Let me explain.
For the Jewish people in Biblical times, the festival of Pentecost marked the end of the celebration of the spring harvest and the celebration of God’s grace and bounty, a celebration that had begun at Passover.
But Pentecost also marked the beginning of a period that lasted into the fall, a time of sacrificing the first fruits of the field to Yahweh. This period ended with the Festival of the Booths in the autumn.
And so, as my Texts for Preaching commentary points out, this celebration of Pentecost is a day of ending and a day of beginning– a time of “leaving behind that which has passed, and the launching forth into that which is only now beginning to be.”
We are “moving forward into new dimensions of being, whose basic forms are clear, but whose fulfillment has yet to be realized.”
Today’s gospel also marks an ending and a beginning. Jesus is going to the Father, ending his time of being physically present with his disciples on earth. But his relationship with them will not end, but will take on a new form—in the presence of the Advocate that Jesus will send to them, the Spirit of truth….and the disciples will know this Spirit of truth, because it will abide with them and will be in them.
Their relationship with their Risen Lord which will physically end, is just beginning in a whole new way, through the Spirit of truth that Jesus will send. Their relationship with God is about to get deeper, wider, stronger, richer, but this new relationship is built on the same foundation that their relationship to Jesus has been.
And that foundation is made up of love– love for Jesus and for each other.
And that foundation is also made up of obedience to his commandments—and the two commandments that Jesus has given his disciples are to love God and to love one another.
Imagine this foundation as a great and ever renewing circle of love—love for God, love for one another, obedience to God’s command to love God and to love one another, and all the while as the disciples build on this foundation of love, their love and their ability to love keeps expanding, growing deeper and wider and stronger and richer with every passing day, bringing more and more people into this circle of love.
We see this process happening on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, where the disciples are waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised them.
They have gathered in one place, probably about 140 of them, when suddenly the Holy Spirit shows up like the rush of a violent wind, like fire, and in the words of the disciples, who are suddenly speaking in other languages that people from every nation under heaven can understand.
And the language that all of these people hear is the language of love, the great ringing of words describing the end of the world as they have known it, and the beginning of a new world full of the Spirit of truth poured out on each and every person, so that they have visions and dreams of a new world built on the foundation of love and the coming of God’s great and glorious day, in which love has finally filled every last nook and cranny of every last bit of creation, a day in which all human beings at last burn with the purifying fire of love, a flame so cleansing that the only thing it leaves in its wake is love.
What happens as a result of this dramatic arrival of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost?
The writer of Acts tells us that 3000 people that day asked what they should do to become part of this great circle of flaming love—and they repented and were baptized in Jesus’ name and received the Holy Spirit. These 3000 people joined the small group of disciples. They too devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. They became obedient to God’s commands, and their love for God and for one another grew richer and richer. They became part of that ever expanding circle of love, the foundation on which the Church, even in our day and age, continues to be built.
Which brings us to this day of Pentecost here at St Peter’s, the 180th birthday of our church. On this Sunday, exactly 180 years ago today, Bishop Richard Channing Moore, the second bishop of The Diocese of Virginia, who was at that time age 74 and had served as the Bishop of Virginia for the past twenty-two years, arrived in Port Royal and came to St Peter’s to consecrate this new church. In his diary he wrote that the church building “reflected the greatest credit upon those by whose munificence it has been erected…"
And this church was part of the great foundation of love that had expanded from what had seemed to be the end of the Anglican Church in America after the Revolution—twenty-two years before, when Bishop Moore was ordained a bishop, the Diocese was practically nonexistent. The convention that called him to the Episcopate had only seven members. At the time of his death, twenty-seven years later, there were almost one hundred clergy serving in the Diocese. Bishop Moore built on the foundation of loving obedience to God, and the church in Virginia was reborn.
St Peter’s was part of the rebirth of this Diocese—and 180 years ago, surrounded by visiting clergy, and a congregation of women dressed in long dresses with huge sleeves, and wearing bonnets, and the men dressed in waistcoats topped by frock coats or tail coats, Bishop Moore baptized several people right here in this baptismal font. These baptisms were a visible witness to the fact that the Holy Spirit had come to abide in this place and in each one of those gathered here that day.
How fitting then, that we gather today on this day of Pentecost to remember our particular beginnings, to give thanks to God for this sturdy brick building which has been a place of worship now for 180 years. Early in its history, this building burned but the walls stood, and it rose once again from its ashes. More recently, an earthquake damaged this building, but it continues to stand.
And this congregation has continued for 180 years, building on its foundation of love and obedience to God, through the Civil War and through ups and downs in numbers, through large and small disagreements among its members—but the foundation of love has held steady.
How fitting that today scaffolding covers the wall behind me. We are a work in progress. Not only does this work on the altarpiece connect us with our past, but this work symbolizes our ongoing rebirth as a congregation.
Cleo Mullins, the conservator heading up the restoration, said in a recent email that in her work on the wooden panels that are at her studio and in the work on the wall here, she can see that “someone at the church, about 175 years ago, took a great deal of care to make sure that things were done right. In a way by taking such care with the treatment of the paintings, we reach back in time to share this with the makers. I really do feel a connection as I’m working, a continuation. It’s something that I love about my job.”
The wooden panels, soon to be restored to their place on the wall on either side of the cross in the center, will continue to be a visual reminder to us of God’s commandments, the commandments that help us to love God and to love one another in obedience to God’s love.
On this day, we cannot see exactly where the Holy Spirit will take us, but the Spirit of truth is here in us, and abides with us.
So we too, on this day of beginning, take our places with the disciples and with all those who have gone before us in this ever expanding circle of love for God and for one another that is the Church.
Now it’s our turn to wait with anticipation for the Spirit to fulfill us and to bring God’s love to birth in us in ways beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine, as we leave behind that which has passed, and let the Holy Spirit launch us forth into that which is only now beginning to be.”
Resources: Charles B. Cousar, Beverly R. Gaventa, J. Clinton McCann, and James D. Newsome. Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV—Year C. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.
Email from Cleo Mullins to Catherine Hicks dated May 13, 2016. “Work on Altar.”