Day of Pentecost, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Pentecost 21, Year B October 17, 2021 Pentecost 21, Proper 24, Year B 2021 Psalm 91:9-16
Pentecost 20, Year B October 10, 2021 Pentecost 20, Proper 23, Year B Amos 5:6-7.10-15. Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31
Pentecost 19, Year B, Season of Creation 5 October 3, 2021 Feast of St Francis, Pentecost 19, Year B Jeremiah 22:13-16, Matthew 11:25-30
Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4 September 26, 2021 Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4 Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; Mark 9:38-50
Pentecost 17, Year B, Season of Creation 3 September 19, 2021 Pentecost 17, Proper 20, Year B, Season of Creation 3 Psalm 54, Mark 9:30-37
Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation 2 September 12, 2021 Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation II Mark 8:27-38
Pentecost 15, Year B, Season of Creation 1 September 5, 2021 Proper 18, Year B Season of Creation 2021 Isaiah 35:4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2:1-10, 14-17, Mark 7:24-37
Pentecost 13 B – Rev. Amy Turner August 22, 2021 Pentecost 13, Proper 16 John 6:56-69
Pentecost 12, Year B August 15, 2021 Proper 15, Pentecost 12, Year B John 6:51-58
Pentecost 11, Year B August 8, 2021 Pentecost 11, Proper 14, Year B John 6:35,41-51
Pentecost 10, Year B – Rev. Bambi Willis August 1, 2021 Pentecost 10, Proper 13, Year B John 6:24-35
Pentecost 9, Year B July 25, 2021 Proper 12, Pentecost 9, Year B 2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21
Pentecost 8, Year B July 18, 2021 Proper 11, Pentecost 8, Year B 2021 Psalm 23, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Mark 6:30-34
Pentecost 7, Year B July 11, 2021 Proper 10, 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85, Ephesians 1:3-14, 2: 11-22, Mark 6:14-29
Pentecost 6, Year B July 4, 2021 Pentecost 6, Proper 9 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

 

Day of Pentecost, Year B

Sermon Date:May 23, 2021

Scripture: Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:22-27, John 16:4b-15

Liturgy Calendar: Day of Pentecost, Year B


Prayer is conversation with God, a mysterious process, for God is mysterious and inscrutable, and we human beings cannot know the mind of God, or the will of God.

So often our prayers can be a litany of how we wish things on this earth would be according to our minds, and according to our wills.  We present our lists of things we want God to do, most being for what we would consider to be for the good of the world, for the good of the Church, and for the good of ourselves or for someone else.   

Frequently, our prayers don’t get answered in the ways that we had hoped.  People die of cancer, wars rage on, disagreements divide us, unexplainable tragedies happen, and our carefully constructed world of certainties can fall apart in an instant. 

So what do prayers answered differently than what we had hoped for or expected mean about how we’ve prayed?  That we haven’t prayed hard enough, or long enough, or faithfully enough?  Or that God isn’t listening, or that God isn’t there, or even that God is just a useless figment of our imaginations? 

No!

When we realize that we don’t know the answers, that our minds are limited, that we are vulnerable and that the control we think that we have in our lives is ultimately nothing but an illusion; when we pray in spite of the fact that we have no clear idea of what would be the right answers to our prayers, then we are truly opening our hearts and entering into the mysteriousness of God’s will in our praying.  

The Apostle Paul describes this kind of prayer in his letter to the Romans.  “Likewise the Spirit help 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 in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

These words from Paul are highly encouraging. 

First, even though we may feel that we are floundering around in prayer, with no clear idea about how to pray for something or someone, God helps us in our seemingly helpless prayers.  God helps us through the work of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us in our weakness.  When we have no words for our prayers, when all we can do is to sigh, or even to groan, that’s when the Spirit takes over and prays in us and through us and intercedes for us. 

Which makes me think that when we are so absolutely certain in our prayers about what God should do, we short circuit the work of the Holy Spirit interceding and praying in us and through us. 

So as one who flounders around in prayer a lot, knowing that the Spirit comes to me in my weakness and actually intercedes for me as I sigh in misery and groan in uncertainty is powerful and hopeful and encourages me to continue praying, even though I don’t know what I even ought to be praying for.     

The second highly encouraging thing that Paul says in these verses is that God searches our hearts.  Paul means that God cares deeply about what is in our hearts.

As well as we think that we know our own hearts, God knows our hearts better than we do.  To think that God is searching our hearts, seeing ALL that is there, is a hopeful thought.  God searches our hearts for the love that God has planted in our hearts, so that God can encourage that love to grow even more. 

And, as we learned earlier in the Easter season, God prunes away the things in our hearts that can bring in disease, or even kill us, the sinful things in our lives that keep us separated from God and from one another.  God is constantly searching our hearts to help us grow more fully into the people that God means for us to be by pruning away the things that keep us from growing. 

Third, these verses remind us that the Spirit binds us to God and to one another as the Spirit intercedes for all the saints according to God’s will. 

The Spirit is not just for you, or just for me, but for all of us.  Those of us who are living, those of us who have gone before us—the Spirit connects us in the bright and shining web of light that is the communion of saints.  The Spirit binds us together in prayer.  The Spirit binds us together in love. The Spirit binds us together across time and space.   

In his last conversation with the disciples before his crucifixion and death, Jesus promised them the gift of the Spirit.  Jesus still had so much to tell them, but the disciples were in that state we so often find ourselves in, full of uncertainly, sorrow, and worry.  With much compassion, Jesus said to the disciples that he knew that they could not bear all the things he wanted to say to them.  They wouldn’t be able to understand, because they hadn’t gotten far enough along the way yet.  Time would need to pass before they could hear and understand more.    

So Jesus tells them that Spirit will come to them after Jesus is gone to lead them into all the truth.  And what a comforting promise this is on the part of Jesus.  Even though Jesus is gone, the Holy Spirit is here.  And the Holy Spirit is not going to rush us into more than we can bear at any given moment.  Instead, the Spirit will lead us along the Way, interceding for us when we are lost, and praying through us so that even at our most discouraged, we find ourselves supported, loved and lifted up into God’s love, and bound in love to one another.  As we grow in God, and in our faith, the Spirit will continue to reveal to us the new things we become able to understand as we  go further along the Way.   

The Spirit is the one who helps us to hear and to understand the teachings of Jesus in the ever changing circumstances of our lives, and to apply those teachings in new ways as we continue to change and to grow in God’s love. 

Again, our complete certainty about God’s will  and what the truth is can short circuit the work of the Holy Spirit because our own certainty often leads us along ways of our own making and blinds us to seeing the way that God has laid out for us and that God hopes we will follow. 

Jesus also tells the disciples that the Spirit of truth will judge the world.  This judging is what Paul is getting at when he talks about God searching the heart.  God cares so much about God’s creation and what goes on in it that God judges the world that we have made, as God searches our hearts, not to punish but to prune away the things that keep this world from growing into the goodness that God has had in store for all of creation since the beginning. 

Finally, the Spirit binds us, the Church, together in mission.  As Luke tells the story of the coming of the Spirit, the disciples are all gathered together, and the Holy Spirit sweeps in and fills them all, and they begin to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gives them ability. 

Devout Jews from every nation gather at the sounds of all these languages pouring out of the disciples and they are bewildered, because they hear their own languages being spoken.  They are amazed and perplexed. 

Some of the people who hear are instantly full of certainty about what has happened.  “Oh, these guys are drunk!”  Their certainty about what is happening closes their minds and hearts to the miraculous possibilities of God at work through the power of the Spirit. 

But others ask, “What does this mean?”  These people, the ones who wonder and who are uncertain, are the ones for whom the Spirit can intercede, for their hearts are open in their uncertainty and they are able to hear what Peter has to say—that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, for God is in control, and the Spirit will enter into them too, when they hear Peter tell about Jesus and his death and resurrection.   

In these days of all sorts of certainties that divide this world so destructively—our mission as the Church is to hope in God, who is greater than any human certainty. 

Our mission as the Church is to be brave enough to admit our incompleteness, to pray deeply with groans and sighs, letting the Spirit pray through us, opening our communal heart to the searching of God. 

Our mission is to hope for what cannot yet be fully seen, the reign of God on this earth, to let the Spirit work in us and through us, so that God’s will may be done, on earth as it is in heaven, starting with us, and spreading out like the light of the sun rising and shining on the new days of radiant gladness that lie ahead when we are open to God’s will at work in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst.