Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sermon

Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what you love, and do what you would do. Amen. (1st Verse of Hymn 508, adapted)

This morning we celebrate Pentecost: the coming of the Holy Spirit (as Jesus promised)!

The word Spirit in Hebrew & in Greek comes from the word for wind or breath. Our Scriptures tell us two different accounts of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered church, the community of faith. In the Acts of the Apostles we have the big public event, with lots of people and dramatic special effects. The event takes place on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter.
They were "all together in one place [when] suddenly there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
In the Gospel of John, the Spirit comes to the disciples on Easter Day, in the evening, in an intimate setting. Jesus gave his gift of peace to the disciples and "breathed on them" to commission them: "as the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21).

Today we celebrate the presence of God in our midst, that promised gift on Pentecost. In Jesus’ breathing upon the assembled disciples the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection — the Church — takes flight and is free. In the outpouring of the Spirit on the disciples from the book of Acts, they go out to speak the Good News to everyone. They are two different stories but they each speak to the spirit of God that blows into our lives.

Today we will welcome Peyton Nicole Thompson into the Body of Christ, as she is baptized at 10:15. In Baptism, each of us was sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. In Baptism, we become part of the body of Christ, for there is one Body and One Spirit.

It is that Spirit that is given to each of us at our baptism that guides us for the common good. On Friday night, you could feel that Spirit alive at Trumbull High School as many of us put our faith & our hope into action, raising money & awareness, walking & remembering.

We gathered from Monroe & Trumbull to celebrate life, to remember and to fight back against cancer at the Relay for Life. At the Luminaria Ceremony, in darkness we walked around the track, with glow sticks in our hands, surrounded by those luminaria lit to remember loved ones who have died and to honor the living. It was a fitting tribute for the place was alive with God’s spirit, because it was all about life. Survivor t-shirts said on the back, I am hope, and there was hope, lots of it; many of us walked with hope & faith, faith that says cancer is never the final word for us, for the Spirit of God is with us, for it is the Spirit that gives us life.
This year's Boston Marathon was an extraordinary event of hope and healing. Among the many stories of generosity, courage and commitment that day was one small moment, caught on video, that was particularly moving.

The images were captured by Wes Lowery of The Washington Post. A Massachusetts man was running in the middle of the pack, one of the thousands of runners who know they'll never win the race but run for the joy of the sport. About a third of a mile from the finish line - just past the 26-mile marker - the man started to struggle to stay on his feet. His legs started to vibrate rapidly, nearly giving out.

A runner not far behind him saw what was happening. He caught up with the injured runner, wrapped the man's left arm around his shoulder and began to carry him.

"We're gonna make it, we're gonna make it," he kept saying to the staggering runner, "but you're gonna have to help me get there." the exhausted man had nothing left; he was slipping from the runner's grasp.

Then another runner came along side and took the faltering runner's other arm. Two more runners, a young man and a young woman, also came to the rescue - and the four of them carried the exhausted man the last quarter-mile. They stopped just short of the finish line and the man was able to walk across on his own power.

When all five crossed the line, they exchanged high fives. Nothing more was said. Then they went their own ways, satisfied that this year everyone finished Boston.
Four strangers, in the midst of completing their own races, are able to stop and help another runner finish his. Such a moment of compassion and generosity is the Spirit of God in our midst. Those marathon photographs are images of Pentecost: the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and of the breath of God that animates us to do the work of the Risen One, transforming us so that we might bring his life and love into our broken world.

That same Spirit continues to blow, on a track in Trumbull, on the streets of Boston, in our very own church & in our lives. Today the spirit will rest upon Peyton, as it has on all of us, for as St. Paul says, for in one spirit we were all baptized and we are all made to drink of one Spirit. On this Pentecost, where is the Spirit sending you?

Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what you love, and do what you would do. Amen.

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