Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost Sermon

O Holy Spirit, still me. Let my mind be inquiring, searching.
Save me from mental rust. Deliver me from spiritual decay.
Keep me alive and alert. Open me to your truth.
O Lord, teach me so that I may live in your Spirit. Amen.
(adapted from The Sacrament of the Word by D. Coggan)
At that 1st Pentecost that we heard in the Acts of the Apostles this morning, when the Spirit came down upon the disciples, it gave them the ability to speak so all could hear the Good News in a symphony of voices, in their own mother language, the Good News of Jesus and that salvation has come to all the peoples.

The Spirit set the apostles free to do their ministry, just as Jesus promised at the Ascension.

The poet Malcolm Guite sees in Pentecost the ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire. How each of them expresses and embodies different aspects of the Gospel and of God’s goodness, as the Spirit is poured out, breathed, kindled…
Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire, air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in every nation.
Finding that Spirit today in truth, and freedom and love for as Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit will guide you into all the truth."
In her book Honeybee, the Arab-American poet and writer Naomi Shihab Nye tells of waiting for her flight in Albuquerque when she heard this announcement: "If anyone near Gate 4-A understands Arabic, please come to the gate immediately."

As it happened, that was Naomi's gate and she went to the counter. An older woman, in traditional Palestinian dress, was crumpled on the floor, wailing. The agent asked Naomi to explain to her that her flight was going to be delayed but would come, that there was no need to worry.

Naomi stooped down and put her arm around the woman and spoke to her in Arabic, assuring her that her flight was not cancelled, that she would get to her destination. The distraught woman cried to Naomi that she needed to be in El Paso the next day for medical treatment. She did not understand that the flight was only delayed, not cancelled.

“You'll get there, just late." Naomi said in Arabic. "Who is picking you up? Let's call him."

Naomi called the woman's son in El Paso and explained (in English) what had happened. Naomi told the son that she would stay with his mother until her plane left. Mother and son then talked and he assured her that he would be there to pick her up whenever she arrived. Then, just for fun, Naomi and the woman called her other sons. Naomi then called her own dad and the woman and Naomi's dad spoke for several minutes in Arabic - and discovered that they had several mutual acquaintances.

By the time the woman boarded her flight, she was at peace, even laughing with Naomi and other waiting passengers. Before departing, she pulled from her bag a sack of cookies - little crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts and topped with sugar - and offered them to the other women at the gate. To Naomi's surprise, no one declined. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo were all smiling, covered with the same sugar.

Naomi writes that, as the older woman said goodbye and boarded the plane, "I looked around the gate and thought, This is the world I want to live in. One with no apprehension. This can still happen anywhere, I thought. Not everything is lost."
The fire of Pentecost re-ignites in a New Mexico airport: The Spirit of God overcomes the barriers of language and perception, transforming fear into peace, misunderstanding into community. As on Pentecost, God's Spirit continues to speak in the love of the Beatitudes, in the forgiveness of the prodigal's father, in the generosity of the Good Samaritan, in the hope of the resurrection.

That same Spirit of Peace and Hope guided a group who began a walk for peace in New London; while they walked, when they passed a playground, the would leave a rock that said “peace” on it. They spent last night in our Memorial Room (and had a meal here) and are walking today to Sandy Hook to the UMC there (for a service) and will be placing another peace rock in a Newtown park. (Remembering the teachers and students at Sandy Hook Elementary School.)

That Spirit is also a Spirit of Remembrance & Freedom as I think about Memorial Day.

Last year, Bernard Jordan, an 89-year-old World War II veteran was reported missing from his nursing home in England. He was found later in France. He wanted to attend the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy to honor friends he lost and where he himself had fought. He hid his uniform/metals behind his coat when he left. He return safely a few days later…

The gift of the Spirit, the gift of our Pentecost faith enables us to hear the voice of God speaking in the midst of the clamor and busyness, the pain and despair of our lives, inviting us to embrace the life and love of God in our homes and hearts.

Come Holy Spirit, breathe into our hearts your peace and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.

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