Archive for Pentecost

WHAT PENTECOST MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: CHRIST HAS NO BODY BUT YOURS

When the day of Pentecost had come the disciples 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. The disciples were together in one place, and they were waiting. They were waiting together. They were not waiting by themselves. Of course, a disciple is a disciple among disciples and a believer is a believer among believers.  So, there is individuality, but there is also a focus on community. God chooses to pour out his Spirit, not just on a single individual, but on the church, the community of believers. Now that’s the principle in the book of Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost.

The principle of community is something that is throughout the New Testament, the letters, the book of Acts, and the Gospels. However, each one of us has an individual journey, and that is evident in the way that Jesus called each one of his disciples, by name, one at a time. Pentecost does not diminish the message that each person is unique and special in the eyes of God, but magnifies the unity of one church, many members, and one body.

Pentecost is about the birth of the church. It’s the birthday of the church. The church becomes the vehicle by which God chooses to continue the work of Christ in our world. Through the Holy Spirit, we now share in the personification of Jesus Christ.  We are now the Body of Christ and Christ is our head. Saint Teresa of Avila penned in the year 1555:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
yours are the hands, with which he blesses the entire world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

This concept of many members yet one body; the parts make up the whole is prevalent at Pentecost. The body though many members are one body. The Holy Spirit relates to us individually, in distinctive ways. I don’t want to downplay that because it’s so special. Your life has meaning. You have meaning. There is nothing more complex than a single person. The Spirit comes to us individually, but also collectively. However, there is but one Holy Spirit.

It’s not like 60 to 80 spirits ministering to us on this Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God, a unifying presence just as Jesus is one with God, and there is unity in the Godhead, so the Holy Spirit unifies us into one flock under one shepherd; one body under one head. We who are many are one.

There is a diversity of individuals, personalities and talents among us, even in this small church. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to recognize and appreciate that more in a small church than in a larger church. What truly amazes me is the power of the Spirit that pulls all different and unique personalities and people together here in this place to form one church.

There is a mineral heated swimming pool in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, about the size of a football field. The pool is open 12 months of the year, and people can be seen swimming in this pool, even when there is snow on the ground. When I was a child there was a bus that took people to the swimming pool from neighboring towns every day in the summer. On any given day, you could see people in the shallow end of the pool walking or just sitting with their feet in the water. In the deep end of the pool, some people would be swimming laps, others playing and splashing, or jumping into the pool from the sides.

At the very deepest part of the pool were diving boards, a low dive, medium and high dive. This is where I learned to dive. My buddies and I competed with our dives. The biggest feat was seeing how many times we could flip before hitting the water. It became a spectator’s sport for everyone that liked to dive. The water that met everyone in the pool, whether in the shallow side, the deep side or the divers was the same water. It reminds me that the water that everyone in the pool wherever they were at, reminds me of the Holy spirit in the church.

You may be on the outer edges of the church in your mind, while someone else may be right in the center of church activities, but you’re still a significant part of the community, wherever you are, because the Spirit, like the water in a big swimming pool, touches all of us at the same time. The more visible members of the church, like the high divers in a pool, may get more attention, but that does not mean they are the most important. On the contrary, St. Paul says to show more honor to those members that are not so prominent. The heavy lifters may be in a different part of the church, areas that are not so obvious to most people.

We just finished our Imani classes on Wednesday evenings. In our last class, we talked about all the ministries of St. Alban’s that we could think of, and there were so many it took up all the paper on the easel I was writing on. It was a good exercise, and we were overwhelmed that a small congregation has so many active people, seven days week. And, many of these ministries are not in plain view. Yet, I think it’s important that we recognize the members that are utilizing their gifts.

It’s hard to put a category for many of these gifts, but I think we can categorize them somewhat as the ministry of helps. This includes, people that maintain the buildings and grounds, the saints that water and care for our prayer garden, and the same goes for those that care for the Circle Community Garden. It includes money counters, the Treasurer that keeps records of the church finances, those that write checks and those that sign checks, the altar guild, and we could go on. I challenge you to take out a pen sometime and start writing all the ministries of this church that you can think of, both visible to all, and those that are behind the scenes. You are not required to act or be like someone else, and neither are they required to be like you. Wouldn’t it be boring if everybody in the church was just like you or me?

What Does Pentecost Mean For the Church? Christ Has No Body but Yours.

Amen

The Reverend Dr. David Madsen

THE LIGHT OF DAWN GROWS BRIGHTER UNTIL THE FULL LIGHT OF DAY

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that grows brighter until the full light of day (Proverbs 4:18)

Our first reading from Genesis is a story that foreshadows, and is a 180 degree turn from the Day of Pentecost, a day celebrated with an orchestrated array of multiple languages, understood by others to represent peace and purpose versus many languages that are not understood, but instead bring chaos and confusion.

In the Genesis story, everyone spoke one language, and they planned to build a city and a tower (ziggurat) that would reach to the heavens, so they could make a name for themselves and not be scattered to other places. But, instead God confused their language, so that they could not understand one another, and they were scattered, dispersed all over the earth. It was called Babel, because the language represented confusion and chaos. (Genesis 11:1-9)

In the account about the Day of Pentecost from our reading in Acts of the Apostles, we are told that the disciples were also all together in one place. And, why were they there? In Luke, they were told by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on high, a God thing, versus a man thing in Genesis 11. (Luke 24:49) And the result was totally opposite from the Tower of Babel:

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came 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.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine. (Acts 2:1-21)

No longer was there any semblance of dis-unity, but there was a cohesiveness, a multitude of voices worshiping God in multiple languages, as the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to speak with a message of deliverance and clarity that astounded the crowd outside the doors of the upper room where they were meeting.

We know from history that nobody spoke English in Jerusalem. The main language of Judea at this time was Aramaic, dating from the Persian empire in the 6th century BC. The language of commerce was Greek, established by Alexander the Great @ 300+ years before the birth of Jesus. It is possible that Jesus spoke Aramaic, read scripture and spoke Hebrew in the synagogues, and possibly Greek in the marketplace. It is also possible that he spoke Latin, due to the dominant influence of Roman writers and philosophers. This discussion could go on for a long time, and there is agreement, yet disagreement among Biblical language experts, in which I know am not one. We can say that whatever the common vernacular of the day, the disciples varied from that norm when the power from on high shook the room with a mighty rushing wind, and they began to speak in other tongues.

In the tower of Babel narrative in Genesis, the people spoke one language, and the Lord came upon them and they were confused, and began to speak in other languages, and no-one could understand them, and there was dis-unity, confusion and chaos, and they were scattered to different places in the world. In the Pentecost story there were Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem, and many others that were dispersed throughout the world were visiting Jerusalem for the High Holy Day celebrations of Passover and the Festival of Weeks. The Festival of Weeks was 6 weeks after the Passover. On this day, Judaism celebrates God giving direction through the Torah. (the Five Books of Moses, Pentateuch) The Special Days Celebration times don’t match up exactly with Jewish Feast-times, but you can understand why there were so many people in Jerusalem at this time.

In our world there is chaos. There is confusion, lack of peace, a scarcity of continuity, a shortage of community. Sometimes we all can feel so all alone. We battle the thoughts from without, and we battle the thoughts from within. God sends the Advocate, the Holy Spirit to us, as on the Day of Pentecost, in the form a fire that burns within our hearts and our minds, a fire that transforms us, a holy fire within that changes our lives, that realigns our world-view, a view that motivates us toward a common mission, “to go into all the world and share the good news”. In the gospel of John Jesus shares this promise to us:

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:25-27)

The Holy Spirit desires to dwell in us and with us, and because of Easter, and again reaffirmed on Pentecost, we are invited to become a temple of the Holy Spirit, a container for the Presence of God. We are told that after the crucifixion of Christ, the thick veil that separated the Holy Place in the Temple from the Most Holy Place was ripped in two, from the top to the bottom. The Mercy Seat of gold sits on top of the Ark, and is made of one piece with the two cherubim with their wings touching and sheltering the Mercy Seat as they look down onto the Mercy Seat, and in that ark rested the Presence of God. No longer is that access granted only to high priests, but it is open to all of us. And, we become little temples, the place where the glory of God dwells within us, as we are promised from the gospel of John:

 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:15-17)

Is there still confusion, and does this promise make our life free from bad stuff happening? We all know better than that.  In Pneumatology, “the study of the Holy Spirit”, fire is one of the symbols that point us to the Holy Spirit, along with water, wind or breath, a still small voice or tongues of fire. God speaks to us through our senses. And, the fire, as we are told through the prophet Isaiah, will burn away the dross, those things that separate us from the love of God, and will lead and center us in the “thin places” where God wants us to enjoy the resurrected life. He does not want us to live in a cloud of guilt.

When we come to God, I believe His message to us is this: God loves you just the way you are. Not for what you have been in the past, and not for what you are or will do in the future, but right here and right now, in this present moment God loves you. And He has sent the Fire of Pentecost to purify, sanctify, to nudge and move you forward, to share this peace.

We live in San Diego County, the land of paradise, right? But, the spiritual land of Paradise, (the Kingdom of God on this earth) we are invited to enjoy the fruit of Canaan land, the land of milk and honey beyond the Jordon River, “living the dream”, and looking forward to that day when that dream becomes ultimate reality. That’s a promise.

Jesus says, “I will never leave you or forsake you. You are not alone. We will walk this road together, you and I. God is with us and desires to lead us with the fire of Pentecost throughout the dark hours of the night until the new day dawns:

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that grows brighter until the full light of day (Proverbs 4:18)

Amen

The Reverend Dr. David Madsen

WHAT DOES PENTECOST MEAN FOR THE CHURCH?

“When the day of Pentecost had come the disciples 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”. The disciples were together in one place, and they were waiting. They were waiting together. They were not waiting by themselves. Of course a disciple is a disciple among disciples and a believer is a believer among believers. So there is individuality, but there is also a focus on community. God chooses to pour out his Spirit, not just on a single individual, but on the church, the community of believers. Now that’s the principle in the book of Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost.

The principle of community is something that is throughout the NT, the letters, the book of Acts, and the Gospels. However, each one of us has an individual journey, and that is evident in the way that Jesus called each one of his disciples, by name, one at a time. Pentecost does not diminish the message that each person is unique and special in the eyes of God, but magnifies the unity of one church, many members, and one body.

Pentecost is about the birth of the church. It’s the birthday of the church. The church becomes the vehicle by which God chooses to continue the work of Christ in our world. Through the Holy Spirit, we now share in the personification of Jesus Christ. We are now the Body of Christ and Christ is our head. Saint Teresa of Avila penned in the year 1555:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
yours are the hands, with which he blesses the entire world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

This concept of many members yet one body; the parts make up the whole is prevalent at Pentecost. The body though many members are one body. The Holy Spirit relates to us individually, in distinctive ways. I don’t want to downplay that because it’s so special. Your life has meaning. You have meaning. There is nothing more complex than a single person. The Spirit comes to us individually, but also collectively. However, there is but one Holy Spirit.

It’s not like 60 to 80 spirits ministering to us on this Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God, a unifying presence just as Jesus is one with God, and there is unity in the Godhead, so the Holy Spirit unifies us into one flock under one shepherd; one body under one head. We who are many are one.
There is a diversity of individuals, personalities and talents among us, even in this small church. In fact sometimes it’s easier to recognize and appreciate that more in a small church than in a larger church. What truly amazes me is the power of the Spirit that pulls all different and unique personalities and people together here in this place to form one church.

It reminds me of walking in the water on the ocean shore on a hot summer day. You notice some people out in the deeper water swimming, some wading waste high in water while some of us are walking barefoot in ankle deep water. The waves that splash on the swimmers and the waders are personal and distinctive. The wave that splashes around the feet of those of us that are wading is also personal and exclusive, but the water is the same water wherever you are. That’s the way it is in the church. You may be on the outer edges of the church in your mind, while someone else may be right in the center of church activities, but you’re still a significant part of the community, wherever you are, because the Spirit, like the ocean, touches all of us at the same time.

Here’s another way to look at the diversity right here at St. Alban’s. Picture if you will a stone that’s thrown into a pool of water. From the point where the stone hits the water, there will be rings that form one big circle that circle out from the center, the rings getting wider and wider the farther out from the center.

So, like if this circle is the church, picture a target with rings that go out from the middle. You may be on one of the outer rings but you are still part of the circle. The Holy Spirit is touching you at the same time as all the other people on all the rings of the circle, just as much as those that appear to be in the in the center of the circle. Sometimes people that we may think like to be in the center of the circle, picture themselves on the outer part of the circle. Just because socially we look like we are in the center, does not mean that we actually feel like we are in the center. Explore that thought. It should give us pause.
Perhaps that part of the circle you find yourself on has a lot to do with your personality and your rareness. Don’t kid yourself. You are an important part. Without you the church is going to look different. The church will go on without you but it is going to look different, because the members of the church make up the persona of the church, and without you that unique part of the church will be missing. You’re accepted and you are loved in the church. We want you and we need your specialness. You are not required to act or be like someone else, and neither are they required to be like you. Wouldn’t it be boring if everybody in the church was just like you or me?

My prayer and my desire is that people will be drawn to this church, not because of what our needs are, but because they recognize the Spirit of Pentecost in our midst, and our response to the Holy Spirit, accepting, welcoming, forgiving and encouraging, both those we know and those we do not know.

Question: What Does Pentecost Mean For the Church?
Answer: Christ Has No Body but Yours

Amen

The Reverend Dr. David Madsen
Year B Pentecost Sunday May 24, 2015
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church