Sermon for Day of Pentecost, Year A June 4, 2017

Acts 2:1-21                          Psalm 104: 25-35, 37                       1 Corinthians 12:3b-13                   John 20:19-23

Before the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the disciples would sometimes argue among themselves as to which one of them was the greatest.  James and John went so far as to ask Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus answered this request by saying, “You do not know what you are asking.”

In today’s gospel, the apostles are gathered in Jerusalem, waiting as Jesus had instructed, until they are “clothed from power on high,” and receive, “the promise of the Father.”  Just before he ascends, Jesus says, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”   So, they are seated in a room, waiting while Jews from all over gather for their celebration of Pentecost – their celebration of God’s gift of the Torch, which is their guide for living their lives in faith .

When we wait for something important, we often reflect and I wonder if James and John were reflecting that day on what Jesus had said to them.  Certainly, when they began to follow Jesus they had no idea what was to happen – and I’m sure they had no idea what would happen when they received that “promise of the Father,” that Jesus had told them to expect.

“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 . . .  the Spirit rested upon them.  ” Peter is filled with the Spirit and begins to preach to the crowd, telling them the story of Jesus.  And, if we had kept reading in Acts, we would have heard that “on that day about three thousand persons were added,” meaning that on that day about three thousand people became followers of Christ.

Thus, we consider Pentecost the birthday of the Christian Church.  Filled by the Spirit, the disciples who had hidden when Jesus was arrested, could not be silenced.  The disciples find the courage to do what Jesus had said as he was ascending.  Jesus had told them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will by my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”  I am certain this is not what they were expecting to happen when they had answered Christ’s call to follow him.

My mother-in-law gave my wife Cathy a plate once I had entered into the discernment process to become a priest.  Words are printed on the plate which say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your future plans.”  It was an appropriate gift.  I was in a career position at the other WRMC in Arkansas – Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville.  I was a department director running both hospice and home health – and I was active in state and national health care associations.  I grew up the son of a Methodist minister and we moved every five or six years, but I attended college in Fayetteville and stayed.  I had lived in Northwest Arkansas for over twenty years and I planned on retiring there.

God laughed.  Although I consider hospice and home health care wonderful ministries, and I would argue then that it was my ministry, I began to explore the ministry God was calling me into.  Having three children, one in college, one in high school, and one about to start high school, I did not jump in and hurry the process.  I started by taking Education for Ministry – a four year program offered in churches worldwide by the University of the South.  Then, I attended seminary on a part time basis while continuing to work full time – flying to California for weekend classes ten times each semester.  Once our youngest was in college, I quit the job I had taken, the

interim CEO of Hospice Home Care in Little Rock and transferred to the University of the South at Sewanee where I finished seminary.

After serving, I went to St. Andrew’s in Mountain Home thinking I would serve there two or three years and then move on.  Having served as the CEO of one of the nation’s largest hospices, I expected to become the rector of a corporate sized church rather quickly.  After all, I knew how to manage people and budgets and lead an organization to achieve its mission.

God laughed, again.  There was always something at St. Andrew’s that I felt God needed me to do.  Two years became three, three became four, four became five, and I finally realized that advancement was not what God had called me to seek. God’s call is always about service and love.  We need to seek and serve Christ is all people.

In the last couple years, I began to feel that a change might be good for me and for St. Andrew’s – but I was happy there, so I was not looking to move.  I would, from time to time, be asked about putting my name into consideration for various churches, so I decided to make a list of the things that would make me consider a move.  Quite frankly, when St. Paul’s was first suggested to me – I looked at my list and said no.  There were only a couple of the items on my list that I could check off.

God laughed again.  People I respect encouraged me to submit my name, and I did, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to explore the possibility.  But when I actually came to Batesville and met the search committee – I fell in love the people here and this town.  God’s didn’t seem to care about my list and after meeting members of St. Paul’s and entering into this worship space – I didn’t either.

I know that the Holy Spirit is here, St. Paul’s may not be a witness to Christ’s love to the ends of the earth, but it is certainly a witness to Christ’s love in this community.  St. Paul’s is feeding the community by offering meals on Wednesday nights and by supporting the backpack program at the Eagle Mountain Elementary School.  Your heart for mission and your love of worship are the reasons I consider myself blessed to be here.

In 1st Corinthians today, the Apostle Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit.  He says, “To each is given the manifestations of the Spirit for the common good.”  The search committee told me this is a church of “doers.”   To be a doer means to use the gifts you have been given by the Spirit to support this community of faith AND its mission.  I love the mission statement of St. Paul’s and the fact that it is printed on the front of the bulletin.  “The mission of St. Paul’s is to love God and to love our neighbor, sharing with gratitude and reverence the light of Christ.”

I look forward to support you in the fulfillment of this mission – which I am proud to say today is our mission – yours and mine together!

Let us pray.

Loving and gracious God, we are grateful for the gifts of the Spirit which you have given each of us.  Help us we pray to use these gifts to share the light of Christ to all those in need of your love.  Help us, also, to remember that one of the greatest gifts we have to share is the gift of our presence in support of the life of St. Paul’s.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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