Sunday, June 5, 2022

Pentecost

 


June 5, 2022

 

 Acts 2.1-21

 

+ In case you might not have guessed, today—Pentecost Sunday—is an important day in the life of the Church.

 

Ok. I don’t think I’m being clear enough on this.

 

Today is a VERY important day in the Church.

 

Important like Christmas and Easter are important.

 

Not a lot of Christians know that.

 

But, trust me.

 

It is an important Sunday.

 

A VERY important Sunday.

 

Today, we commemorate the end of the Easter season today, which is important. 

 

At the end of Mass today, we will process the Paschal Candle back to its place in the Baptistery, where it will stand by the baptismal font until next year.

 

So, this is a fitting end to the season.

 

It’s been a good Easter season.

 

And it’s sad to see it go.

 

But, of course, most importantly, we commemorate today  the descent of the Holy Spirit on those first followers of Jesus.

 

What’s surprising is that, as important as this day is, there still is not a whole lot of Christians who quite “get” the Holy Spirit.

 

As you probably notice, Christians think A LOT about Jesus.

 

Which is good!

 

BUT….although they think VERY much about Jesus, and pray to Jesus a lot (all of which are important, and which I commend to all of you too), there isn’t always a lot of following of Jesus.

 

There isn’t a lot of being Jesus in the world.

 

And that isn’t just sad or unfortunate.

 

That is detrimental to the Church as a whole.

 

Sadly, the Holy Spirit just doesn’t capture the imagination of most Christians like Jesus does.

 

After all, the Spirit is usually depicted as a dove.

 

Not an exciting symbol for most people.

 

But, let me tell you, the Holy Spirit is VERY important.

 

Vitally important.

 

Essential.

 

In fact, the Spirit is probably that one aspect of God that we experience in our own lives more than any other aspect of God.

 

Every time we feel God’s  Presence in our life, every time we feel a sense of the Holy, that is the Spirit.

 

And everything we do as a Church is done in the Spirit of God.

 

Even here in the Holy Eucharist, when we partake of the Bread and the Wine, we are partaking in the Spirit of God.

 

We actually call down the Spirit in this Eucharist.

 

Most importantly the Spirit works in other amazing ways in the Church.

 

It is God’s living Spirit that is responsible for growth and vitality and holiness.

 

It the Spirit that many of us feel when we enter this church and gather together.

 

It is that wonderful kind of disconcerting energy we feel in the air, that reaches right down into us and grabs us in our core.

 

THAT is the Spirit.

 

So, see, the Spirit is very active in our lives.

 

And by being active in life, we know that God is active in our lives.

 

Today we are reminded of how the Holy Spirit continues to move in our lives.

 

We are reminded that the Holy Spirit is in the collective Church.

 

And in us, as individuals.  

 

And that moving of the Holy Spirit within us, has changed us and made us a wonderful force of good and love in the world.

 

Now that sounds all great and wonderful.

 

But the fact is, that after 2000 years, the Church still sometimes struggles.

 

And man! is it struggling with an issue right now.

 

Hopefully you have not even been aware of this particular situation.

 

But there is a controversy going on the Episcopal Church as it gears up for its General Convention this summer.

 

Usually controversies come and go.

 

But this one hits home for us here at St. Stephen’s.

 

It seems there was a resolution put forth by the Diocese of Norther California  to be voted that would remove the requirement for baptism to receive Holy Communion.

 

As you know, the Canons currently state that one must be baptized to receive Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church.

 

It’s actually quite controversial.

 

And it’s one you’ve heard me speak on before.

 

Personally, I think it’s a ridiculous resolution.

 

As you can probably guess, I do not support this resolution for the Diocese of Northern California.

 

I do think the canon requiring Baptism for Holy Communion should stay.

 

I am, after all, a good, orthodox, Anglo-Catholic.

 

But…as you know, in practice, I am in violation of that Canon left and right.

 

At Communion, you hear me say every time we gather for Mass, “ALL are welcome to receive Holy Communion.”

 

Yes, I should say, “All Baptized people are welcome.”

 

But I don’t.

 

Because this is Jesus’ table, not mine.

 

And Jesus makes no distinction on this issue.

 

Personally, my attitude is this: I have not, nor will I ever turn anyone away from this or any altar at which I serve.

 

I have not, nor will I refuse Holy Communion to anyone who comes to this rail.

 

And I will not stop invited ALL people to this altar.

 

But saying that, I also encourage anyone who who does come forward for Holy Communion to please seek the Sacrament of Baptism as well.

 

I hold baptism to be vitally important as all of you know.

 

No, I mean to be more emphatic than that.

 

I hold baptism to be truly vital for us.

 

You know how often I speak on the vital importance of baptism to our Christian life.

 

And I believe that to my very core.

 

Baptism is what makes us Christians.

 

And it is one of the most important steps any person can make.

 

I take baptism very seriously.

 

The Episcopal Church maybe should start looking long and hard at the rubrics it has in the book of Common Prayer on Baptism.

 

On page 298, you will find this:

 

Holy Baptism is appropriately administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast.

 

On page 312 in the BCP, you’ll find this:

Holy Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, on the Day of Pentecost, on All Saints' Day or the Sunday after All Saints' Day, and on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany). It is recommended that, as far as possible, Baptisms be reserved for these occasions or when a bishop is present.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been reprimanded by Bishops and fellow clergy and colleagues for the way we do baptisms here at St. Stephen’s.

 

I have been criticized many for time for what others see as a violation of these rubrics, whether it be we do baptisms outside of this regular Sunday morning Mass, or we don’t do them on these designated “special days” Sundays suggested by the BCP or that we do so-called “private” Baptism (which, by the way, is NOT a thing—no Baptism if ever private, nor should it be).  

 

Because, out here, in the trenches, where I am, struggling to do my best in a diocese that is struggling to remain a diocese, I have to do what needs to be done.

 

I have to do baptisms anyway I can.

 

Because by doing so, I am holding the vital importance of baptism in the life of this parish.

 

Which is all I am ultimately responsible for as your priest. 

 

And clergy who have parishes with Average Sundays of attendances of over 100 people out there on the East Coast can spare me their critiques.

 

This kind of behavior is providing a strangle-hold on a church that is already struggling for breath.

 

Rather than worrying about “Open Communion,” maybe the Episcopal Church should look at these rubrics and work on making Baptism less restrictive, and more open to all people.

 

Maybe we should be talking about “Open Baptisms.”

 

And I do want to be clear once again: I too wish that everyone who came forward to this altar for the Body and Blood of Jesus was a baptized Christian.

 

If ths Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood is important to you, then the Sacrament of Baptism should be just as important to you.

 

But, for me, what more important than any of this talk is that people whoa re seeking Jesus will just come forward.

 

For Baptism.

 

And for the Holy Eucharist.

 

People here seeking to know Jesus and hear Jesus’ words, will come forward.

 

And the reality is this: some people will experience Jesus in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist LONG before they meet Jesus in the waters of baptism and are marked at his own forever.

 

I’ve known those people.

 

And I am grateful for them.

 

And while the Episcopal Church nitpicks and argues about all these internal issues, gun violence continues in this country.

 

Wars rage.

 

Nazis still march the street and spread their hate

 

People suffer.

 

And here, in Fargo, North Dakota, we gather together simply to worship God, receive God’s Son’s Body and Blood at Holy Communion and to rejoice in the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives.

 

I don’t want the canons on this issue to change.

 

I still ideally want and will work for people to be baptized.

 

That’s my job.

 

But I will NEVER turn anyone away from this altar.

 

Nor will I ever deny anyone the Body and Blood of Jesus. Ever.

 

For me, this is how I try to live that Pentecost reality in my own life.

 

The Spirit we celebrate today—and hopefully every day—is truly the Spirit of the God that came to us and continues to come to us—first to those prophets in our Hebrew past, then in the Word who is Jesus and finally in that rushing wind and in that rain of burning flames.

 

And in the waters of Baptism.

 

And in the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion.

 

It is through this Spirit that we come to know God in ways we might never have before.

 

The Spirit is God with us NOW.

 

Right here.

 

Right now.

 

Always.

 

We need to understand: the Spirit works with us, not for us.

 

We can’t manipulate the Spirit.

 

We can’t force the Spirit to do anything—especially  what we want that Spirit to do.

 

We can’t control that Spirit any more than we can control the wind.

 

We have to do part of the work ourselves.

 

This is the way the Spirit works.

 

Our job as followers of Jesus is to be open to God’s Spirit, the same way he was open to God’s Spirit, just the way his mother Mary was open to God’s Spirit, just the way those first followers in that upper room were open to God’s Spirit.

 

Our job is to allow the Spirit to be present and to do what the Spirit does.

 

For us collectively here at St. Stephen’s, we’ve been doing that all along.

 

So, let us be thankful to the Spirit of God with us, to the Spirit who dwells with us here.

 

And let us continue to welcome that Spirit into our midst to continue to the work begun here. 

 

This week of Pentecost, let us look for the gifts of the Spirit in our lives and in those around us.  

 

Let us open ourselves to God’s Spirit and let it flow through us like a caressing wind.   

 

On this feast of Pentecost—this feast of the fruits of God—let us feel the Holy Spirit move within us and let us give thanks to God for all the many fruits of the Spirit in our lives.

 

 Let us pray.  Come Holy Spirit: come as the wind and cleanse; come as the fire and burn; convict, convert, consecrate the lives of the members of St. Stephen’s, to our great good and your greater glory. Let us know your Presence here and let the gift of your fruits flourish in our midst. Amen.

No comments:

3 Pentecost

  June 26, 2022   1 Kings 19.15-16,19-21; Galatians 5.1,13-25; .Luke 9:51-62   + I don’t want to toot my own horn, but for any of y...