Sermon for May 15, 2016

The Rev. Deacon Sherm Everett’s sermon from May 15, 2016

 

Today we celebrate the Day of Pentecost!

Christ’s disciples are informed:

_  He is leaving
_  His followers are staying.
_ The Holy Spirit will be with them so that they may continue his work.

 

Philip, apparently wanting to ease the pain or confusion, said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?

 

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works”.

 

Jesus challenges Philip in a behavior about which Phillip does not match the words he hears from Jesus with the divine presence of God.

 

Christ seems to have stopped short of saying: “ you still do not listen and hear.”

“How will you recognize the indwelling Spirit when it comes to you?”

Words of confusion, maybe even frustration, maybe even shame, as Philip revealed that the disciples had not been listening. They had failed to pay attention, or be attentive to what was evolving before them, coming into their presence, events visible, noises within their awareness.

 

A street photographer’s image of the imagined crowd “Pentecost activity” might include several people who, in their observations with the disciples actions, with their questioning looks on their faces, their misunderstood his message and identity. The possibility for this judgment might be because they were operating on the literal level and Jesus was operating on the level of spiritual reality.

 

The sum of which, it seems, those critical  issues, those experiential events, fell on deaf ears.

Some who heard  were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Some not even hearing enough to question!
But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

A caption for the street photograph’s image might be taken from a portion of the lyrics of the 1970’s song  Goodbye Stranger:

“Now some they do and some they don’t
And some you just can’t tell
And some they will and some they won’t
With some it’s just as well”

Does this amount of confusion actually only pertains to activity 2000 years ago?

It might be very easy for us, as we read the recount of Acts, to let the story all fall on the heads of those disciples present. Christ’s instructions to return and wait were their responsibility.

However, the story tells us that the “noise” of the Spirit was heard by all, without exception. The world, every color, every persuasion of faith, culture, no person was excluded.

However, many heard, but only some responded, and some never heard.

 

Not so easy I say. As those words were not understood by all who heard, and even, 2000 years later, it appears that we have a difficult time hearing “the small voice within”.

 

Might that same inaudible process be present in today’s Church?

 

How is it that our ears, the sounds we hear, we fail to acknowledge?

That we fail to hear the earnestness, the plaintive request of the voice?

 

It just might be receptiveness for the unheard of,

the “new”, is at times dulled by the ever occurring “noise” of the usual,

which has the risk of becoming the “mundane” –

and we risk the mistake of hearing: “the same old same old”,

and tuning the “noise” out.

 

Not to confuse the issue, there is, in some cases, the difficulty we have in appropriating the Good News of Easter. It occurs to me that the same could be said of the “Miracle at Pentecost”.

Both are a dramatic and distant stories—what do they have to do with us?

It might help us to remember that, as with the good news of Easter, not everybody “got it,” and certainly not everybody “got it” right away, and some just totally missed the point.

 

I had lunch with a few “thinkers” a while back and the subject came up of Feminist Theology. And it was interesting to me to hear the discussion of why the teaching was so important.

However, what I heard was statements aligning the individual socioeconomic class or it’s intended members qualified to be included, to be afforded certain societal and legal rights.

One might take away that the discussion became “legalistic” and  “academic”.

 

When we begin to parse why we believe what we believe is good with legalese and the laws of social justice in order to give it “clout”, we run the risk of becoming academic and not spiritual.

 

Consider, for  moment, that the term “spirituality” has been widely used in recent years to refer to the reaction against purely materialist ways of viewing the world. The growing recognition of the importance of the interior world of personal experience has resulted in considerable interest in spirituality. Yet not all spirituality can be regarded as “Christian.” The use of the adjective “Christian” indicates that Christian beliefs interact with spirituality, fostering and encouraging certain approaches to the spiritual life, most often supported by, but not limited to scriptural texts.

 

Generally speaking, the term “theology” is  used to refer to the body of Christian beliefs, and the discipline of study which centers upon those beliefs. Theology is a discipline of convictions, an attempt to survey and correlate the matrix of Christian beliefs. Perhaps the simplest way of characterizing the relation between theology and spirituality is to suggest that the former is about the theory, and the latter the living into the life of Christ.

 

The author of the liturgical reading points us to the illusion of control, of mastering this or that. He reminds us that we are not our own any more than what we possess is our own.

We did not make ourselves, we cannot be supreme over ourselves.

We are not our own masters.

We are God’s belongings.

 

One problem, it seems to me, with the illusion of control, of mastering  this or that, is the disillusionment that occurs with a lack of success.

 

And in that disillusionment, we tend to remove ourselves from involvement in the world around us.

It is very difficult for us to have any knowledge of what others understand, particularly when we ourselves are not sure of our own understanding of the experience.

 

What is it that must occur within each of us

is that which compels each of us  to recognize the noise.

The noise we hear as a well known source of suffering.

 

And that we recognize, trying not so much as to labeling the source , as we recognize the cry of the need of assistance.

We recognize and understand therefore;

our attention is required to be attentive to the subject in need, the subject in want.

We remind ourselves: Christ did not become disillusioned!

The Sacramental acts of compassion are no place for “inaction”

 

We forgo our right, as we incapacitate our ability to be part of the worlds pain and suffering.

Suffering that occurs everyday in the lives of the inhabitants of the world.

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