Tag Archive for 'Holy Spirit'

Day of Pentecost June 12, 2011

Acts 2:1-21

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

Locked rooms, doors locked for fear, fear of what’s out there, fear of the future. We all know them. We’ve all been there. Fourteen years ago, I made my way down the steep, crooked stairway of the old Holy Cross building. I was wounded, bruised by experiences in my last parish, uncertain whether I had a future in parish ministry. A kind warden at that last parish, an executive placement professional, had given me her company’s battery of outplacement tests and interviews. “Give it up,” she suggested. “Find something else to do.” Would a parish have me?

At the bottom of the steps a little group awaited: Terry Knowles, Peter Ashworth, Nancy Stehno, Laura Starr-Houghton, Diane Beland, two or three others. The vestry/search committee. They too were wounded, bruised. Bishop Theuner was about to shut Holy Cross down, lock the doors for the last time. “Give it up,” he’d said. Could they find a priest to serve them? Fear. Fear of what’s out there, fear of the future. Continue reading ‘Day of Pentecost June 12, 2011’

Easter 7 June 5, 2011

Acts 1:6-14                                                                          

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11                                                    

John 17:1-11

My original thought was to retire at the end of this calendar year, or in November when I reach the mandatory retirement age in the Episcopal Church. It was my wife Anne who suggested that the Day of Pentecost, next Sunday, would be a better time. It’s the end of the church school year, she pointed out, and it would be smoother to have the interim before the next priest comes take place over the summer, when things are relatively quiet.

What neither of us thought of was how deeply the readings and liturgies of these weeks would speak to transition – transition in your lives and in ours. Liturgically, Jesus has “gone away,” ascended into heaven. We are waiting for what comes next: the “sending of the Holy Spirit.” It is not that I have been Jesus, or Anne and I – or you have been Jesus to us (though of course in a sense we are all Christ to each other, aren’t we?). Jesus remains Jesus. It is rather that departures, loss, transitions, interims are powerful times, full of God as well as of the devil. We are entering into such a time, and these weeks of the Church Year have much to say to us about such times. So, this morning, let us listen. Continue reading ‘Easter 7 June 5, 2011’

Easter 5 May 22, 2011

Acts 7:55-60

1 Peter 2:2-10

John 14:1-14

“I am the way, and the truth and the life.”

The professor who taught me criminal law was scarcely older than his students. He was brilliant and charming and kind. He and his family had been refugees from Hungary, whether from the Nazis or the Communists I’m not sure. They were Jewish. While still a young man, Paul Bator was diagnosed with cancer, which progressed quickly to his brain. One day he awoke totally deaf, not long after totally blind. Shortly before he died, he wrote a letter to his friends, which one of them shared with me. “Don’t feel sorry for me,” he said. “I have everything I need: chocolate and raspberries and Jesus.” Continue reading ‘Easter 5 May 22, 2011’

Baptism of Our Lord January 10, 2010

Isaiah 43:1-7                                                                       

Acts 8:14-17                                                                        

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

A friend writes to say he has “lost his faith.” This can mean different things for different people, but for him, he explains, he “can no longer believe in the doctrines of Christianity.” What doctrines? He doesn’t say. The Incarnation, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection? I don’t want to put him on the spot by asking, nor do I want to put myself in the position of doctrinal expositor.

But it does seem odd to me. Doctrines, I think, really come last rather than first in faith. First comes a sense of wonder, the asking of questions about the meaning of life, if life has meaning. And a close second comes some sort of personal contact, experience of a person of faith that makes one want to have what they have. I suppose it’s not coincidental that this friend of mine grew up as an only child, has never married, never had children, and has led a life sheltered from the ordinary interactions with other people – the daily ups and downs – that most of us enjoy (or suffer through). Continue reading ‘Baptism of Our Lord January 10, 2010’

Day of Pentecost May 31, 2009

Acts 2:1-21                                                                          

Romans 8:22-27                                                                

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

 

 

Let’s call him Adam. He was one of the unhappiest people I’ve ever known. Nothing and nobody could please him. Everything was always against him—and against him personally. If there was a new policy at work, it was a terrible idea and instituted by his boss for the express purpose of making Adam’s life miserable. If his daughter was having trouble at school, she was having trouble just so as to reflect badly on her father. And church—well, every change, every experiment, every new hymn tune, every sermon, was a direct insult to Adam. I had a special file folder labeled “Adam letters” telling me so.

 

I was on my guard big time therefore when Adam made an appointment to come and talk to me. I dressed carefully, so there would be nothing for Adam to criticize in that department, one of his favorites. I went over in my mind all the things in the last month or two that he might find fault with, preparing my defenses. And still I dreaded our meeting; my heart rate rose as I watched Adam pull into the church parking lot and get out of his car and I felt my breathing constricted.

 

So I was surprised when, once we’d settled into our chairs in my study, Adam pulled out a small white card and handed it to me. “My therapist said I was to work on these things. And he said if I had trouble, to come and talk to you.” This was news to me: that Adam would seek help in therapy! But there was more. On the card was written: “Practice praying before the Altar in church. Put yourself in the presence of God. Let God show you how much he loves you. Be with God in the light of love.”

 

“I’m having trouble with this,” Adam said. “I can’t do it. I can’t even begin. I don’t know what he’s talking about.” Continue reading ‘Day of Pentecost May 31, 2009’

Easter 6 May 17, 2009

Acts 10:44-48                                                                     

1 John 5:1-6                                                                        

John 15:9-17

 

This wonderful little reading we have this morning from the Book of Acts. Let’s listen to it again:

 

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers [that is, the religious insiders] who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles [that is, the religious outsiders], for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” [That is, for bringing them into the Jesus movement that became Christianity.] So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

One of the great figures of history will surely be Pope John XXIII. He was elected pope in 1958 as an old man, a placeholder, a transitional figure. But out of the blue one day, at a routine church meeting, he announced that he was convening a great council of all the bishops from around the world, to reform the Church, to bring it into the modern era. And he did, in ways that dramatically changed not only the Roman Catholic Church, but all of Christianity.

 

There are many little stories told of this old and gentle saint. One of the ones that I think of most often is that when he would lie awake at night, worrying about the council he had convened, about the Church and its future, he would say to himself, “Angelo, Angelo [for that was his baptismal name, Angel], who’s in charge of the Church? You or the Holy Spirit?” And then he would fall to sleep like a baby. Continue reading ‘Easter 6 May 17, 2009’

Easter 5 May 10, 2009

Acts 8:26-40                                                                        

John 15:1-8                                                                         

 

(Members of the youth group presented a dramatization of the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. The congregation renewed their baptismal vows, sprinkled with water from the Font by the children.)

 

Our lives are shaped by little coincidences that aren’t coincidents at all, but the workings of God’s Holy Spirit. We can plan our lives, our children’s lives, so carefully. We can work so hard at fulfilling dreams. But in the end, the power of the Spirit working largely unseen trumps whatever we try to do. Would I be here this morning, would I be an Episcopalian, let alone a priest, if a college friend had not invited me to come with him early one Sunday morning to the S.S.J.E monastery in Cambridge? I doubt it. The working of the Spirit.

 

So this drama we’ve just witnessed, about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, is about the working of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading ‘Easter 5 May 10, 2009’