Like An Irresistible Wind

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, our “name day” Feast, marking the day when the early followers of Jesus experienced God’s Spirit as something like the rush of life-giving wind, inspired speech, and tongues of fire alive in each person. (Acts 2:1-13).

The aftermath of that event was the formation of a community, animated by the love of Christ at its center, sharing God’s mission of healing and reconciliation in the world. The Holy Spirit moved them to unite, to join together, to connect what had been torn apart. And seeking to make these vital connections between people and nations might simply be another of saying that the work of the Holy Spirit is the work of love.

In that light, we might more sensitively understand why many people today describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”  What many experience in some religious corners of the world today seems closer to the opposite of love (I pointed out an example of this in remarks made by a certain “evangelist” in my sermon last Sunday).

These “spiritual but not religious,” folks experience some forms of religion as promoting conflict and rigid certainty, rather than generosity and helpful dialogue. My friend, Brian McLaren has said that such exclusive communities might actually be practicing “de-religion” instead of “religion.” In other words, some religious groups can actually become “anti-religious,” in the sense that they tear at the bonds of our common humanity rather than strengthen them (Naked Spirituality: A Life With God in 12 Simple Words).

That’s why the Feast of Pentecost is such a helpful event to celebrate on a yearly basis. We are reminded by the energizing and creative presence of the Holy Spirit that life has a sacred dimension that cannot be reduced to formulas, rules, performance, or religious locations. The Holy Spirit breathes aliveness, meaning, beauty and sacredness into the world. We only have to look at the human face of God that we see in Jesus, and indeed to people who remind us of him, to understand that truth.

Is it time for a renewal of aliveness, beauty, and purpose in your life? Would you like to reflect on some habits or practices that can help you live with a greater sensitivity to the sacredness of your life and of those around you?  Would you like to hear the sound of a rushing, irresistible wind once again?  If your heart says, “yes,” to those possibilities, then we’re in good company. Join us for an exploration of this theme on Pentecost Sunday at Church of the Holy Comforter.

Preparing for Pentecost

Preparing for Pentecost

Pentecost10Life with the Holy Spirit is different from life without the Holy Spirit. Think of the Holy Spirit as God breathing life into us and into all we do. This is what Metropolitan Ignatios of Latakia observed in an address to the World Council of Churches (Uppsala in 1968) some years ago:

Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away,
Christ stays in the past,
The Gospel is a dead letter,
The Church is simply an organization,
Authority is a matter of domination
Mission a matter of propaganda
The liturgy is no more than an evocation
Christian living a slave morality.

But in the Holy Spirit:

The cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth pangs of
The Kingdom,
The risen Christ is there,
The Gospel is the power of life,
The Church shows forth the life of the Trinity,
Authority is a liberating service,
Mission is a Pentecost
The liturgy is both memorial and anticipation, and
Human action is deified.

Breathe on us breath of God. Fill us with life anew!  Amen+

There Is No Back-Up Plan

Pat Robertson of the “700 Club” fame, made some remarks about the Episcopal Church this week that deeply irritated me.  It gave fuel to my sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension:

We are part of a church that does not ask its members to agree on matters of politics or theology or biblical interpretation, but rather we allow the grace of God to unite us at the altar of Christ in full appreciation of our differences and the God given invitation to everyone to share in God’s mission of reconciliation and healing of the world. Everyone is welcome at God’s table.  This is God’s gift to us and our gift to the world.

So we have a message for the Pat Robertsons of the world, and it is simply this:  The mission is God’s and not yours.  We choose unity in mission rather than disunity over perplexing social issues. Our mission is nothing less than the work of loving God, loving others, and pursuing reconciliation and healing for the world God has made.

Full sermon audio here.