You
have it.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

In the days prior to the first Pentecost, Jesus’ followers were in one place together. In the upper room they followed a single command and awaited a single promise. Jesus enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father.” So they did.

What exactly were they waiting for?

When Peter spoke to the gathered masses from every corner of the world, he quoted, as Paul does in writing to the Corinthians, from the Prophet Joel. The outpouring of the Spirit, the promise of the Father was for everyone: slaves and free, young and old, male and female. Paul calls it the gifts for everyone, different and varied – for the benefit of all. They awaiting ‘having it.’

The advent of the Spirit means that we, along with every Christian, have been endowed, gifted, given, granted, and provided with true power, commissioning, and strength for the work of God. The gift of the Spirit pulls us together to share in the ministry of witness and proclamation. We have it.

That witness and proclamation is simple and straightforward. It is sweet to the ears of those who feel so rejected and put aside; not just by outward prejudice and hatred, but also by inner questioning and doubt. Here is what to say:

The Kingdom of God is here, come take part. The Kingdom of God is for you. There are gifts awaiting you and an inheritance as well. God is ready to bless you with His Spirit, for His work. God, and I, value you beyond any label – world given or self-imposed.

Pentecost power is knowledge that we have it and a call to action. We possess a gift, perhaps several, for the benefit of all. The Spirit of God came to the apostles and disciples suddenly and disturbingly, as the sound of a violent wind and tongues of fire. So it should be with us. Let us allow that strong driving wind to knock the dust off our gifts. Let it burn away our storage shelves. Let the gifts we have stored fall from their closets and break open into the world. Seeing them new again, let us set to work for some benefit.

This week’s memory verse: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28

  • 5/13 – Isaiah 57:14
  • 5/14 – Romans 5:3-5
  • 5/15 – James 1:2-4
  • 5/16 – 2 Corinthians 6:3
  • 5/17 – Matthew 7:1-2
  • 5/18 – 1 Peter 5:7
  • 5/19 – Romans 8:18

Pray the week: Lord, You gave us the perfect example of love. Grant that I may lift up the lives around me so that they too may know Your love.

Teaching love for
me too.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

Are ways of behaving learned or innate (i.e., natural)? A bit of research will show that behavioral scientists have opinions on both sides. This question seems to puzzle us more than in the past. Is parenting natural or learned? Is love natural or learned?

One of the best reflections on this subject states that it is a little of both. The Natural Law tells us that there are certain aspects of every person that are God created. We have built in tendencies to do right, moral, good things. We are naturally drawn to God. We have the call to love within us. Of course, those things can be thwarted by experience or by choice to sin.

Yet, one of the most wonderful aspects of the human person is an individual’s ability to overcome. A great illustration of the ability to overcome is “The Other Wes Moore.” Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence?

The Christian community faced a very hostile world. They were all Wes Moore. Life was cheap. The haves had, the have-nots were slaves. Women and children had no value – were no more than property. Power ruled all, all else bowed. Nevertheless, the natural call remained, the ability to overcome existed.

The love of Christ overcame for that very reason. The message of the gospel and the example of Jesus allow us to overcome and win. Jesus took what is innate in us and said follow me – and you will flourish. God so loved us – and we can be just like Him. People heard of the power of God’s love and said – me too!

So we must put message of the Gospel first. We must love, value, and break down barriers and obstacles like God. The world needed this then, the world needs this now. The old ways have re-emerged, so the triumph of God’s love must once again offer ‘me too’ to everyone through us.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

We can get caught up in the two ends of the spectrum that are part of every faithful Christian’s life. We either experience great joy, the uplifting graces of the Holy Spirit poured out on us, or we end up on the road to martyrdom. Is that all there is to the Christian life? Really, the struggle in a Christian’s life is that we live much of it in the middle. In considering our lives, lived in the middle, we may ask: How do I sacrifice what I want for what God wants? How do I proclaim God’s truth when the world, even my family, will hate me? How can I face day-to-day life with faithfulness? Those questions plague us – but thanks be to God, He offers us a way forward by example. Of course, Jesus stands first and foremost as one who came from the middle boldly. He proclaimed truth, to those, like us, who were in the middle, who faced daily challenges of faithfulness. He offered real truth that took them from the middle to the heights of heaven. He gave them strength for their ordinary lives because the promise was oh so much more. Yes, the popular folks rejected Him, but the Father welcomed Him. This is our hope. This month we look to the example of Mary. Talk about lives in the middle. Plain, ordinary folks like us – struggling day to day with ridicule, mockery, and exile. Mary, referred to by her community as worse than a prostitute. Joseph, seen as not man enough. Jesus – an illegitimate child. They faced the worst kind of ridicule and rejection, yet lived lives in the middle, working day-to-day, faithful to God at the deepest of levels. Their struggles, much like ours. They answer the essential question: How do I get by faithfully? As we live in the middle, let us look to their example, courage, and to God’s unfailing help. Let us count our ordinary struggles and our lives in the middle as a joy in Jesus.

So much going on. The first ever Gospel Concert at HNJ on May 19th at 2pm. Come out and experience 18 performers – song, dance, poetry, stories, and more… A lunch will be served as well. Bring mom and pray for her. Honor all the special women in our lives – wives, daughters, moms, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, partners… We will have a special breakfast in their honor. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension on the actual day – Thursday, May 10th – no switching things around here. Check out our Men’s Spiritual Retreat, sign up for summer youth events, we honor those served and gave their lives for our country on Memorial Day. Oh, and Why Not Communion in the Hand – check out our article and more…

You may view and download a copy of our May 2018 Newsletter right here.

This weeks memory verse: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will — Ephesians 1:4-5

  • 5/6 – John 15:16
  • 5/7 – 1 Peter 2:9
  • 5/8 – Romans 8:28-30
  • 5/9 – Galatians 1:15
  • 5/10 – Colossians 3:12
  • 5/11 – Matthew 22:14
  • 5/12 – Jeremiah 1:4-5

Pray the week: Lord, You chose me and called me. Grant that I may approach all with a heart opened by the love You showed in saving me.

What?
Who?

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.

Today we hear a wonderful testament to what God’s love does when, through the Holy Spirit, He opens Himself to us and calls us into fellowship with Him.

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion – Centurion, like century, meaning one hundred. He had command of at least one hundred soldiers. That means that his commanders held him in some esteem. He was promotable. Acts attests that Cornelius was also a God fearing and generous man: a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God. He didn’t just do these things on his own, he led others to God, his family and friends. An angel tells him to send for Simon Peter, so he sends messengers to get him.

In the mean time… Peter was praying at home, and was hungry too. God sent him a vision of a cloth full of food – all kinds of foods considered unclean and impure by the Jewish people. God tells him to slaughter and eat. Peter, of course, objects: “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” This happens three times and God clearly states: “What I have cleansed, you must not call common.”

Peter, perplexed by all this, is then visited by a delegation from a Centurion. Uh oh… The Romans were here to get him. God reassures Peter, and Peter sets off for Cornelius’ house. We heard the rest today.

The call to Christian love is to love like God, surpassing boundaries, growing fellowship, participating in the communal life of the Body.

This is a testament to the powerful work of God who accepts us and brings us into His Church. He takes what is unclean and common and makes it beautiful and acceptable before Him. He sends forth His Spirit, not as man expects or wills, but as He deems fit and proper. He sees what we do; even small acts of faithfulness and charity, and pours out His graces on us all the more. He sets the ultimate example of love – and if we listen to Jesus, we love one another exactly as He loves us.

The Pastor, Rev. James A. Konicki, and Congregation of Holy Name of Jesus, with Bishop Rev. Dr. Judy Murphy-Jack of Friends of Friends Universal Community Mission Church/Institute invite you to attend the Universal Praise in Classical Spiritual and Gospel Music, Skits, Liturgical Dancing and Poetry to be held at Holy Name Of Jesus, 1040 Pearl Street, Schenectady on Saturday, May 19th from 2pm to 5pm. Refreshments will be served. Please come to this worthy event and share with us this experience. All is welcome to support the program.

This week’s memory verse: He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit — Titus 3:5

  • 4/29 – Ezekiel 36:26
  • 4/30 – John 3:5
  • 5/1 – Ephesians 2:8
  • 5/2 – 1 John 3:9
  • 5/3 – 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 5/4 – 1 Peter 1:23
  • 5/5 – Acts 2:38

Pray the week: Lord, You have regenerated me. Grant that I may live up to my pledge of faith and action through the new spirit You have given me.

Condemned or
free?

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.

Today we witness the baptism of Finley Edward. It is the first step of the sacrament of Baptism-Confirmation by which we enter and grow in the regenerated life. While the two parts of this sacrament, both baptism and confirmation, seem like bookends, they are not. Rather they are steps in a journey, a journey from condemnation to freedom.

What is best and most amazing in the process of Baptism-Confirmation is that by our actions of faith, our proclamation of belief in Jesus and trust in His salvation, and rejection of all sin we are saved and are completely freed. We are changed in the most essential of ways. Theologians call it an ontological change. Really old folks like me were taught that our soul receives an indelible mark – something that can never be undone. This is why we call it what Jesus called it in speaking with Nicodemus – regeneration or rebirth: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Today, St. John reminds us of what we received. We have new hearts and sprits that will not condemn us. They have been freed and that should give us great confidence. At the same time, St. John knew that we know somewhat differently.

While we are able to have confidence, while we have been essentially changed and regenerated, we fall. We fail to keep the commandments of God – the two key ones – to love God enabled by our belief in Jesus because in Jesus we know God, and to love each other. When we fall short in those regards we loose confidence.

When we forget the commandments, are away from the vine, apart from the love of Jesus’ community, we lose confidence. That’s when our hearts condemn us. Yet if we remain on the path of transformation we are freed, and in freedom bear much good fruit.

This week’s memory verse: Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100:3

  • 4/22 – Luke 15:4
  • 4/23 – Psalm 23:1
  • 4/24 – Micah 2:12
  • 4/25 – Psalm 119:176
  • 4/26 – 1 Peter 2:25
  • 4/27 – Hebrews 13:20-21
  • 4/28 – Revelation 7:17

Pray the week: Lord, Great Shepherd, as You have carried me, grant that I may carry all those I encounter into your flock.