Say it!

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Happy birthday Church.

The Solemnity of Pentecost, after Easter, is the Church’s greatest celebration. In fact, in the early Church, people could only enter the fullness of the Church through baptism on either Easter or Pentecost. Pentecost is that important. Pentecost is that vital, for without this day all of Jesus’ work and teaching would have died off with the Apostles and disciples. Pentecost was that moment in which we were all commissioned to proclaim Jesus’ saving message. We, the people of the Church received the strength, the grace of the Sevenfold Gifts of the Spirit, necessary to carry Jesus’ message to the whole world.

What the Apostles and all those in the upper room did this day is exactly what we are called to do. It is the methodology by which we are to proclaim salvation in Jesus the Lord. It is by our standing out there, on the balconies of the world, it is by our voices raised in praise and proclamation, that salvation in Jesus the Lord is proclaimed.

Today is about our status as full members of the Holy Church and what our work is to be. For today, Jesus’ promised sending of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled and with the Spirit’s decent into our lives (and note I am not saying into the world) we were born to be Jesus’ hands, feet, and voice; to proclaim Jesus is Lord!

We are set apart from the world, we do not belong to it any longer. The Holy Spirit is ours exclusively so we might do God’s work. Our cause is to go out and say Jesus is Lord. Our home is the Kingdom.

When was the last time any one of us met someone and in the course of our conversation said to them, Jesus is my Lord and Savior? 

Without the power of this day all of Jesus’ work and teaching would have died off. So today, we recall that unless we say it from the balconies and at every opportunity, it will die off with us.

We often take pride in the fact that we can speak out on whatever, whenever, and to whomever we want. Yet, how often do we say Jesus is Lord except in the secret of our minds, or in our homes, or within the walls of this building? How often are we quicker to speak on some other trivial matter than to speak of Jesus. If we spend our time as Church saying Jesus is Lord and eschew worldly matters, which should be dead to us, the lost will be converted.

Pastors tell their people, ‘Wear red today.’ A nice sentiment, but nothing unless the Holy Spirit’s fire is burning within us, unless the statement Jesus is Lord is on our lips. Let us look in the mirror tonight and say Jesus is Lord out loud. Say it over several times, and if we can, we know we have the Holy Spirit in us. Knowing that, let nothing stop us for Jesus said, “I send you.”

Joy!

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.

In the first week of Advent, we focused on hope; our very own kingdom task of offering hope to those we encounter. In the second week of Advent we focused on peace, both personal peace and being peace to those we encounter.

In this third week of Advent we focus on joy and rejoicing. Rejoice, the Lord is near! In reflecting on joy and rejoicing we recognize that we are asked to be bringers of joy and rejoicing. St. Paul also instructs us – Do not quench the Spirit. 

Something that rang true for most of us last week was recalling the difference between someone who walks into a room and, well, removes all peace and the person who walks in and we say, ahhhh, I feel at ease now.

Now imagine another person walks in, on fire with the Spirit. They open our eyes to possibilities and fill us with a share of that same Spirit. We feel uplifted, energized, filled with joy, and are ready to go forward with rejoicing. On the other hand, imagine that other person walking in – the quencher, the negative person who sees no joy, who refuses to allow the inspiration of the Sprit in, and wants to ensure no one else does either.

As the faithful we must be careful to be promoters and bringers of joy, to recognize where the Spirit in moving amongst us, where God is among us. Where – Emmanuel – is acting to move us forward.

Indeed, we are bearers of a joyous message – Jesus has saved us and is available to each and every person. The Holy Spirit has infused us with life and His great gifts of praise, song, wisdom, and voices that along with John can proclaim, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’”

What a wonderful message of joyous anticipation – the very heart of Advent, Jesus is near, He is ready to meet you as He has met me. Proclaim that the Spirit is in us and work to bear God’s joy by making the Lord’s way straight, by filling in where people are low and easing the jagged edges in the lives of those we know.

John was confronted by the joy removers, the naysayers, the quenchers. John bore a message of joy, the forgiveness of sin and the opportunity, soon upon the people around him, to meet the Savior, the Messiah Who now lives among us. John’s joy filled message in response to the Pharisees and Levites still rings true – in our age perhaps even more than in the Israel of John’s time – “there is one among you whom you do not recognize.” Wake up and recognize Him. Meet Him and be filled with joy.

To have the fulness of joy, to look forward, no matter what is going on about us, with joy, is to have Jesus alive in us, the Holy Spirit moving within us, and to share the message – Rejoice! 

The whole world.

And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Par’thians and Medes and E’lamites and residents of Mesopota’mia, Judea and Cappado’cia, Pontus and Asia, Phryg’ia and Pamphyl’ia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyre’ne, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 

A strong driving wind. The City of Jerusalem filled with visitors from throughout the world. They heard it, were shocked and amazed, and came to attention. They came running. The light of the Holy Spirit’s fire filled the precinct where the Apostles were staying. They appeared to the crowd, on fire, lit by the Holy Spirit. They spoke in the languages of the world. Each person, with their cares and worries, with their outlooks and prejudices and opinions heard, no distinction. The Holy Spirit at work through these Apostles – witnesses – focused them on renewing the face of the earth.

The fire of the Holy Spirit and His gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and holy fear were operative that day and have been ever since.

On that day, of the approximately one million people in Jerusalem, three thousand came to be baptized. Three thousand came to realize that cares, worries, outlooks, fears, prejudices, and opinions were the work of the opposer, of the devil. What the three thousand discovered was that human distinction meant nothing. They learned that the unity of the body, as Paul would later write, was what mattered, for they were the body of Christ in the world. They were the Holy Church.

The world remains afire, afire in opposition. Cares and worries, outlooks and prejudices and opinions – the ability for humans to ignore the image of God in each other burns. We have, as a people, resolutely ignored the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The seed of change must start with us. We must listen to the Spirit, we must accept His gifts, and not just count them theory, and a nice thing to have, but as the mark of our lives; the mark we will leave on society, our cities, towns, and villages, and upon the whole world. We are that three thousand.

As the new three thousand we must allow the Holy Spirit to burn away cares, worries, outlooks, fears, prejudices, and opinions. We must allow the Spirit to open our eyes to the dignity and worth of every person. We must be serious and be the witnessing Church, the body of Christ, for and with all, here and now.

He’s
everywhere!

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Happy Birthday Church!!!

Pentecost marks the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit is central to every act of creation. Genesis tells us at creation the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. He was there as all that was created for us came into being. How much more would He be there as we were returned to the fullness of creation. His work in us was and is focused on bringing the word to the world, on proclaiming and spreading the Good News of repentance for salvation in Jesus so all might be re-created, might be re-born, might be regenerated.

St. Paul says: But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News? Exactly! So, the Spirit was there to call us, to motivate us, to infuse us with the gifts necessary to spread the word.

In Jerusalem, tongues of fire were created into tongues of proclamation. It is not lost on us that these tongues were world-wide tongues. Every nation heard. Jews, Arabs, Romans heard. The Holy Spirit is with us everywhere. In every corner, to every place needing re-creation, He accompanies us and gives us all necessary to get the job done.

St. Paul expounds on the gifts: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts. There are different forms of service. There are different workings. The Spirit produces all of them in everyone (who is in the Spirit) for some benefit.

Notice, there is no delay. There is no questioning. There is no debate. The Spirit floods and fills us. He empowers us to get the job done. Feeling lazy? Feeling unable? Feeling afraid of this God stuff? Call on the Holy Spirit and the job will be done (by you and me) before we even realize it. That’s how we know. That’s how we are sure of the Spirit’s presence, the reality of God and heaven. It is when we are amazed that it got done. Then we know He is everywhere in our proclamation of salvation.

Our
Visitor.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

I remember many cars pulling up to the curb in front of the house where I grew up. 

After my dad died, my aunt and grandmother, Busia, moved in to help my mom out. They came out of family love, to help this relatively young widow raise two children. Because we were not your typical nuclear family, but rather a multigenerational family, an extended family, we had many visitors.

Most of the visitors came to pay their respects to my grandmother. She had ten children, seven of which survived into adulthood. So they, and their families, came to see Busia. My uncles, who lived out-of-state, would make days long road trips with their large families who we expectantly waited for at our front window. Large families with lots of kids camped out on our Livingroom floor. The weekly visits from nearby family. All because of love. Sure, it brought work, but mostly great joy and closeness. We wouldn’t have wanted it any differently.

If we love God, if we are following His Son, if we are keeping His word then God is always expected. He comes to remain with us. His car has pulled up. God is not going to just pop-in. His staying is going to take work on our part, but would we want it any other way.

There is a mutuality to Jesus’ instruction. Our action – to love Him and keep His word. His action – to dwell, i.e., to stay. He abides, remains and continues with us. An even deeper meaning of dwell is that He and we will remain in a given state of existence.

And, Jesus doesn’t come alone, but with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to instruct, remind, and prompt us, and to bring us peace in unexpected ways.

If God has pulled up to our curb, if He’s come to dwell with us – He is there because we chose to love Him, listen to Him, and follow Him. He’s come out of love to see to our need. He’s come to lift us. He’s brought the Holy Spirit along as a great and precious gift so that this state of existence endures.

God is our Visitor. He comes to dwell. Would we want it any other way? Invite Him in.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped

Everything Jesus said and did was for us. He counted properly. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul laid out all the things Jesus gave up for us. He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. Jesus did not give these things up to demean Himself, to become less than what He was, but rather to take all He is and all He has and offer it up before His Father in the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice sufficient to pay our debt of sin. That ultimate sacrifice was the key moment of Jesus’ doing. That act alone is so meaningful for us. We have endless thanks and praise to offer for that alone. Yet there is so much more in Jesus’ time on earth and ministry for us. He not only provided us freedom by His ultimate sacrifice, He left us a storehouse of treasure to be counted and used. This Lent, we are called upon to count, consider, and take up each and every thing Jesus taught and demonstrated for us. We are to assess His way of life, His call to follow Him, find the areas where we fall short, turn from them, and respond with concrete, doable, and practical strategies to live Jesus’ life. That’s right, live Jesus’ life. The concept of discipleship entails a turning away from ‘how we are’ to ‘how we must be.’ Lent provides the perfect opportunity for us to count up all the ways we fall short, all the ways, and to escape from sin into fuller life in Jesus. If Jesus could give it all up, then so must we. If Jesus has called us to discipleship, then so we must accept His call; His way of counting. Philippians says, everything about Jesus is to be grasped, to be counted, too be considered and thought about. But, we must not stop there. If we truly grasp and count all there is in Jesus, we realize what we must do. As Jesus lived, we must live. As Jesus did, we must do. Make Lent matter, delve into Jesus storehouse of treasure and let us make ourselves count as Jesus does.

Join us through March and into April in our Lenten and Passiontide journey. Join us in our Lenten retreat on April 6th. How about a discipleship gathering on March 22nd? Join in directed giving. Then — March 30th our Fire of the Spirit Charismatic Healing Service. March 31st — our BASKET SOCIAL!!!

The initial list of winners of our Valentine’s raffle is included in the newsletter. Information about our upcoming parish census is included.

Step up to, and join with us in, the Spiritual Buffet. Read more in our March 2019 Newsletter.

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: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:8

Pray the week: Holy Spirit, You live in me. Help me to live up to the awesome gifts You have given me and to witness no matter what.

The power of
Pentecost.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

In the Book of Genesis, we find the people, the descendants of Noah who survived the great flood, were as one people. They spoke one language. They acted of one accord. They decided to build a tower to reach heaven. They had already regained the arrogance of those destroyed in the flood. They were going to reach heaven without having earned heaven, doing so by their own might and power.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them.

Today we recall the meek Apostles, the women, and family of Jesus in quasi-hiding being empowered to speak every language. They are commissioned by the Holy Spirit to declare the mighty acts of God to the entire world. They do so not regarding any barrier.

The early Church Fathers were the first to see Divine reversal in the events of Pentecost in Jerusalem compared with Babel. At Babel one language was confused; in Jerusalem, many languages become comprehensible. At Babel the people were scattered; in Jerusalem every nation comes together. At Babel, earth arrogantly tried building its way to heaven; in Jerusalem heaven reaches down to earth. At Babel the human ego was condemned; in Jerusalem humanity realizes it can be filled with God. At Babel humanity arrogantly looked at itself; at Pentecost humans are sent out to look for and bring the Good News to others; to all their brothers and sisters.

At Babel the mission was human, the goal was measured in bricks and height. At Pentecost, the mission is God’s. Pentecost means full acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and using those gifts for God’s work. His work is not to build towers nor to create structures. It is to build the Body of Christ, the Church, by our witness in spite of obstacles or barriers. We are to make Jesus known without regard to language, difference, or background. Pentecost undermines all human plans. Pentecost lived is great witnesses to the mighty acts of God no matter what.

Is the Trinity
practical?

“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

Sometimes we think of the Trinity as three gods who get along really well and never argue or disagree. Of course, that would be incorrect – there is but one God, not three. We believe in One God in three different Persons.

Neither is the Trinity just three manifestations of God; God showing up in different costumes. This is modalism. Modalism says that there is one God and He appears as the Father and then as the Son and now as the Spirit. Rather, God is three Divine, Eternal and Distinct Persons.

The Trinity is also uncreated and eternal. The Father did not create the Son or Spirit. The Father is not “the main God” and the Son or Spirit some inferior god or that the Father created the Son and Spirit before anything else.

So the truth of the Trinity is not saying there are three different gods or three different manifestations of God or that God the Father created some lesser, inferior gods. Scripture and Church Tradition are consistent in teaching that there is One God existing in Three Eternal Persons, One God in unity, eternally existing in three Persons, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – equal in nature, distinct in person, and subordinate in duties.

Beyond the technical explanation of what the Holy Trinity is or is not, what is the practical application of the Trinity for us?

St. John states: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. John identified himself in his writing as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He knew that when we begin to understand God’s love, like he did, when we see God in the way He really is, we experience life differently and we live differently.

When we come to understand the unity in Trinity of the Father, Son and Spirit we can better appreciate and understand what it really means. He did not need us, but created us as an outpouring of His love. He wants only that in knowing Him we come to pour out that kind of love each day. The mutuality, love, unity, self-subordination, and perfection of God flowing from love is not just a fact of the Trinity but more so a call to us. Knowing is not enough. The Trinity calls us to compassion for those who don’t know love and a desire to share that love and life. It is our living life in the Trinity.