The Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Here we are on the Third Sunday after Pentecost and I wondering has it made any difference in your life? I mean has the fact that we celebrated Pentecost three weeks ago made any difference at all in your spiritual practices? Has it made a difference to what you have devoted time to? Has it changed, or at least challenged you to consider, how you have responded to the people you have interacted with? Has it made a difference in the way that you have approached your spiritual disciplines? Or has it made a difference in the way that you have approached the issues that have come up in your life in the last three weeks?
As you all know a couple of weeks ago I Baptized Nash Aolan Cole Yoder here in the Sanctuary. Before that happened, I met with Nash's parents, Alexandra and Andrew (Lexxie and Drew) to talk through what Baptism means for us as Episcopalians here at Christ Church. In one meeting I asked them if anyone had ever talked to them about the Christian concept of the "ongoing yes." We took some time to talk about the concept. That, in the Christian understanding of life, particularly when it comes to significant life events, like Baptism, Marriage, and the Eucharist, Christians understand that they are engaging with the Lord in an ongoing yes. That when we say yes at Baptism, when we get married, or when we participate in the Eucharist we say yes to a series of questions that will mean we will have to decide to yes to a number of other yeses in the future. In the Baptism Service, especially the Baptism of an infant, the parents and godparents are asked if they will ensure that the child is brought up understanding the Christian life and faith. The actual question goes like this: "Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life."
The parents and godparents say yes on the day. But if they are serious about their commitment it is important that know that they will have to say yes over and over again as that child grows up.
Another way to look at this is to consider what will you have to say no to as you raise the child. We all know how much children pick up from in the environment that they grow up in. Parents and godparents have to say yes to healthy relationships and being a healthy life-giving example to the child. They have to say no to their own selfishness and their need to assert their own needs over the needs of others.
In our spiritual lives, each one of us is dealing with the ongoing yes constantly. Deciding for the Lord, deciding to say yes to our own personal responsibility for nurturing our spiritual development. To be actively engaged with developing our faith life through daily spiritual practices that nurture that life.
As I said a few weeks ago, Pentecost is a great example of the renewing and empowering way that God engages with us. The coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of Christian believers is not just a historical event that we celebrate each year. We celebrate Pentecost to remind ourselves of the expectation we should have of an ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit.
So I will ask the question again: Here on this Third Sunday after Pentecost, I wonder has Pentecost made any difference in your life? Since we celebrated Pentecost three weeks ago has it made any difference at all in your spiritual practices? Has it made a difference to what you have devoted time to? Has it changed, or at least challenged you to consider, how you have responded to the people you have interacted with recently? Has it made a difference in the way that you have approached your spiritual disciplines? Has it made a difference in the way that you have approached the issues that have come up in your life in the last three weeks?I ask this question, or this series of questions, because of our Gospel reading this morning.
The Gospel of Mark is an intriguing reading this morning, isn't it? Part of that is how the Lectionary works and we jump from last week's reading about Jesus dealing with the Scribes from Jerusalem and his family trying to shut him down to this jump right into Jesus talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. Now we all know that is not what happens right. There is other information, other events that take place between the time of the reading from last week and the reading for today.
But here we are today with Jesus explaining the Kingdom of Heaven in these very pastoral pictures and themes. It almost seems like we might get a "get out of jail free card." After all the people listening to Jesus didn't understand him so why should we be expected to?
Well, actually it is because of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit equips and empowers us to comprehend and act in ways that we would otherwise not even consider. Remember Peter's words to the crowds on Pentecost Day? But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Acts 2:14-21 NRSV
That is why I asked my question, questions, this morning. Do you have any new dreams? Have you experienced the in rushing refreshment and empowering of the Holy Spirit? Is anything different?
By now poor Steve is probably wondering why I have the Sermon images in the PowerPoint he is operating. OK very briefly. I want to say to all of us that sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit is a slow gradual indwelling power and that the harvest from his influence is more like what Jesus is talking about in his first parable in Mark.
The images I to share this morning are different images of a field of wheat. If you look at the first image you might wonder - "field of wheat?" Yes, it is a field of wheat. Seed planted in the ground unseen and unremarkable, but a field of wheat nonetheless. The field has been prepared and the seed planted. The next slide shows us sometime later when the wheat seed has germinated and is sending green shoots up through the earth searching for sunlight and moisture. The next slide is the wheat crop ready for harvest. It is time for the reaping of what has been produced. Then there is the field midway through the harvest. What has been produced is being harvested. Then the last slide is of course the wheat after it has been threshed from the plant.
I would like to suggest that each one of us is somewhere in that process with the Holy Spirit. We are fruitful and productive in the timing of the Lord. asking questions like the ones I asked earlier helps us to know and recognize where we are in the cycle.
Now I have to warn you this is not a linear thinker's thing. It is happening in various areas and aspects of our lives all at the same time. It is dynamic and vital. It is not always codifiable. We just need to be engaged in the process. We need to Participate by reading and praying and dialoguing with the Lord and others. Engaging our spiritual practices and spiritual disciplines alongside what the Holy Spirit is doing within us and through us.
So once again: Here on this Third Sunday after Pentecost, I wonder has Pentecost made any difference in your life? Since we celebrated Pentecost three weeks ago has it made any difference at all in your spiritual practices? Has it made a difference to what you have devoted time to? Has it changed, or at least challenged you to consider, how you have responded to the people you have interacted with recently? Has it made a difference in the way that you have approached your spiritual disciplines? Has it made a difference in the way that you have approached the issues that have come up in your life in the last three weeks?