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Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:14-17; John 14:8-17
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
June 9, 2019 –Pentecost Sunday!
It is Pentecost Sunday and the streets of Jerusalem would be full. It is the festival of weeks, Shavuot, seven weeks after the first harvest. There are seven days in a week and seven weeks is a week of weeks…the Festival of weeks.
Growing up on the plains east of the mountains, we are at the other side of the crops. It is the season when the crops are made or broken.
The glacial till is fertile but dry. The seed is in the ground. All is in waiting…for a good soaking rain to open the husks and bring forth new life…in abundance.
When that rain came all the farmers knew they would have a crop and something to show for their faith in a merciful God. They came to town to buy what they needed and maybe a bit of what they wanted, too.
It was a joyous time, for farmers and merchants and their families. This week with two good days of rain and passing showers between them, I felt that same festive spirit in my heart. We had something to celebrate, no matter what else was on our minds and hearts.
Israel had that same rambunctious noise about it at this time of year, but they were at the other end of the planting/praying/reaping cycle. Their crops were in. They were bringing them to town for their payday.
Merchants would come to town to sell them everything they needed for the next year. So we read that there were Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem and they were all in one place.
We think of it being fifty days after Easter, but Easter was only a rumor to the people of that day. Much had happened, fifty days before as he streets were filled with devout Jews celebrating the Passover.
There had been a trial and a crucifixion, and then an empty tomb. There was a dispute about what that meant, and the disciples went into hiding.
But they could not hide from the Lord. He found them and appeared among them and gave them winged words and asked them to touch his hands and side.
A crop of hope had been sown in the days he walked the face of the earth. Everyone had their own hopes and their own understanding of what was to come, but only Jesus had seen clearly and drank deeply from the cup that was his.
He came back to sow the seeds of faith…for his followers and those who would hear their testimony. The followers had been in hiding, concealed from view, wanting only to be forgotten so they could live out lives of quiet desperation.
But a glimpse of a truth more powerful than death turned desperation into boldness. The Holy Spirit once again shines a great light into the darkness.
This morning we find them in the marketplace proclaiming boldly what they held as a close secret just fifty days ago. The truth has a way of filling the timid with courage and the foolish with wisdom.
While I was composing our meditation for this morning this week, our new puppy, Zoe (which means ‘life’) came into my room…I am the only one up…and began to growl at me.
Then she began to bark at me… something she has never done before…So I stopped and looked at her and said, “What?”
She put her paws up on the arm of my writing chair and looked at me and twitched her ears. So I rubbed her ears and she licked my hand and went out back and left me alone to write.
The question is: did she need me to rub her ears…or did I need to focus on rubbing a puppy’s ears? I think the Spirit is talking to me. I must listen…to see…if I can hear…it.
Between the ‘listen’ and the ‘hear’ in that last sentence, there is a reference to ‘seeing,’ What does ‘seeing’ have to do with ‘hearing?’ I think that is where the Holy Spirit lives…in seeing with our ears and listening with our eyes.
And there is healing in that space between one sense and another. I have told you many times that I have chronic pain. The best thing you can do with it…I have always thought…was by ignoring it.
But if it is still there, what do you do? I am talking about a muscular tension that never relaxes…that is the pain that distracts me from the more important aspects of my life and tries to keep me from getting to them.
You want it to go away but you can’t push it away. A friend of mine once said, “The thing the devil hates is to hear us laughing.” We can speak of different things and see the similarity in them and we laugh at it …and that is so healthy.
It’s like the knock-knock joke: Knock. Knock. Who’s there? Gorilla. Gorilla who? Gorilla me a cheese sandwich. I’m hungry.
We see similarity in a difference… in the joke…in each other…and we find joy in it. We accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative…and we get on with our lives…as people…as friends…as a church…as a community.
But there is another way to get at this and I am still learning about it. It is to embrace it and to participate in your own healing by resonating with what ails you.
I am talking now about the Spirit being like the wind, blowing where it chooses, as Jesus told Nicodemus on that night he came to ask him how he could be born again…how he could be saved. “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
I am thinking these days that it is our spirit that makes it possible for us to transcend mere existence and it is the Spirit with a capital S that can take us there. So Peter proclaims Christ boldly and says you killed him while his spirit is surely acknowledging that he, Peter, denied him in his hour of need.
Christ was alone because he, Peter, even he…Peter…denied he ever knew him. It would be like saying he never existed…his life was nothing. And he told me I would be his rock.
It is a powerful lesson we receive today…this Pentecost nearly 2,000 years after Peter spoke and said the ability for each to hear even though they speak in different languages is because we can see what we hear. It is not an impairment, but a healing.
Maybe that is the flame that connects the Spirit to the flesh… that makes it possible for us to see what we hear…and laugh at what causes us pain. In that reaching and stretching of our souls we find our resilience…our spirit.
So a couple of weeks ago my sound therapist gave me the permission to heal myself. It is still early on the journey but it is a great journey.
She didn’t put earphones on me this time. She handed me a microphone and told me to walk in the front door of my house and walk to the back, and “tell me what you see as you walk.”
When I had talked long enough for her to register the notes I was using in my voice, she stopped me.
Then she told me to talk about something that stresses me. When I had talked long enough for her to register the notes I was using in my voice, she stopped me.
Then she asked me to talk about my future. When I had talked long enough for her to register the notes I was using in my voice, she stopped me.
She looked at my voiceprint and told me I didn’t have enough C in my voice and I had way too much F sharp. She sent me a link to music that had a number of octaves of C in it and encouraged me to listen to it.
This week she encouraged me to find my C in that music and sing it, like Gregorian chant…Do you hear that?...’Gregorian chant?’…a religious practice that is at least 1,000 years old?
We relied on our religion to give us access to the Spirit by which we could be healed a long time ago.
Now, I stand in awe of modern medical science, and without it I am pretty sure I would have been dead long ago. That is the flesh.
But there is a mind-body connection that has a lot of healing in it. Looking at light…and listening to the sounds that are missing in our lives…leads us to healing which opens us to the life abundant.
This is as Methodist as it is methodic. We read the scriptures. We sing hymns…we vibrate our voices and rhyme our words so that all might be harmony.
We pray together …for one another…for those we love…for those we don’t love and we put it all in God’s hands. We give our hopes and our troubles to the Spirit that is in us and around us and through us.
I took the picture that is on your bulletin cover this morning back in 2012…a while ago now. I had gotten up early that morning so I could catch the red sunrise on St. Mary Lake.
As I drove to the gate to the Park, a Suburban pulled up behind me and rode my bumper. As I slowed down to go through the gate…no one was in the checkpoint…it was like that Suburban driver put his headlights in my back seat.
So when I was through the gate, I pulled over to let him pass. He tromped on it, roaring by me. I had to close my eyes and focus on my breath to regain my own composure.
I am on my way to take a picture of serenity and harmony of shapes and colors when this guy behind me did everything but lean on his horn. It took a few seconds but I was okay to drive again.
I took in Two Dog Flats and the opening of the mountains in front of me. I came around the corner to the Scenic Photo area…and there were two Suburbans parked right there. There were two photographers set up. One of them was ‘that guy.’
Funny place for someone in that much of a hurry to be heading, I thought. I walked between them and past them down to the lakeshore and took the photo you see here.
I regretted not getting the postcard framing from the edge of he road, but I had caught some of the red of the morning…the rosy fingered dawn Homer writes about in The Odyssey.
I got in my car and started to drive back to St. Mary village and came around the corner and was confronted by this.
If only there was a place to pull off, I thought, and there in front of me was a place to pull off. The Spirit was on me like tongues of fire. It had been waiting for me to come back and be open to it.
It had been waiting for the disciples to be open to it, too, and when they were the truth of love spread through the crowd like a wildfire.
We have a concert scheduled this afternoon. It is a group called Homeward. The joy and the harmony they share as voices is one thing. The joy and the harmony they share as people is something more...much more.
I offer you healing…as best I know it…this day. May we be healed…and heal…in our spirits…and with the Spirit… this day and every day.
Dear Lord, what is it that you want to do in the world through us… through me…this day? Amen.