Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost: Empowered To Love No Longer Afraid

Homily for Pentecost Year A 2017

Fr. Dale Matson

[Note: Lord willing I will preach this tomorrow.]

I would like to offer a brief prayer of invocation. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love” Amen.

Today is the Day of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, the Church was born and The Church was empowered to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our red stoles represent the tongues of fire. The shape of the Bishop’s hat represents the tongues of fire also.
Until this point, the Apostles were spending a good deal of time behind a locked door waiting in the upper room. And why was this? They were afraid. Listen to our Gospel lesson from St. John.” On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
If you look carefully at our epistle and Gospel readings today it seems as if the disciples receive the Holy Spirit on two separate occasions. Notice however that in St. John’s account they are given the Holy Spirit specifically to forgive or retain sins. He is giving the disciples the keys to the Kingdom. Remember much earlier (Matthew 16) when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Christ said to Peter,  “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” I believe this is where Christ delegated His earthly authority to His church.
In the book of Acts St. Luke records that the disciples had seen their resurrected Lord for forty days and then He ascended to Heaven. Christ told the Apostles to wait a few days in Jerusalem for empowerment by the Holy Spirit. He said they would receive a “baptism”. It was not the baptism of repentance of John the Baptist. It was the Baptism of Christ who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire (Luke 3:16).  This period of waiting did amount to a matter of days and this Sunday, today; the Day of Pentecost is upon us. As we hear in our reading from Acts today, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
At this point many folks see the empowerment at Pentecost as allowing the disciples to perform mighty signs and wonders, to heal the sick, and cast out demons. Actually no since they had already done this wen Jesus sent out the 12 disciples in Matthew 10. “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” This was noted also in Luke chapter 10 when Jesus sent out 72 disciples 2 by 2. “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
No the real difference at Pentecost was that after this, the disciples were different men. They were no longer afraid even for their own lives. They were motivated by love. I believe this is the most important message of Pentecost. This is not to sell short our message today of the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 but remember, the next chapter (13) begins with, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” The end of that same chapter, verse 13, St. Paul states, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Love is the key as we are told in 1st John 4:18. “There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.” When St. Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians (5:22-23a), he puts love first. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
I was brought back to Christ by way of the Gospel of St. John. The person of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God circumcised my heart and returned me to Christ. The Holy Spirit witnessed to the truth of the Gospel message and changed my mind.
Come on Fr. Dale, The Holy Spirit is not really a person. The Holy Spirit is a ….Spirit. What do you say to that? Here’s what I say to that.  “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: “(Acts 15:28). The Holy Spirit is a Person. “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.  After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.”(Acts 16:6-7, NKJV) The Holy Spirit is a guide. He doesn’t just empower us to go. He also tells us “No”. That is what Paul meant when he said that those who are led by the Spirit are no longer under the Law. (Gal. 5:18) And this from the Creed of St. Athanasius, “For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.  And in this Trinity none is before, none after; none is greater or less than another; but the whole three Persons are co-eternal and co-equal.
As God grows the fruit of the Spirit of love within us we begin to discover an energized previously dormant compassion toward others. Yes, even though it is not always convenient, we must try to answer the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10) with,  “Everyone is my neighbor”.
A week ago Saturday, Sharon and I were walking to Woodward Park with our dog.  As we walked along Shepherd Ave we noticed a young man walking at a weary pace just ahead of us. When we got to the park he asked us, “Is this Woodward Park?” Initially I thought John (not his real name) might be visiting the area and out for a walk. He then told us, quite a story that seemed possible enough. He had spent the last 7 hours walking from Quail Lakes (which is about 18 miles from here. He said he was headed to Madera and we thought he meant Madera Ranchos, which was another 6 miles. We said we would walk with him to a location that would take him out of the park and head him in the right direction. He said he had an address where he had left his car because he had had a seizure. His girlfriend had given him a lift to Quail Lakes where his aunt and mother lived. A disagreement led to his walking out and he was trying to get back to his car. Sharon asked a passerby in the park if he had a cell phone and we plugged the address into Google search. We discovered that his car was in Madera not Madera Ranchos. Madera was 20 plus more miles from us. Sharon and I looked at each other and decided to offer to take him there in my truck. We walked back home with him. Sharon gave him a glass of ice water and we drove to Madera. Shure enough, his car was there and he got in after Sharon had pressed some money in his hand. As we drove home on highway 41 I saw his car in the rear view mirror. We both thought it a bid odd that he didn’t go down Highway 99 to the town where he lived. He got off 41 and began turning on streets that would take him back to our house. We went from being self righteous good Samaritans to being afraid he was coming back to rob us and had maybe had a gun in his car. He missed one turn and I decided to confront him taking a route that would meet up with him. We both stopped and he rolled down his window to ask if he had left his cell phone in our car. Sure enough, he had. Whew! How quickly we had gone from compassionate to self righteous to fearful. Where was our faith and love now? They are in recovery along with our sense of security. Forgive us Lord!
I consider myself similar in my belief traditions to our late Bishop Schofield who was Anglo Catholic, Charismatic and Evangelical. Those three traditions also reflect the three streams of the ACNA.
In the Charismatic Tradition, I have been blessed with spiritual gifts through the laying on of hands and prayer.  I have a private prayer language. I believe God has bestowed the gift of exhortation on me also.
There was a great deal of misunderstanding and divisiveness associated with the Charismatic renewal in the churches. The Charismatic Movement was ecumenical since the Holy Spirit is a God of Unity but the human side of it was divisive and literally split some congregations in two. I primarily blame the Charismatics for giving the appearance that they were a special class of Christians. If only, the fruits of the Holy Spirit had also been manifested. We should have memorized 1 Cor. 13 before we preached 1 Cor. 12.
The Pentecost homily I would have preached 30 years ago would have been primarily about the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. It would have been about healings and deliverance. My homily today is not about Galatians 12. It is about Galatians 13. For love and the Fruit of the Spirit is the real power of God for the Christian. It’s not as flashy or sparkly as a demonstration of power but love and Spiritual Fruit endure.
On This Day Of Pentecost, The Holy Spirit is here to comfort us. He is our intercessor and shapes our prayers to conform to the will of God. It is my heart’s desire that God would perfect His love in me that I could say in all things, “Thy will be done”. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor and teacher who leads us into all truth. He is the one called alongside as our advocate. He is that still small voice offering exhortation and encouragement. You cannot overemphasize God the Holy Spirit because He always points to Christ and no one can call Christ Lord except by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 12:3).  Listen to Him. Listen to Him in the silences between the background noises all around you. Christ beckoned His disciples and He beckons us to “Love one another” and “Be not afraid”. He is in the still small voice and He has much wisdom and comfort to offer in a world filled with confusion and strife. Amen.


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