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Other texts: Today is the day we bid farewell to Donald Teeters who served faithfully as Music Director, Organist, and Choir Director at All Saints for 47 year.
A draft text of the homily is below. To listen to earlier homilies click here.
“When it was evening on that day…”
Or this day?
Today is one of those days when the readings sort of collapse into each other and then expand forming a completely new horizon.
That day—the one John refers to is not Pentecost—the fiftieth day after Easter.
That day is Easter, the day of the resurrection.
Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb, seen Jesus, and returned to the disciples proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord.”
And now they’re hold up, locked in, afraid that the religious authorities who condemned Jesus to death might now be looking for them.
But that day, in John’s gospel is also this day.
Of course, every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection.
But this day is the day of Pentecost.
The day the Holy Spirit blows the doors off of everything.
In John, the coming of the Holy Spirit is not as dramatic, but it is just as powerful.
Jesus breathes on them, and gives them this promised gift.
“Receive the Spirit.”
Receive this gift.
On this day, and on every other day, we receive the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is above all else a gift.
It is only given, and it cannot be gotten otherwise.
We cannot work for it, or earn it, or develop it by logical proof.
We can only receive it.
It is unearned and undeserved and many times unwanted.
And it often comes in forms we don’t recognize.
Gifts are like that sometimes.
One Christmas, when I was a kid, I really wanted a watch for Christmas.
I had dropped plenty of hints.
Outright asked for it.
I had done everything except take my mother to pick it out myself.
So on Christmas I was sure I was going to get it.
But the watch was not in my stocking, nor in any of the other presents.
Finally only one present remained—a long definitely not watch-shaped box.
I opened the paper, and the box said, “yogurt maker.”
“Ha, ha!” I said, “That’s great! You put the watch inside a yogurt maker box!”
My parents were sneaky like that.
So I tore into the box, guess what I found?
That’s right—a yogurt maker!
I was devastated.
I liked yogurt, but I couldn’t imagine what my parents were thinking giving me this thing that I hadn’t asked for, didn’t want, and couldn’t imagine using.
Hugely disappointed, I set it aside, grumbled “thanks” and commenced rooting under the tree for something resembling a watch.
But there was nothing there.
My mother said, “why don’t you check out the yogurt maker.”
Which I grudgingly did.
It was a tray with a plastic cover and little ceramic cups to heat the yogurt in.
I took off the plastic cover, and started removing the plastic lids that were on the little cups.
And there in one of the cups was…
the watch I had so badly wanted.
I told you they were sneaky.
I have no idea what happened to that watch, but to this day I continue to occasionally make yogurt at home.
Gifts don’t always come in the packages you expect.
And real gifts are often the things you need, but don’t know how to ask for.
Like the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
None of the disciples cowering in that upper room asked for a violent rush of wind, or divided tongues of fire to land on them.
Then again, on this day, maybe the wind and fire is just Luke’s way of describing that breath.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” Jesus says, and breathes on them.
Just as God breathes over the face of the deep in Genesis, Jesus breathes that breath—the breath of God—over their confusion, and fear.
That breath that is always radical and earthshaking, breathing a new creation out of chaos, new life into dry bones.
On that day they received this gift, this powerful, uncontrollable, uncontainable, barely understandable gift of God’s breath—God’s Spirit—and that breath filled them and empowered them to carry out Christ’s mission in the world.
On this day, and every day we receive that breath too, and it fills and empowers us to carry out Christ’s mission in our lives—in our world.
Many people including St. Paul have noticed that other gifts are blown into us along with this initial gift of Spirit.
Gifts of wisdom, and knowledge, and healing and a whole lot more.
There are numerous gifts in this community.
Gifts of teaching, and healing
Gifts of hospitality, and listening
Gifts of singing, and music, and laughter
Gifts of questions, and learning, and wonder
Gifts of mending, and tending, and cleaning,
Gifts of just being present, being still, being an open, loving presence,
People have tried to codify all of these other gifts, get them down in a list, understand them, capture them, lock them into a room, fearful of others—fearful of losing them.
But it’s really not helpful to be too rigid about them.
Even Paul says, they are allotted to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
They come and go as we need them.
The gifts of the Spirit are practical gifts, not possessions.
They’re not items to be hoarded—they are to be used.
They are gifts given so that we can carry on the work of Jesus—the mission of God—restoring and reconciling all of creation to our creator.
And on this day, like every other day, they come and go, rise and fall in us just like our breath—which is also the breath of God.
Visiting someone in the hospital might call forth a gift of healing,
Then, later that day, answering a child’s question like “why is the sky blue?” might call forth the gift of wisdom, or wonder
Reaching out to a friend in need might call forth the gift of courage, or counsel.
As one writer puts it, “ministry occurs whenever and wherever you are using the gifts God has given you for the common good.”
We celebrate this day—Pentecost, the fiftieth day after That Day—to remember —to be aware of—the gift, this unasked for, incredibly powerful gift…
To remember that it is with a breath that God creates us, renews us and equips us to do God’s reconciling work in the world.
Today and every day.
So on this day, this day of celebrating the many gifts we have been given.
This day of great transitions.
This day of great transitions.
This day of joy and sadness…and anxiety about the future,
I’m wondering: which of your fears is God offering to blow away with a breath?
How is God breathing open the doors of your heart?
What might you be willing to risk to become more a part of this breathing, dancing, refining, renewing flame?
Maybe it’s a gift that you feel really in touch with right now, and you want to give thanks by acknowledging it.
Maybe it’s a gift that you feel is least present in your life right now, and you would like to be more open to how the Spirit might be breathing this gift into you.
Maybe it’s the one that scares you to death.
The one you’re afraid you are being called to, or the one you feel is being thrust upon you.
Which ever it is, take a few minutes in silence now.
And let God blow the anxieties of what the future holds out of you
Let God breathe the gifts that you don’t even know you need into you.
Breathe in the gift of new life, new hope, that is always available, that day, this day and every day.