Sermon for June 9, 2019
The following is a DRAFT of the homily and may vary from the recorded version. Please cite with permission.
Happy Pentecost! Happy Birthday to the Church. Happy Gay Pride Month and a joyful entrance into the summer of 2019.
This morning we mark the feast of Pentecost and the conclusion of Easter. Jesus has been crucified, died, buried, ascended into heaven and today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This day we celebrate the birth of the church when the Holy Spirit, our constant companion and comforter, came among God’s people to give us the courage we needed to go out into the world and do the work Jesus left for his early followers (and each of us) to do — this and every day.
Pentecost is not only a Christian holiday, this day is marked and celebrated by a wide variety of traditions. According to Jewish tradition, Pentecost commemorates God’s giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, 49 days after the Exodus. It also marked a Jewish feast day of the early harvest.
We celebrate this day as the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the people – making God’s word and presence known across the world – a rush of wind and tongues of fire – knocking down barriers of language, crushing divisions of geography and national origin, shattering segregation based on gender or race and demolishing differences based on creed. All were able to hear the word of God and each was amazed and astonished.
The Holy Spirit came with the mighty and transforming power so that we might continue God’s work empowered and emboldened to cross boundaries and surmount differences, to leave our comforts behind and boldly go into the world as his first followers managed to do.
Thank you to those who participated in our reading of the passage from Acts in a variety of languages. You have reenacted the scene described as the first Pentecost when the disciples were given the ability to speak a variety of languages and the people who heard them were amazed that each could be understood in their native language…and like the reading from Acts, I am guessing that it is safe to assume – as Peter declares that the people who just read this inspiring scripture were not drunk with new wine as was supposed by the members of the stunned crowd. The work of the disciples, and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was so shocking that the people thought they must be drunk!
This seismic event that changed human history was the personal experience of God in each listener’s native tongue, in a form that each crowd member could see and believe. God as Holy Spirit breaking out beyond the small and frightened group that had remained behind locked doors out of fear. God as Holy Spirit moving across the land and into every life as a light and connection to the Holy. A shared experience of God that connected each person to the other.
Are any of you fans of or familiar with the movie ET? It was released in 1982, before some of you were born. I don’t know how popular it is now for young families, but it was released, and I saw it the summer before I headed to college, and I loved that movie. I will confess from this lectern that I loved that movie so much, that I arrived at college – a young and excited freshman – with an ET stuffed animal, which as an adult seems slightly silly, but as a freshman it meant a great deal to me. And truthfully, I will share that my ET made the rounds of my college dorm, offering and providing comfort and connection – a reminder of the movie, but also a pretty great stuffed animal to hug when studies were overwhelming or an exam was looming. I don’t know who gave me the ET, but it is prominently featured in a few college year book photos.
So, I love ET the movie and the creature. Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit reminds me very much of the moment when ET’s heart light glows. We, the viewing audience, think that ET has died, but Elliott sees his heart light up and realizes that he is not dead, but is connected to the mother ship, the Source or the universe and ET regains his vitality, health and humor.
In fact, he is at his healthiest and best. ET and the human star of the movie, Elliott can communicate and Elliott knows that what is about to happen – ET leaving earth and his new found friends, is what is best for ET – BUT and most importantly for Pentecost, ET’s visit has profoundly affected the humans he has met and loved. And before ET leaves, he touches his index finger to Elliott’s forehead and reminds him that he “will be right here”. ET will always be with Elliott and Elliott with ET.
So it is with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us, and will always be. Once the Spirit descended upon us, we would be forever divinely connected to God and to each other. Forever changed, and for us – forever aware of God’s call to us, to go out into the world and proclaim the good news in Christ. Forever changed to know that we are not alone, that God is with us, and forever transformed into a people of love and joy who are offered perspective to know that the trials and challenges of this life are not to be borne alone and are not the end of our story.
This morning as we celebrate Pentecost and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, we also celebrate and give thanks for the ministry and persistence of Sarah Brock who, with the laying on of Bishop Gayle’s hands last weekend and the invocation and inspiration of the Holy Spirit is forever changed from an active and energetic lay person of deep and abiding faith to an ordained person of deep and abiding faith who is called to live out her vocation in new and exciting ways. This morning, Sarah will lead part of our service as our transitional Deacon, taking on responsibilities that were not asked of her nor allowed before her ordination. Sarah will commission us to draw closer to one another by the Power of the Holy Spirit and then take the light of Christ into this dark and broken world.
Sarah is forever changed. And as people of God we too are invited to be forever changed by Sarah’s ministry and commission, by this morning’s celebration of Pentecost and each day by the acknowledged presence of the Holy Spirit.
We also celebrate all those who are transformed by graduation – whether moving into their first professional jobs, heading to high school, college or graduate school, we celebrate those transitions and academic and professional accomplishments. As you or your loved one moves past this milestone into the next challenge of his or her career, I hope that each will turn to and lean on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and courage and pray to have the Spirit known and God’s love obvious for each of you.
And for anyone heading off to college or graduate school in the fall, I don’t know that a stuffed version of ET is the appropriate dorm accoutrement or on anyone’s current college shopping list, but I hope that you will find something that reminds you of your belovedness, that will help ground you, comfort you and keep a sense of perspective of what is truly important and what is merely a temporary stress or passing concern. The Holy Spirit is with you, now and always and is the embodiment and constant reminder of God’s unconditional love.
The Reverend Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Esq.
All Saints Parish Brookline || Sermon 10:30 am Sunday, June 9th, 2019 || The Feast of Pentecost, Year C || Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, 25-27|| The Rev. Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Esq.