- Church of the Ascension
- May 15, 2016
Day of Pentecost Sermon
RCL Year C 5/15/2016
Scripture Text: Genesis 11:1-9
•John 14:8-17, 25-27
You all know today(yesterday) is my 40th birthday, but much more important than that, is that it is the 1,983rd birthday of the Church. We have a great deal to celebrate, as we continue in that long tradition.
Even in this beautiful church. You who live here, know the beauty of this place, even this little old village.
But last year, in the winter, when I received your parish profile, i have to say,i t did not seem very attractive. And even people I know who love coming to Rhode Island, often overlook the special beauty of this place.
It is a shame to miss the beauty, and abundant life, that is so ever present to those who are full of the Holy Spirit.
But even when like this weekend as Spring fully awakens, and the recent wind and rain have brought beauty into flower. Sometimes we miss the beauty that shows up in unexpected places.
I had an experience of the way the Holy Spirit reaches us, in unexpected places, that I have to share with you. But before I tell you about that, I want to read you a poem, that my story prompted my father to tell me about.
It is by William Carlos Williams, and captures the same point, in, well how else to put it, a more poetic way.
The poem starts with an ugly scene,and includes a mysterious wind, and otherwise hidden beauty.
It was written in industrial New Jersey, certainly not as beautiful a place as Wakefield, RI.
The Poem is called “Spring and All” but my dad remembered it,
As “By the road to the contagious hospital.”
By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken
Earlier this week, in a morning conversation, Annalise told me that God often shows up for her in ways that seemed hidden, or unexpected. And as if to confirm that thought,
That very morning, as I was taking some trash to the trash cans that are placed behind the wall on the opposite side of the parish office building, a place where few people look, and a place where no one would expect beauty.
I was struck as I rounded the corner, by a whole row of these beautiful white flowers, that I had never noticed before. So I picked one and brought it back to my daughter. She was delighted by the story, and the flower.
And her response, was that she immediately gave the flower to our dog, and put it in her collar, to give her the beauty.
She enjoyed the gift, but gave it away immediately, before her possession of it could spoil the beauty.
In a similar way One Thousand, Nine Hundred Eighty Three Years ago, The Holy Spirit, the true Spirit of the One True God, showed up in the most unexpected place, among a rag tag group of rather unsophisticated people.
And then empowered by that hitherto hidden strength, and beauty they changed the world by sharing that blessing immediately with everyone they met.
That is exactly what can happen here, even in little Wakefield Rhode Island if we take the Holy Spirit, which we know is so present in this special little church, and share His beautiful gifts boldly with those all around us there is no limit to the things we can do in Jesus name.
Indeed Jesus tells us, if we follow Him, full of the Holy Spirit, we will do even greater works than he did!
That is the culmination of the story of the tower of Babel, which we heard from Genesis, where the people working together, and speaking the same language, could seek their own selfish goals, without restraint.
On Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the followers of Jesus, and they began to speak other languages, the fulfillment of that ancient story, was brought to the true purpose.
With the Holy Spirit, even those who we think can’t comprehend the good gifts we have to offer them, will be empowered to understand us.
So what will hinder us from sharing the beauty we have received? Hopefully nothing will hinder us, and we will share freely.
So as we celebrate the Church’s birthday, we will give our selves, our lives and service to Jesus, that He may accomplish a new outpouring of His Holy Spirit, through us, right here in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
This church, is like the beautiful flower that I found out by the trash cans we cannot keep its beauty to ourselves, but must invite others to enjoy what we enjoy here. So that the Holy Spirit will continue to be discovered, by people who may otherwise miss His Beauty.