Archive for the ‘Pentecost’ Category

Happy Birthday Church 6-4-2017

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

At a testimonial dinner that I attended many people said some wonderful things about this special human being. This human being that we were talking about definitely has a dark side and a lot of rough edges. But for one night those things were put aside and we focused on what was right and good about him. For a few minutes today, on the birthday of the Church, Pentecost Sunday, I would like to focus on what is right and good about our Church. One of those right things is its ability to endure. Many of our Scripture lessons carry us back to the beginning of Church. The people who wrote and originally read those documents were first-generation Christians. They stood on the ground floor of a brand new institution. Like all newborn things, the Church was small and seemed so fragile. There was serious doubt among the membership whether the Church would survive. Its key leadership cowered behind closed door, thinking their cause was surely lost. However, many cultures and civilizations have come and gone, but the Church lives on. There is something reassuring about that. Personally, I find it comforting to belong to something that has stood the test of time. The Church is so solid that, for nearly two thousand years, it has outlasted the hostility of its foes and the stupidity at times of his friends and leadership. The church was here when we arrived on the scene and will remain long after we are gone no matter what ABC and CNN have to say. Another thing right with the Church is its record of ministry to human need. Without that, the ability to endure would be meaningless. Jesus measured the worth of all institutions not by their age, not by their size, but by their usefulness to people. He must surely apply the same test to his own Church. And though its score has been far from perfect, it does have an impressive record of service. You and I are so familiar with this that we often take it for granted. We seldom pause to appreciate what the church has accomplished throughout the centuries. It has provided the inspiration, the leadership, and in some cases, the money for much of the world’s charitable endeavor. For all its faults and failures, the Church has stood by the conviction that every person is sacred in the sight of God. That conviction has proven to be a revolutionary incentive. It has produced, and continues to produce, pressure for change, both in the world and in the Church. A final thought about what is right with the Church and I believe, most important of all. In the world, the Church stands as a constant reminder of God, It points the way to Christ, it calls us to be a community of faith, it offers forgiveness and healing. This is not one of the businesses of the Church, it is the main business of the Church. The Church’s primary purpose is bringing people into a redeeming relationship with God. On Pentecost 2017 we need to be reminded that the early Church was not a group of men and women naturally equipped to turn the world upside down. Most of them had little education, very little money and no political power. They were plain people in partnership with God, but that relationship changed their lives and enabled them to change their world. The Church is made up of people, that means it always has been and continues to be imperfect. But there is a life here that is more than mortal and a spirit that is more than human. God does not belong to the Church – the Church belongs to God. And when joined in partnership with God, powerful and unbelievable things can happen. I close: We have all criticized the Church and we will criticize it again. To love the Church is to have that responsibility, but today let us make a commitment to do our part, to be part of the solutions instead of just pointing a critical finger of judgment at the problems. Today, let us remember and celebrate what is good and right with the Church, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday Church.

The Power of the Spirit 5-15-16

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”
I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.
As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.
My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now.
I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.
Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books.
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.
Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation.
I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous.

Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”
I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.
“Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. Never underestimate the Power of God’s spirit working through us. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse.