Archive for the ‘Pentecost’ Category

Happy Birthday Church 5-28-2023

Friday, May 26th, 2023

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 2023 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 6-5-2022

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

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
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
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.

Outsiding 5-23-2021

Saturday, May 22nd, 2021

The sister who taught religion to the juniors at a Catholic high
school was ill. Another sister, Sister Joan, was going to substitute for
her. She was a superb teacher and a compassionate listener. But as
Sister Joan entered the classroom, one of the students–wanting to look
smart and cool in front of his classmates–uttered under his breath, just
loud enough to be heard, “oh brother”.
Sister Joan warmly greeted the students and explained the day’s
lesson. She then went around the room handing out the assignment.
When she came to the student who made the remark, she simply said,
“Thanks a lot. That hurt.”
She knew who had “outsided” her.
“Outsiding” someone — to marginalize a person, to intentionally place
that individual outside the group, to make sure that an individual
understands his or her “place”. We “outside” many individuals who
don’t measure up to our standards of success and standing, who don’t meet our wants and expectations, whose mere presence, we fear, will
diminish our vision of ourselves and our group. But at Pentecost, no one
was left on the “outside”, no one was left beyond the margins. Peter and
the apostles realize that the Jesus they encountered detests such
“outsiding” — and the Spirit of Pentecost now enables them to preach to
all, opening the hearts and minds — and ears — of those present to hear
God’s invitation to embrace the love of the Risen One.
I close, God calls everyone to his church. The Spirit gathers all
into the community of faith. The problem is, we humans, the Church,
don’t always agree with the people God calls. I pray this for us all. May
the fire of Pentecost make us ministers of God’s reconciliation in our
time and place, refusing to “outside” anyone but make it possible for
everyone to take their place in the household of God. On this Pentecost
Sunday, when we say often All are Welcome, may we really believe it
and act like we believe it — All of Us, The Church