Today we consider the concept of the “Pentecost?” It refers to the descent and reception of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and others in the upper room after the resurrection of Christ. It is our source of strength and connection with God. Christ ascended into Heaven but did not leave us orphaned to face this world alone. The Holy Spirit is the heavenly glue which works through us and gives us the ability to do great works. You will commonly find it working through people who do not subscribe to a faith because we are all children of God and therefore share that bond. I encourage everyone to draw on that power and open your eyes to the world seeking it out in all people. The Spirit can grab hold of someone making them shout “Amen!” but it also works through people in acts of kindness, generosity, and love. They say if you look for trouble, you will find it. I also say that if you look for the Holy Spirit, you will find that He has been there all along.
In the Gospel Lesson for Rose Sunday Jesus heals a blind man. He was blind from birth and during that time, it was assumed that if you had a disability such as blindness, lameness, or leprosy; it was because you are a sinner and you were being punished for your sins or the sins of your father. The Pharisees, strict upholders of the law of Moses, were outraged with Jesus for his inclusive ministry which included the untouchables.
Were the Pharisees wrong with their interpretations? A chosen people who followed the law they knew to come from God? The fact of the matter is our truth is merely our perception of reality. The Pharisees felt justified, even if misguided by their own prejudices. We are all blind without the light of Christ. Our individual perceptions of right and wrong; good and bad may differ; but we all can be made whole by putting our faith in Christ. His request from us is to share His Glory and not hoard it remembering each one of us is a masterpiece of God, made in His image. As Christians, we must not act as the Pharisees did feeling superior in our faith. Reach out as Christ did. We may not be able to do miracles, but we CAN make huge differences in the lives of others and, I believe, by doing so, save the institution of the Church at the same time.
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well at noonday. She more than likely did not expect to meet anyone at the well but she finds the Messiah. At the time, the Jews and the Samaritans did not see eye to eye so the Samaritan woman was surprised when Jesus was offering her the waters of eternal life. Jesus proves himself to her by calling her out. He tells her that he knows she has had five husbands AND the man she is currently with is not her husband. She realized who Jesus is and how he knew her sin and yet, despite their differences, he was still offering her salvation.
This conviction turns the Samaritan woman into one of the earliest (if not the very first) evangelist. She takes the message of Jesus back to her community and shares it with all who will listen. She does all this despite their differences, despite her lifestyle, and without the resurrection. What faith! We would all do well to follow in her example. All of us fall short of the Glory of God, but we all are blessed by his Grace and Jesus is still at that well of eternal water wanting us all to partake!
Most of us has had the pleasure to view a splendor from atop a mountain. Whether you get there by hiking, biking, four wheeler, or however; we can recall revealing in the natural beauty of our world. At the summit, you can feel a closeness to nature and God. It can be an experience that last for a moment or days. A time and place where one can at least relate to Transcendentalism. A state of purity without the corrupting concerns of the world below.
Moses had his experience upon Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments and in the Gospel lesson for the Last Sunday in Epiphany, Jesus had his own mountain top experience where his body was transfigured before his disciples: Peter and John. It was a validation that Jesus was in fact the son of God. In my opinion, it was the greatest miracle of the Bible being the only miracle that happened to Jesus himself. A mountain top experience where being fully human and fully God collides in a visual spectacle for his two disciples removing any doubt that Jesus is the Messiah.
Today, it is not necessary to climb mountains and trees for the visual clarity and perspective that people once did. The relationship of the New Covenant between God and us exist in the knowledge that Christ has already paved the way. The sweat, blood, and tears have already been expensed to establish the framework that stands ready for every person. Our job is to utilize and share this framework so that we can all maintain a close relationship with our God. The season of Lent is upon us and I can think of no better time to dust off our proverbial hiking boots and climb our own mountain to strengthen our relationship with a God already present in our lives! Thank you Jesus!
In Sunday’s Gospel Lesson (Matthew 5: 21-37) Jesus raised the bar for Christians in how we handle our relationships. The Ten Commandments drew a line in which you were not intended to cross; however, Jesus expanded on them with the spirit behind the law. He did not want us to simply view the commandments as a line in the sand whereas you are fine so long as you do not cross it. He wants us to view the commandments in the spirit of relationships between each other. In the text Jesus expands:
- Shall not murder TO don’t be angry with your neighbors
- Shall not commit adultery TO do not be lustful, even in thought
- Shall not bear false witness TO be so commendable and truthful there is no need to swear an oath
- Don’t follow the letter of divorce TO treat people fairly and justly
It boils down to the golden rule. A simple rule which, if followed, would radically change the world; simply by treating each other how we would like to be treated ourselves. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, he came to fulfill it! Together, we can live into his ministry and make the world a better place!
Today’s lesson in Sunday school is scripture from Matthew that calls us to be “salt of the earth” and to be the “light of the world.” As time has come to pass, we have taken these things for granted. Salt now is a spice that we readily use and is inexpensive to acquire. But that wasn’t always the case. In a time without refrigeration salt is a commodity that you could not live without. It was necessary for the preservation of food. It was a key element for survival. We still cannot live without salt but in its abundance, we don’t concern ourselves by giving it much thought.
I wonder if sometimes that is how we treat God’s love for us. For it is in such an abundance that we do not take the time to appreciate it and share it like it should be done. Someone once asked me what my life would look like if tomorrow I woke up without the things I did not thank God for today. Scary thought if that started to happen.
God’s love burns bright for us and he wants us to share it. Evangelism is a task that Episcopalians do not overachieve at. It was quoted at the recent Diocese of East Tennessee Convention I attended that “Jesus calls us to be fishers of men, but we all to quickly become keepers of the aquarium.” It is a reality that hit a little too close to home. Then the Bishop shared an idea with us that I really liked. He said great evangelist do not bring God to people. Rather we talk with people to help them discover a God already present and active in their lives.” That shed a whole new light on evangelism for me.
Today we celebrate many things; the Super Bowl, Ground Hog Day, and hopefully we have given some thought to Presentation Sunday. The day that the Christ child Jesus was presented to the temple. You see Mary and Joseph were diligent in following the law of the times so after 40 days from the birth of Christ, Joseph and Mary went to the temple in Jerusalem to make a sacrifice and present their firstborn male to the Lord.
If you take it from the point of view of Joseph, he may have been ready to get in and get out quickly satisfying their covenant requirements. After all, he and his newlywed Mary have already been through so much what with the virgin birth and angelic visitors. But their visit would not be like most. You see there was a man named Simeon there who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would live to see the Lord’s Messiah. And with God’s perfect timing they meet at the temple and Simeon takes Christ into his arms and praises God for the fulfillment of his promise. He says that he may now rest in peace for he has seen the salvation in Christ with his very own eyes just as he was promised.
I wonder what Simeon would say to us. He waited his whole life to see the light of Christ. Today we are born into this world with the light of Christ shining bright. A light for everyone, anytime. It is something to take comfort in and share. How can we share this news so that others may experience what Simeon and we have already?