Friday, June 12, 2009

Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost 2009

Everywhere we look

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost.
I think you might have had a slight clue
that this was not your ordinary Sunday.
Red streamers fly outside the church.
Brightly colored balloons decorate the inside of the church.
Today is a party—a celebration.
The birth day of the Church.

Doves and red streamers followed the choir in the procession.
Our music—WOW!
Our wonderful music has a distinct liveliness to it this morning.

There is fire—red candles—ablaze in the windows.
The final day for our Paschal Candle.
The Holy Spirit burns brightly and steadily,
shining light into all the dark places.

There is this new painting by Penelope Carscaddon
with its vivid colors.
You can see the flames of fire, the spirit descending
upon three figures
and even though we see only the backs of their heads
adorned in their bright and colorful turbans--
it is easy to imagine their faces—
transfixed, transformed, joyful.

Or maybe those three figures in the painting
are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit--
and they have just ignited this marvelous celebration
and are just watching it all happen, unfold.

That is the magnificent thing about art—
it invites our imaginations,
Art kindles its own fire within us.

Look up! There is a wild assortment of wildness flying over head today—
Bats and doves and wild geese and a red bird—
all symbols of the Spirit.
And there is wind (cue ceiling fans) rushing through.

And you! Look at all of you!
You are a beautiful sea of red today.
You are wearing doves upon your shoulder.

Everywhere we look today—this Feast Day of Pentecost—
there are signs and symbols of the Holy Spirit.
Today we can visibly “see” the Spirit.
We are surrounded by an abundance of reminders.
The Holy Spirit is everywhere,
all the time,
in every place.

Today it is so easy to see the Spirit.
But this is not always true.
Sometimes we struggle to see the Spirit.
To see God acting in the world,
in our lives.

Tom and I watched an interesting film this week called “Frozen River.”
It is worth renting on DVD—but be aware,
It is not a happy, snappy feel-good sort of film.

The film takes place in the days before Christmas
in a snowy town
on the border between New York State and Quebec, Canada.
There is Mohawk reservation on both sides of the border.

This film is the story of two women, two families—one white, one Mohawk.
They seemingly have nothing in common.

But they are both faced with desperate circumstances.
Their lives are barely held together as they try to survive
on minimum wage as single mothers.

Lila Littlewolf is the Mohawk mother. Her husband is dead.
Lila works—sometimes-- at the bingo parlor on the reservation.

Ray Eddy, the white mother, works at the Yankee Dollar Store
but even though she has faithfully worked there for two years
She can’t get full time hours much less benefits.

Ray Eddy’s husband is a compulsive gambler.
He has wiped out their bank account and left on a bus for Atlantic City.
When Ray Eddy tries to reassure her oldest son that “your father is a good man”—
The son looks at her and bluntly says,
“Mom. He robbed us. He took all our money.
He left us a week before Christmas.”
Left with nothing.

Both women live in trailers that are barely livable housing.
Their lives are cold—inside and out.
Their realities are harsh.
Where is the Holy Spirit in their lives?

You see there is temptation.
The lure of fast money--
if you are willing to make the treacherous drive
across the frozen St. Lawrence River---
not on a bridge or a road
but driving on the frozen river itself--
across the border from New York into Quebec---
and smuggle in illegal immigrants
in the trunk of your car.
Who would ever consider such a treacherous journey?
Who would ever take such a risk?
People who are desperate to support their families.

Ray Eddy has a car with a big trunk
and Lila knows the smuggling contacts.

But as they transverse the frozen river a thawing begins to happen.
Not just of the St. Lawrence--
but of the frozen river of their own lives.
The love they have for their children begins to bind them together—
in ways even they cannot see at first.
Even though these women have made some terrible choices,
the Spirit works to bring healing out of hurt,
good out of bad,
joy out of tragedy.
Rent the film.

Our lives, too, are often like frozen rivers.
We fear vulnerability.
We fear trusting one another.
We fear trusting God.
We surround our lives and our souls
with a nice thick layer of ice so no one can come in.

Not even God.
Or so we think.

But things happen in life.
Grace happens.
The Holy Spirit has a way of finding even the hairline crack in our ice.
Love—God’s true fire--begins to melt the ice.
From the outside and from the inside.
The ice is changed to water, living water.

Today—the Feast of Pentecost—reminds us
that the Holy Spirit is everywhere.

Our children and youth have created these wild flying things to remind us.
Sometimes the Spirit arrives like a dove.
The dove that descended upon Jesus at his baptism.
The dove reminds us that we are God’s beloved,
That God could have chosen otherwise,
That others may tell us God chooses otherwise,
But the truth is this:
God is love and that we are deeply loved by God.
Every single one of us.

Now the wild goose is a Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit.
Most of us have at least a little experience with wild geese—
They come flapping and honking and land upon your pond,
In your life,
That is the Holy Spirit, noisily arriving,
right when you never expected.
A wild goose takes over.

A friend in Scotland told me that an American once commented to him
That the image of the Holy Spirit as a wild goose
would not work in America.
When he asked why,
She explained that people sometimes shoot at wild geese,
That wild geese are considered by many as a pest.

Ah! But that’s perfect he exclaimed.
(Not the shooting part—the pest part!)
The Holy Spirit is a pest, too!
The Spirit will indeed pester you
until you can’t eat or sleep or do anything but pay attention.
That little pest—the Spirit-- has a big way of getting your attention.

Then there’s the bat.
Bats were used as symbols of the Holy Spirit by certain medieval painters.
The bat swoops in and that swoop—especially in the dark of night—
is often the flight pattern of the Spirit.
Just when we think there is no hope,
just when we think we will be left in darkness forever---woosh!
The Holy Spirit—in perhaps just a small quick swoop—
changes everything.

Then there is the red bird, the cardinal.
Such an ordinary bird.
Many of us see it every day sitting on a tree branch, pecking in the grass.
The Spirit works in our lives in ordinary everyday ways,too.
Tiny little ways that are right before our eyes every single day.

Remember these symbols.
Remember that the Spirit is a-blaze in your life.
Remember that the Spirit is alive with color and meaning in our world.

When we leave and go home today
We will leave most of these symbols behind.

We may not have a dove with red streamers tied to our car bumper.
We may not find our house filled with red balloons.
We may go to work on Monday and find that our co-workers
Are not wearing bright, colorful turbans.
We may not hear “We are marching in the light of God”
when we turn on the car radio.

But it doesn’t matter what the eyes see or what the ears hear.
If we look and listen with our hearts
We will discover the deeper truth.
We will find the Spirit is alive and well
and at work in the world and in our own lives.

Sometimes we miss that.
We miss it because the Spirit acts in God’s time,
not ours.
The Spirit works in God’s ways,
not ours.

We don’t much like that
because we can’t control it.
We can’t schedule an appointment with the Holy Spirit
in our Blackberry or iPhone
or even on our wall calendar.
3 to 3:45—Holy Spirit
Nope. That is not the way it works.

But it’s not because the Holy Spirit refuses to keep an appointment—
it’s because the Spirit is always present.
No appointment necessary.
Walk-ins welcome

God is everywhere.
Always present.
Always moving to thaw the frozen river.

One more thing—
Today at the end of the service
for this Feast day of Pentecost—
when I say to you
Alleluia! Alleluia! Let us give thanks for the power of the Spirit!
It is fine to respond,
in your usual way,
Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia!

But then--for this Feast Day—
as you head over to the Parish Hall for our festive lunch--
it is fine to honk loudly like a wild goose
or to swoop like a bat
or chirp like a cardinal
or even coo like a dove.
Whatever it takes,
whatever it takes to remember—
to remember
the power of the Holy Spirit!

1 comment:

Tom E said...

This was a wonderful sermon!