Pentecost 5/20/18 Epiphany, Norfolk

This morning we celebrate “The Day of Pentecost.” If you are new to our liturgical calendar, Pentecost is 50 days after Easter. It celebrates the events described in our 2nd reading this morning. The writer of Acts, who was also the writer of the Gospel of Luke, tries to describe this mysterious event with its violent wind, and tongues of fire, and people speaking in tongues and becoming empowered to go out into the world and spread the love of Christ.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven on the Feast of the Ascension, 40 days after Easter, he promised his followers that they would not be left alone. He, through the Father, would send them an advocate,
a sustainer, the spirit of truth, a holy wind, a Holy Spirit to support them and send them out. The Day of Pentecost is seen as the fulfillment of that promise. The Day of Pentecost is now celebrated as one of the 3 most important feasts of the church, along with Christmas and Easter.

Episcopalians didn’t celebrate Pentecost until 1979 when the present Prayer Book was published. I was an active priest at that time, and we really didn’t know what to do with it. So, a whole bunch of practices were introduced. Some stuck. Some did not. We tried releasing red helium balloons, but it was discovered that when they lost their helium and lift, they fell back to earth and birds were attracted to the color red and ate the balloons and died. That practice went by the way, quickly.

We tried wearing red, representing the tongues of fire that appeared among the disciples and rested on their heads. “Wear Red” stuck and has been very popular.

Some places celebrated with a birthday cake for the institutional church, observing the empowerment of the disciples, and their going out into the world. Many parishes still do that. There will be a lot of cakes this morning.

And then there is a whole bunch of local customs that have developed from congregation to congregation. We chant the hymn, “Veni Creator Spiritus” as our processional hymn. Not all places do that. It’s just a custom that’s developed here at Epiphany. And other places have their unique ways of celebrating. But in the almost 40 years that we have been celebrating the Day of Pentecost, it has taken on increased importance throughout the church.

I should mention that the Jews have always celebrated their Pentecost 50 days after the Passover. So this is another example of traditions borrowing from each other, and weaving themselves together.

Well, as we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, I hope you had an opportunity to watch the Royal Wedding yesterday, and especially Bishop Curry’s sermon. This is the only time in history that I’ve heard sound bites of a sermon played over and over by the media. The man can preach!

I thought it was a great sermon, but I was especiallyinterested in some of the responses of commentators. One commentator said thatshe was appalled that the bishop made the Queen uncomfortable in her ownchapel. My thought was, “If it made the Queen uncomfortable, then it must haveneeded saying.” The Queen did grimace and “adjust herself” during the sermon, andthe cameras caught her. But I think it was the hard pew that was making her uncomfortable,and not the bishop. She’s 92 years old, and they need to get her a cushion soshe can enjoy her chapel.

The commentators kept saying that Bishop Curry was from Chicago. He was born in Chicago, but grew up in Buffalo, and was Bishop of North Carolina before being elected Presiding Bishop. Right now, as Presiding Bishop, he’s really “at large.”

Some of what he said he said at our Fall Clergy Conference this past November, with a different twist. He has a gift for “staying on script” and adjusting the script to fit the occasion. But he’s very good at it. I really think he won over the English. One commentator said that he had attended many, many weddings, with “dusty old wedding sermons”, and Bishop Curry was very refreshing.

If you weren’t able to watch the wedding, try to catch a replay of the sermon. It lasts eleven minutes, and it’s all over the internet. It’s worth giving eleven minutes.

One of the things that he said that I really liked, and this is a paraphrase, was, “Our job is to take sin and “me” out of the center of the world and put love and Jesus into the center of the world.” I’d heard him say that sort of thing before, and I really like it.

And he talked about what a different world it would be if we could just love and respect each other. You can’t argue with that. It would be a different world. I can’t even imagine. But that’s what the Day of Pentecost is all about, empowering us to do exactly what Bishop Curry was pleading.

Some of you will remember Mary Anne Wilson who was avery active member of Epiphany until she and her husband moved to Tennessee. Shewas on Face Book last night and wrote the following: “A fresh breeze fromheaven is fanning the fires of love. Pentecost is at hand.”

Ooooh I like that. It’s interesting that Bishop Curryalso talked about fire. I guess that part will be his Pentecost sermon thismorning. But he linked the two together; fire and love. That’s what Pentecostis all about.

You know, it all sounds so good. And maybe it did makea few British aristocrats uncomfortable, yesterday. But if just a few of us, likeyou and me, could catch the passion for what he’s talking about, at least inour little corner of this world, things could begin to change. The world is nota very happy place, right now. We’re not a very happy nation, right now. But itdoesn’t have to be that way. Things need to change. And change usually happensslowly.

Maybe we can each feel those flames, and hear thatrushing wind, and adjust our own scripts to work on one or two little efforts thatremove sin, and remove “me” out of the center of the world, and bring love andJesus into the center of the world, and into the center of our lives.


Posted May 23, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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