Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We hear from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles about the tongues of fire, descending. We hear the rush of wind. We heard just a fraction of the languages they supposedly heard that Pentecost day: Medes and Parthians, and Residents of Mesopotamia.
Congratulations to our first reader, you scored one of the most difficult lists of Biblical names in all of Scripture. Today, in that crazy list, we have a representation of God’s gift of diversity, of God’s blessing of the whole of creation. Each and every person, regardless of language or race, gender or orientation, ability or age, and yes today we hear from Acts: every person of every national origin is destined for God’s good news. Every person, of every immigration status, is worthy of God’s grace. Today we celebrate the gift of the Spirit to all, all of God’s people. Today we celebrate God’s inspiration, God’s give of life and breath and dynamism to a movement, helping that movement to keep going.
The Royal Wedding
I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed in our congregation today. I’m sorry there aren’t more fascinators, more fancy hats in the crowd. Marc, you would’ve looked especially fetching with some red tool, and a feather or two perched over your right ear.
I know a good number of you watched the Royal Wedding yesterday. I was among the millions who woke up early, just in time to see Meghan Markle make her way into St. George’s chapel. I’ll never forget a few years ago when Harry’s brother William married Kate Middleton, and I confess I liked this wedding a great deal better, in part because it lacked a certain feature.
What I remember most about Kate and William’s wedding were the trees they brought into Westminster Abbey. I worked at a historic church in Washington DC at the time. I presided over quite a few nuptuals of people who thought themselves high-profile, and I had not less that 4 brides-to-be, or mother-in-laws to be, ask me if they could bring trees in for a wedding. Yeah, no. So I am grateful that Meghan and Harry made more sensible choices. I wouldn’t have any problem endorsing any of their decisions if a bride or groom wanted them at Holy Communion.
- You want to hire a gospel choir: by all means.
- You want a brilliant young cellist to serenade you: by all means.
- You want to forego a big bridal party and have a bunch of cute kids chase after your train: absolutely.
- You want to showcase the diversity of the community, to expand our sense of who we are as a congregation: by all means.
- You want to invite Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to give the homily: let me step out of the way.
I’m not quite sure the Royal Family knew what they were in for, inviting our Bishop Michael Curry to give that sermon. When I was in seminary there was a legend about a sermon Michael Curry preached in the pulpit of our chapel. The chapel had an old pulpit with an old wooden desk, like this one. Apparently Michael Curry was so animated, so forceful in that particular sermon that at one point he tore the old wooden desk right off the pulpit. He only stopped long enough to hand it over to an acolyte and kept on preaching.
I will step out of the way in a heartbeat for our presiding bishop. Every time I’ve heard him preach, yesterday especially, it has been like watching a master class in homiletics. The whole world got to hear about the Gospel, the Good News of God’s life-giving love from our presiding bishop and preacher-in-chief.
To those of us who hear from him with some regularity, there weren’t many surprises in his sermon. In part he talked about the “Jesus Movement.” He said, “Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history. A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. And a movement mandating people to live and love and in so doing, to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.” God so loved the world.
An outpost of the Jesus Movement
I dare to say, Holy Communion is an outpost for the Jesus Movement. We may not be Windsor Castle or the National Cathedral, but we are an outpost, here in University City in the St. Louis metropolitan area. This congregation stands and serves and resources Jesus’ movement for justice, for service, and yes, for love. That movement is here.
I want to tell you just one little story about how I know Jesus’ movement is alive and well and changing lives here. A little more than a year ago Corrine Lamberson, the mother of Pierce Jr. who we are baptizing today, got home from a long deployment with the military in the Middle East. Corrine and her husband Pierce had joined the congregation just a few months before she deployed. Throughout her time away we prayed for Corrine during the prayers of the people on Sundays at church. Corrine had asked for our prayers, it was not an easy deployment.
Not long after Corrine got back, and if I’m not mistaken, before she had made it to church on a Sunday, she was spotted by Tawny Jackson-Whitlock, who knew her just a little bit because they both worship here on Sundays, and they tend to hang out in the back pews. Tawny saw her across a parking lot and made a b-line for her. “You’re Corrine Lamberson aren’t you?” she asked. When Corrine said yes, Tawny gave her a big hug and said, “We’ve been praying for you. Welcome home.”
Not a big story, and I’m probably embarrassing them both by telling the story, but here is why I say this is evidence that Jesus’ movement for love is alive and well. Corrine and Pierce weren’t long time members of Holy Communion at the time. Heck, Corrine hadn’t even been confirmed as an Episcopalian yet. They didn’t feel like they knew many people, but when someone she worshiped with on Sundays came and found her, hugged her and said, “we’ve been praying for you. Welcome home” it didn’t feel strange. It felt right in the character of this Holy Commotion of a place. It felt right. Corrine knew there was something different going on. Here in this place, they were both part of something bigger, something that mattered. This is a movement for love.
We are making a difference
This is a movement for love, and we are making a difference. I have to take just a moment to say thank you to members of this congregation. Many of you made phone calls, sent emails, even wrote letters to our Missouri legislature this session. We were working against the so-called “guns everywhere” legislation, that would have expanded Missouri’s conceal-carry automatically into houses of worship, into college campuses, and in day cares. People could have come in with concealed weapons. You stood with religious leaders from across our State, and I heard yesterday that the legislature finished its session without passing that dangerous proposed law.
This is a small incremental step, but it’s an important one. If we are going to build on this win. If we are going to build a coalition of people of faith who will stand together for love, for justice. We also need to take time celebrate the victories, and we won this day. Justice won. Love won. When we continue to hear about shootings, while our gun laws still do not protect enough of God’s children, we have to celebrate the wins, and we have to build momentum. Thank you for continuing to stand for sensible gun reform. You won this one. Keep the faith.
Today we will initiate Pierce Lamberson Jr. into this movement for love, for justice. We will baptize him with water, and mark him with Holy Oil, a sign of the Spirit’s anointing.
Today we will also give thanks for the Baptism earlier this Spring of Maya Luna Freedle. Maya Luna was baptized in the Polish Catholic tradition of her mother’s family, and we count that baptism. We believe in one baptism in this church. We may be painfully divided at times, but baptism is a sign of our deep spiritual unity. We share one baptism. We know we are sisters and brothers, siblings with all God’s children. So we will also welcome Maya Luna as one of the newly baptized here at Holy Communion.
Today, together we will reaffirm the promises of our baptism. After we make the confession of faith, we will make five commitments in the Baptismal Covenant. We promise to continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship. We promise to gather around this table to break bread, and to say our prayers. We promise WHEN we fall into sin (notice, not if, but when), when we fall into sin we will repent and return to the Lord. All of us are in need of grace. All of us miss the mark sometimes. And God promises us all redemption when we mess up. God is with you, no matter what you’ve done. We promise to repent and to give thanks to proclaim God’s Good News, in our acts of love and with our words.
We make two final promises in that list. You might want to tear this bit out of your bulletin, and put it up on the mirror you see every morning. We promise to seek and serve Christ in ALL persons, ALL persons, loving our neighbor as ourself. And we promise to strive for justice and peace among All people, and respect the dignity of every human being, every human being. That is the heart of the movement, those commitments. We serve Christ in All People. We respect the dignity of every human being and we work for justice, peace, and love.
The message of Pentecost:
That is the message of Pentecost friends. God’s Spirit descends that ALL God’s people might hear the good news, that ALL God’s people, the Parthians, the Medes, the Elamites and the residents of Cappadocia, that the Koreans, the Mexicans, the Mexico-Americanos, the descendants of enslaved and free Africans and even the Anglo-Americans might know they are redeemed, they are forgiven, they are loved. Folks of every tribe and language and people and nation. God’s children of every orientation, and gender expression, and ability, and age, and skin color, and ethnicity, and race. All God’s children, all of them are to know God’s saving, redeeming love. That is the movement of the Holy Spirit, that is the Jesus movement. God’s movement is a movement for love, for justice, for honesty and for equity.
All people are welcome. All are invited into the movement. All people are invited, inspired by God’s life-giving spirit. All are empowered to do great work on behalf of the movement. So abide in that love, preach from that love, share from that love, work from that love of God. Wherever this world takes you, whether to this outpost of the Jesus movement or to another, as our Presiding Bishop would say. God love you, God bless you, and Keep the faith! Amen.