Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sermon; Pentecost 2016

From the time Jesus began gathering his disciples, whether pulling them from their fishing boats or picking them up from John the Baptist, up to and including the various resurrection stories strewn around the gospels, Jesus has been working to teach and train his disciples on what it means to be in relationship with God, and what it looks like to work for the spreading of the kingdom.  This could be said of ourselves as well – through the example we have of Jesus we are learning what it means to be in relationship with God and what it looks like to work for the spreading of the kingdom.

In the last two weeks of Easter that preparation became crystal clear.  Two weeks ago we heard from the first part of the Farewell Discourse.  In the arc of the gospel story, Jesus was preparing the disciples for his imminent arrest, crucifixion, and death.  In the arc of our liturgical calendar, we were being prepared for his imminent departure through his ascension to the Father.  In both cases he reminds the disciples and us that we will be left behind, but we will not be left alone.  He lets us all know that he will send the Holy Spirit to us, his own first gift for those who believe.

The following Thursday was the Day of Ascension.  That was the day we were truly left behind.  That was the day when we realized he wasn't kidding and that we were now in charge of fulfilling his mission and ministry.  That was the day we were told to stop gawking up to heaven and get to work.  That was the day we became apostles.

And then last week we heard again from the Farewell Discourse, but this time it was from the end of that monologue.  As I said then, the focus there was not on separation but on unity.  For the disciples, Jesus was reminding them that they needed to remain unified in the difficult days ahead.  For us, we are reminded that it is in our unity with each other and with God that we dwell in each other, we dwell in God, and they dwell in us.  It is in our unity that we will be able to better work for the mission and ministry of Jesus and the church, and to live as if the kingdom is already upon us.

The trajectory of these last three Sundays, Easter 6, Easter 7, and today, Pentecost, is to remind us that we have been left behind.  It's there to remind us that the mission and ministry of Jesus is now in our hands.  It's to remind us that we have graduated from discipleship to apostleship.

That doesn't mean that we quit being disciples, because there is still much to learn and emulate.  But it does mean that we are not only followers but we are also leaders.  It means that we are not only students, we are also teachers.  And for those who have taught any subject, it's a truism that you become the biggest student of that subject because no teacher wants to look stupid.  So, yes, we have become learners and teachers, disciples and apostles.

So if Ascension is the day we graduate from discipleship to apostleship, then today is the day we get our teaching certificate.  Today is the day we are appointed and commissioned to go forth and spread the good news of the kingdom of God.  Today is the day we are gifted with the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who will be with us always.

We don't necessarily have to be like Peter and the apostles who began speaking in tongues and added about 3000 people to their number.  But you do need to realize that on this day the Holy Spirit has come upon you, officially recognized you as an apostle of Christ Jesus, and commissioned you to go forth and share the good news of God in Christ.

I know what some of you might be thinking:  I can't do that; I'm not comfortable sharing my story; Even though you said it, I don't have any such teaching certificate from the Holy Spirit or the church.

First . . . Yes, you can do this because you have received the Holy Spirit and that's all the authority you need.

Second, nobody said being an apostle of Christ was going to be comfortable.  In fact, it is probably the most uncomfortable thing you will ever do.

Third . . . thanks to the local Dollar Store, I happen to have your Diplomas, Certificate's of Excellence, and Super Student awards right here.

You have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit as apostles of Christ.  You have been gifted with the Holy Spirit who will lead you and guide you into all truth.  And like the Scarecrow who had brains but was uncomfortable using them until awarded a degree by the Wizard, you have now been awarded certificates.  You have graduated from disciples to apostles.

You are now officially sent out into the world, to love and serve God as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.  Go forth and proclaim.



spookyrach | 11:28 AM, May 17, 2016  

Ah, the Dollar Store...elevating humanity since 1991(ish). :D

What is all this talk of responsibility and discomfort? I thought there was a rose garden we'd been promised? Yes?

Reverend Ref + | 12:08 PM, May 17, 2016  

Yes, you were promised a rose garden. But never forget that that rose garden comes with its fair share of thorns.

spookyrach | 5:46 PM, May 18, 2016  

Always the fine print...

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