Hello and Happy Belated Memorial Day! We had a wonderful weekend at the church. So much to talk about and such little time. If you follow me on instagram, you know that in the midst of a crazy church weekend, Bruce and I decided to stain the deck at the parsonage. Bruce also managed to catch his first keeper striped bass of the year, which set him and his friends off on a fishing frenzy, resulting in him catching one of the biggest fish I have ever seen and getting approximately 5 hours of sleep in three days. I need a holiday weekend to get over the holiday weekend.
Here is my Pentecost sermon! We worship outdoors on Memorial Day Weekend, so I wasn’t able to do a big Pentecost altarscape or installation at the church, but I did make wands and we baked a cake. So … there’s that.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
May 24, 2015
10 Reasons I’m Happy The Church Was Born
Today is Pentecost Sunday, a day when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit to the world. Today is Pentecost Sunday, a day when we celebrate the birth of our Church almost 2,000 years ago. Today is Pentecost Sunday, a day when we look around and lift up the ways that the Holy Spirit continues to work within our lives today.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, a day when Christians all around the world essentially have a worshipful, red-covered, spirit-filled birthday party honoring this Church and this faith that sustains our lives and our communities and gives us hope for a better world.
I was at a 60th birthday party last year and at the party there was a giant board that had 60 slots on it with blank pieces of paper in it. The top of the board said, “60 Reasons We’re Happy [this person] Was Born.” During the party we all took the blank pieces of paper off the board and wrote down why we were happy the birthday boy was born and then read them during dinner. It was a wonderful celebration of his life and his stories and the impact he has had personally on all of our lives.
So I thought it fitting – being the church’s birthday and all – that I make my own list of the reasons why I am glad this church – the Christian Church – was born 2,000 years ago.
So settle in, 2,000 reasons are going to take a while.
(That was a joke.)
1. The Church is a place where the Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives today.
The Pentecost story is a story about ordinary people being filled by the Holy Spirit and being moved to do extraordinary things.
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them that ability.
This is still happening in our lives today! We may not be speaking in tongues, but every single day the Holy Spirit works within us – all of us – and enables us to do extraordinary things. Are lives are rich, are meaningful and are made whole because of this spirit.
2. The Church is a place that is rich in diverse ideas and opinions. This not only opens my eyes to new things, but also teaches me about the things that I believe in.
From the very beginning, God created us to be unique and diverse people and this is what happened in the Pentecost story. According to scripture, people were filled with the spirit and then all spoke different languages.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
We celebrate the diversity in the Church then and we should celebrate that same diversity in our Church today. This diversity encourages us to be individuals, but it also teaches us how to be a community without hatred and judgment.
3. The Church is a place with the most incredible community.
Sometimes I wish you all could spend a day in my shoes and see just how caring and compassionate this church community is. The way people care for one another is truly an act of God’s grace.
Think about it: What would our lives be like if we did not have a community that prayed with one another, rejoiced with one another and cried with one another? What would our lives be like if we did not have a community that brought us cards, meals and flowers when we were going through a rough time? What would our lives be like if we did not have a community that is constantly asking, “How can we help you?” What would our lives be like if we did not have a safe and nurturing environment for our children to grow up in? What would our lives be like if we did not have a community full of people who call their pastor at all hours of the day and night because they saw the ambulance at someone’s house?
What would our lives be like if we did not have an amazing Church community that we could share those lives with?
I am grateful that the Church was born because, what would I do without my Church family?
4. The Church is a place where I can be vulnerable.
Having a bad day? Come to church and the Church will not care if you are a hot mess and do not feel like smiling. Need to have a good cry? Come to church and the Church will cry with you. Going through a challenging time in your life? Come to church and the Church will support you. Questioning something in your life? Come to church and the Church will listen to and affirm your questions.
The Church is a place where you can be broken, scared and hopeless and still welcomed, loved and cared for.
5. The Church is a place where I can learn the difference between right and wrong.
We have this incredible book full of ancient scriptures and traditions that teach us the difference between right and wrong. The Church gives us a strong foundation in our lives and – most importantly – the Church gives our children and youth a strong foundation in their lives. The Church is a place where we can learn from past mistakes, where we can learn from our own mistakes. This may not always be easy, but the Church gives us a moral compass that is always pointing towards God.
6. The Church is a place where healing can happen.
I do not know how and I do not know why, but I know that healing happens in this place – physical healing, mental healing, emotional healing and spiritual healing.
The Pentecost story records that Peter said:
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
We are saved. In this Church, we are blessed children of God and we are saved. Something happens within us when we trust in God’s purpose and when we live our lives surrendering to our faith.
We are saved. We are healed. We are free.
7. The Church is a place where grace and reconciliation is real.
We are part of a Church that came to be because God’s love was so strong that not even death could overcome it. God’s love is still just as strong today and it is working within us and among us to bring light in the midst of darkness and peace where war seems inevitable.
The Church is a place where forgiveness is always possible. The church is a place where even something broken into a million pieces can be made whole again. The church is a place where relationships can be mended, where grace can be assured and where hope is always present.
8. The Church is a place where I can worship freely.
Can we worship God without an organized Church? Absolutely. But the Church gives us a safe place where we can worship and learn, week after week. The Church gives us a little bit of structure that helps us learn and grow and stretches us to worship in new ways. The Church gives us an outlet where we can share our story and where we can hear others share theirs. The Church creates a space where we can sing off key, pray without words, simultaneously laugh and cry and wrestle with challenging and real issues in the company of a supportive and loving community.
9. The church is a place where I can live out a higher purpose.
One of my biggest fears used to be that I would leave this earth without accomplishing what I was put on this earth to do. But the further I get into vocational ministry, the more I realize that as long as I am part of the Church that will never happen.
This morning’s scripture quotes the prophet Joel:
In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
The Church is a place where we can constantly discern what God is calling us to do. The Church is a place that has resources and support that can help us serve our community – and the world – in a new way. The Church is a place where we can all serve together. The church is a place where our lives can have meaning.
10. The church is a place where – no matter where I am on my journey through life – I am home and I am safe and I am loved.
When Bruce and I lived in Atlanta, our church – Pilgrimage United Church of Christ in Marietta, Georgia – became our home. We were 1,000 miles away from our family and this church became family.
They celebrated our engagement and our marriage. They encouraged me as a student intern, supported me when I was completing a difficult chaplaincy rotation and surprised me with a handmade stole from all of them the day I was ordained. They welcomed Bruce into the choir. We ran together, played softball together, spent Christmas together and we all cried together when it was time for us to move north.
Our journeys through life will take us through many different places and experiences but the one constant in all of it is God’s presence in our lives. The Church is a tangible reminder of that truth.
I, for one, am grateful that the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church so many years ago. It may not be perfect, but it is full of God’s grace in some of the most unexpected ways and places. I am grateful for those who worked so hard to ensure that the Church would still be around for me to be part of and today I challenge all of us to work hard so that it will still around for the generations that will follow us.
As you celebrate Pentecost today I invite you to reflect on the reasons that you are glad the Church was born. Why is the church important to you? How has the church changed your life?
Pentecost blessings, my friends! May you be filled with the Holy Spirit and feel a power greater than anything we could ever understand on earth.
Thanks be to God!