DATE: 24 May 2015TO: LakeView Congregational Church, UCC
TITLE: Behold… rewriting Love Letters
Greetings to you, LakeView Congregational, today is the beginning of a new relationship between us! Manantial de Gracia and LakeView Congregational after a time of standing still, fervent prayer, and many visits between our pastors we entered into an intentional covenanted relationship between or congregations…in 2012 we became sister churches. And today, Pentecost Sunday 2015, we enter the third year of our relationship!
Happy Sunday Church!!! Happy Day of Pentecost!!! Blessings to each of us on this day!
Your Pastor has asked me to be with you for the next few weeks, so I am looking forward to getting to know you all in a new way! But, today I want to commence our new relationship by bringing you greetings on behalf of your sister congregation, Manantial de Gracia and our Pastora, Rev. Dr. Maritza Angulo de Gonzales (or as I call her, Pastora Mami). I bring you greetings on behalf of Andover Newton Theological School where your Pastor Roberto and I have been concentrating hard on our studies and where I am now a recent graduate. It is with a sense of pride and responsibility that I have just completed my time as Student Association Vice President, a position that Pastor Robert will be taking over in the fall. And, I would be remiss if I failed to greet you on behalf of The Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, NC where I have learned in a physical way what it means to harvest God’s overflowing bounty.
I greet you and thank you for welcoming all of who I am, and all of who I have been.
Today is Pentecost Sunday; it is the day when the church color is changed to red.
Today we recognize and remember the descending fire of the Holy Spirit resting among the gathered disciples. And today we become those disciples. The Holy Spirit rests among us and we acknowledge it.
This is something that is written in the Christian text, found in the Book of Acts 2:1-6
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”
As a person who is interested in Interfaith dialogue, I wondered if the Holy Spirit was present in Jewish tradition, according to the Book of Exodus 3: 1-6 (Revelation of the Torah – Law)
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up. When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, a the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”
In each of these moments, these Pentecost Moments, there is a common thread…GOD IS DOING A NEW THING! That does not mean that God’s mind has been changed, or that the thing that happened before was not of God, but rather… a new thing is happening.
Last week I was at a gathering of the Connecticut Conference where our Conference Minister, Rev. Kent Saladi shared his message on Pentecost. Rev. Kent likened Pentecost with birth, saying that it led to concern and nervousness, and that like the time leading to a new birth, Pentecost must feel unpredictable…
I think he brings up a very valid point. Any time that we are in the presence of the Divine in a way that feels utterly different than the “mundane” existence to which we are accustomed, life as we know it ceases to be…
See, Kent shared three moments in the history of our denomination where the birth of something new could be felt in a palpable way:
1. The Birth of Jesus Christ
2. The Resurection
3. The Creation and Birth of the United Church of Christ
Each of these moments was earth shattering, altering reality
But rather than take you through those birthing pangs, I want to remind you, of those mundane, every day moments when God is with us. See, they are signs of new life. So let’s return to that Acts reading. In it we hear that the senses seem overwhelmed by a change in the atmosphere:
1. There is a sound like the rushing of a violent wind (and it filled the house) – Wind in Hebrew and Greek is associated with spirit.
2. There is the image of fire, which is considered a link to Judgment
3. And then, finally, there is the metaphor of tongues, which gives credence to the manifestation of Divine power in inspired speech.
Each of these things taken at face value are common, every day items in our life! Wind, fire, speech. Think about it. The wind is always doing something. Just yesterday it was blowing my hat right off my head. And fire, what is so special about that? I guess, without fire’s heat, we would be unable to enjoy grilling this weekend! And tongues… (lol) really, I couldn’t rrrroll my rrrr’s too clearly without one!
Common every day things. Mundane even.
God has gifted each one of those things to many of us…but it is in the way that we use them that we can show the world how awesome our God is! Imagine if we were a prayerful people. A people who listened for God’s resounding voice in the world around us. Imagine the wind of change that we might together be able to breathe onto this world. Imagine if the depth of our passions could be used to ignite the world around us to be everything God had intended. Imagine if rather than speaking negativity into the world around us, we spoke truth and light?
Reverend Kent Saladi shared last week that the measurable matrix of a congregations success should not be the number of people in the pews or the dollar amount in the offering plate, but rather the places and ways in which we impact the community around us.
So here is my charge to you: Let us together write a Love Letter. For some of us, this might be a new letter, for other’s it will be a rewrite of one we started long ago.
But, this love letter will be different. We will write it together over the next few weeks. I invite you to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to love this community.
Isaiah 43: 16-19
This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: [God said] “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
BEHOLD…HE IS DOING A NEW THING!
Please remain seated through the Benediction, and join us for a Time to Share and Care:
As you leave this place:
May the Living God go with you,
Behind you, to encourage you,
Beside you, to befriend you,
Above you, to watch over you,
Beneath you, to lift you from your sorrows,
Within you, to give you the gifts of faith, hope, and love,
And always before you, to show you the way.
[And all in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit]
benediction – blair monie