May 31 : Acts 2 & 1 Corinthians 12

Part I

PreludeYou’ll Never Walk AloneChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession
Prayer
Pastor Linda
PsalmHarry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReadingActs 2: 1-4
1 Corinthians: 12: 1, 4-27
Pastor Linda

Part II

SermonPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionBarb Kass
BlessingPastor Linda
HymnSpirit of Gentleness
#396
Chris Johansen, piano

Confession & Forgiveness

It has been one of those weeks.

  • The COVID-19 virus infection rate is rising daily in our county, state, and region even as it and the death rate is finally dropping in New York City.
  • George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer – caught on film from several angles and camera sources. The officer kneeling on the back of George’s neck was aided by two other officers, watched over by a fourth while he pleaded for breath. “I can’t breathe, officer. I can’t breathe.”  We heard his last anguished breaths.
  • In response to yet another tragic, baseless, horrific death of a man of color at white oppressor’s hands, the city erupted in mournful protest. “Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears…” Is the world about to turn?
  • Organized, mainly white agitators and anarchists took advantage of justifiable rage and grief, escalating the protests to fiery chaos and destruction of community businesses and communal property for their own ends.
  • Protests spread across the country. Every city, every heart knowing the truth of its own prejudice, its own mistreatment, negligence, mistrust of neighbors of different race or ethnicity or faith.

And still, the robins begin singing in the dark at 4:25 every morning. Flicks of flighted color, snatches of song fill the woodlands and meadows. Plants in gardens are growing by inches every day. The kids who moved in across from the parsonage late last fall are out screaming and laughing, dogs barking as they play. Loons and geese and owls and frogs echo over the evening lake. It’s the glory days of early summer. Growth and grace and golden sun and weeds and lawn mowers and boats and wonder.

In spite of our communal pause to distance and isolate, the world is racing on ahead in nature, in politics, in the consequences of our acts of omission and commission.

  • And so we stop this morning to look inside, to consider well the life we lead, the lies we live, the truth of sin that astounds, and confounds and convicts us; the loving grace of God that claims and sustains us.

And we pray: Lord have mercy.

We are good people, mostly. We live lives of integrity and kindness, generally. We get along with each other, uphold one another in prayer and thought, want the best for our neighbor and community. Yet we know, “It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.” Excuse the pronouns, it’s a quote from1916, attributed to the Reverend Charles Frederic Aked. Are we, in the safety of our isolation, allowing the oppression and hatred and fear to spread? Or is there a need for the good to stay grounded, aware, supportive, quietly holding onto the life we value – harbingers of hope and peace?

  • And so we stop this morning to look inside, to consider well the life we lead, the lies we live, the truth of sin that astounds, and confounds and convicts us, the loving grace of God that claims and sustains us.

And we pray: Christ have mercy.

It is not wrong to see and appreciate and glory in the beauty that surrounds us. This is God’s creative gift of love. It is not wrong to hold our loved ones tight, to pray for those known to us, cherished, worried over. They are of our hearts. It is not wrong to look for the good we may do in our small realms, within ourselves, to mount our prayers on eagle’s wings while staying safe and close. There are many gifts and many callings and our best work is to discern and use our gifts for the kingdom of God to flourish.

  • And so we stop this morning to look inside, to consider well the life we lead, the lies we live, the truth of sin that astounds, and confounds and convicts us, the loving grace of God that claims and sustains us.

And we pray: Lord have mercy. Amen.


Prayer of the Day

       Rush upon us.

Overtake and consume us, O Holy Fire, until divisions turn to dusty ashes and walls of pride collapse.

       Spill out over us.

Surround and overwhelm us, O Satisfying Fountain, until we lavish love’s richness never measuring the cost.

        Dance among us.

Well up and erupt within us, O Living Word, until our tongues know words of peace, our hands work deeds of love, and our souls sing your praise. Amen. Amen. Amen.


Scripture

Acts 2:1-4

 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.

1 Corinthians 12:1,4-27

And from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. …There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But all of these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

            For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

            Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be?

            20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this.

            But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

            27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The word of the Lord….thanks be to God.

Sermon

Linda Rozumalski

The Corinthians were not a unified body of believers. There was a lot of diversity – age, race, prior religious practices, socio-economic status. There were Jews and pagans, slave and free, male and female, young and old – all together in this new religious community, hemmed in, pressurized by the Roman Empire.

And now we hear that they were ablaze with the Holy Spirit – given gifts willy nilly, covering the whole gamut of spiritual gifts. This broad range of spiritual manifestations in Corinth was to demonstrate the power of God – not to dazzle outsiders with their insider specialness. It was to unify people in the midst of diversity, to show that all were one within God’s whole. It was to make obvious what they, and we, find so difficult to believe – that differences, uniqueness, particularities of language, color, attitudes, personalities, politics, gender, understanding, insight, ability are intentional in God’s design. We are not meant to be homogeneous. Therefore, we are not meant to be in competition. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…” We are meant to be cooperative – each difference and divergence lending color, depth, skill, beauty, integrity, joy to the whole. God distributes separate gifts, all activated by one and the same Spirit, allotted to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Something pops out each time I read this passage. I think it is important:  “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. [Well, that’s one thing. Remember that bit.] To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge, to another faith, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles…” Did you catch it? To some are given the gift of faith…  just to some within the body of Christ….. isn’t that interesting? Others are given wisdom, or knowledge, or healing but they/we/ members of the body of Christ – don’t all have faith! …but still all are members of the cosmic body of Christ. All gifts for the common good.

So that raises a question about the body of Christ. I always assumed it was the communion of saints – everyone who is a Christian in the whole world in all of time… and also then, smaller groupings form representing that communion – denominations or traditions or theological clumps that take shape as hands or knees.

But reading this I’m wondering if I’ve assumed too small, too narrow, too privileged a view of the body of Christ – and of course I have. I’ve figured it’s made up of people like me, Christians like me, believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord…. Because we can’t really believe what we read in the Bible, right? – that the good tidings of Jesus’ birth were to all people, that Christ died once and for all people, that God loved the whole world, that Jesus said this bread is my body given for you and for all people so that we might have life in his name.

We say or hear those words and still think, “Well, yes,  it says “all,” but it really means “all – who are Christians just like me,” right?  We can’t seem to let go of the limiting parameters and allow God’s grace to go willy nilly wherever God chooses. Which is why there’s a disco ball embedded in the sermon. That’s my better image for the Holy Spirit – dancing out in all directions, showering gifts “just as the Spirit chooses,” as Paul wrote.

What if we’re told about this diversity of people and diversity of gifts because that’s how God works in saving the whole world – all people – not just Christians, but all people regardless of creed or religion or status or goodness…

What if that’s the body of Christ? Broken, wounded, betrayed, disparate, whole, redeemed. All people – good, bad, religious, nonbelievers – that Christ/God is in and over and through every single person…  and only to some is faith given, or knowledge to discern, or wisdom. Only some care about God or worship Christ, but all are still part of the redemption of the whole. Herd redemption.

“The Word of God in Christ is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity: Verditas. This Word manifests itself in every creature,” said Hildegard of Bingen, 900 years ago.       Would it make us glad –  or miffed – if that saving Spirit is truly all in all, and not reserved – if the rules for God’s discernment are something we can never imagine or have eyes to see?

“Well, okay,” you may be thinking,” but so what?” The so what is that churches typically spend a lot of time and effort wondering how to get more people to come be like us – that’s the basis of evangelism. “Hear this Good News of God in Christ given for you, and practice your faith in this way, our way.” What if, instead, we spent a little bit of time inviting people to come be like us, but spent most of our time wondering what God was already doing in these other lives, in the left elbow of Christ’s body or the Right big toe?

What is God already up to in our neighbors – in the neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in tribal land, Somali or Mexican communities in our region? What gifts do they manifest? Where is the Spirit of God giving breath that we snuff out of black and brown bodies? What are we missing?

What if the whole world – in all its secular and spiritual and diverse ways – is already acting out of the body of Christ? And our job – our mission if we are to accept it – we who were given the gift of faith or discernment or imagining – is to be using our gifts to interpret theirs. Instead of expecting them to become like us, what if we begin looking at them expecting to see God grinning back at us, wondering why it took so long for those with eyes, to see.

The Holy Spirit is not about to be tamed and if we keep trying to limit the activity to those most like ourselves, then we’re going to be missing most of what God is up to and only seeing what looks familiar. And that, it seems, would be missing most of the wonder of God’s design.

The Spirit of God moves among us and lifts and consoles, enlightens and inspires, but not for our sakes. God’s love is not an emotion, it’s a present reality that has ongoing effects, that splashes out of whatever container we might try to keep it in, that flashes around the room to a heart-pounding beat.

In Corinth and at West Denmark, the manifestations of the Spirit transforms and ignites conviction that changes people’s lives. Its purpose is aimed outward into and through that mystical body of Christ, not inward toward preservation or prestige of the community or individual members. Paul’s goal is not to create a tidy community, but a loving one infecting and effecting change in the world outside of itself.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the body of Christ is cosmic – for the whole of God’s people and not just for Christians (if indeed that’s true, as I believe it is) … Jesus didn’t teach and heal and feed and choose the insiders, he lived and worked outside to bring the outsiders home, to bring them in and give them a feast, and send them out again with the gospel – the good news of God that life-bathing redemption had come, that God was on the move.

There are as many spiritual gifts even in this small congregation as there are members, and it might do us good to take a few moments to pause and consider them so we know what to look for when we see our neighbors and the world.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.… God has so arranged the body, that members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it……..  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”


Blessing

May the love of God afflict you. May the love of God convict you. May the love of God compel you and console you, and give you strength and hope and joy in good measure.

Be well. All manner of things shall be well.


Spirit of Gentleness

Refrain
Spirit, Spirit of gentleness,
blow through the wilderness
calling and free;
Spirit, Spirit of restlessness,
stir me from placidness,
wind, wind on the sea

You moved on the waters,
you called to the deep,
then you coaxed up the mountains
from the valleys of sleep;
and over the eons
you called to each thing:
“Awake from your slumbers
and rise on your wings.”
Refrain

You swept through the desert,
you stung with the sand,
and you goaded your people
with a law and a land;
and when they were blinded
with idols and lies,
then you spoke through your prophets
to open their eyes.
Refrain

You sang in a stable,
you cried from a hill,
then you whispered in silence
when the whole world was still;
and down in the city
you called once again,
when you blew through your peiople
on the rush of the wind.
Refrain

You call from tomorrow,
you break ancient schemes.
From the bondage of sorrow
all the captives dream dreams;
our women see visions,
our men clear their eyes.
With bold new decisions
your people arise.
Refrain

Text & Music: James K. Manley