Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spiritual energy put to work

The other day I passed a convoy of trucks driving north on Route 33 towards the Poconos. Each flatbed truck had a huge white piece of machinery on it. Soon I realized that these trucks were carrying the finished parts for a huge wind-turbine…we used to say wind mill. If you drive south out of Wilkes-Barre, you catch a glimpse of a few of these huge white propellers on towers that slowly turn producing electricity. Amazing, isn’t it? We can take the energy of the wind and turn into electricity.

Everyone is talking about energy…where to get it and how to use it. When I filled up my car the other day, I was aware that the cost of energy has gone up. I notice that there a few homes and businesses around that use the energy of the sun to heat or cool their buildings or make electricity of both.

One thing that separates humans from other creatures is that we are pretty good harnessing energy. One of our ancestors took the potential energy in wood and turned into a campfire for cooking. Someone first harnessed the energy of the wind to sail a ship or used a rushing river to turn a wheel to grind grain into wheat or drive a loom for cloth. We’ve unlocked energy from gas or coal to make things go. Now we’ve come full circle, with these great wind turbines that use the wind to make electricity.

Energy is all around us. The challenge for us is how to put it to work.

We have three pictures of Pentecost today. In one, we see potential spiritual energy. In another we see spiritual energy put to work. And in another we hear about the engine that makes it all go “vroom!”

In the Gospel of John, the disciples are in the upper room on that first Easter evening, and the Risen Jesus gives them the breath of the Holy Spirit and the authority to use it. That’s the first picture.

In Acts, we see the second image. The disciples along with other people from throughout the world were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost when “Fiery tongues appeared on them, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit." The Spirit ignited a new movement and a new people. The energy of the spirit was released and suddenly these people had power to overcome the former languages of division and competition with a new language of God's love and Spirit. The potential energy of the spirit was released and the church was born.

One of the most ancient hymns of the church goes like this, "Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire...and lighten with celestial fire." It is a prayer that the energy released on that first Pentecost day might continue to burn within the church. It is a prayer that God's spirit will continue in each of us and in the whole Body of Christ, so that we might live our faith with zest and commitment and do the work of mission boldly and imaginatively.

All the time, everyday Christians in everyday places are turning the potential spiritual energy we all have into amazing acts of courage, hope, and compassion that makes a real difference in the lives of people and communities. All of us can take the wind and fire of the Spirit that is burning in us—that started in our faith and baptism and is fed and banked as we practice the sacramental life—and put it to work guiding, inspiring, directing, renewing, advocating, re-making us in the very likeness of God, bringing mercy and compassion and hope to God’s people everywhere.

And that brings us to today’s third image of Pentecost in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians. Here we learn what makes the whole thing go “vroom!” What makes the potential energy of John’s Gospel become the spiritual work of that first Pentecost in Acts is this turbine called the Body of Christ. “There are varieties of gifts,” Paul teaches, “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.” We are what God uses to turn spiritual energy into God’s work, and we are the ones whom God uses to make the lights go on in people’s lives.

Today is another busy day in the life of Trinity Church…a day that shows us how the wind of the Holy Spirit has turned the turbine of this parish to on lights in people’s lives. In a few minutes, we will give thanks to God for the leadership of Mike and Dotty Viglione who for over ten years chaired our Mission and Outreach committee and helped make this parish a remarkable powerhouse of compassion and imagination. With their faithful, prayerful leadership Trinity has come to be known as a place of caring and hope, where the potential spiritual energy of many in this parish is unlocked in ways that have made a real positive difference in the lives of people in Easton, in the diocese and around the world.

We will give thanks for the ministry of our choir who have in their prayer, their hard work and dedication enriched our worship and opened the creative, musical and poetic heart of God for many of us. So often this year, I have heard stories--and some of you have told me of stories you've heard or experienced-- of people whose hearts have been warmed in that strange way of the Holy Spirit and drawn people into closer relationship with God and each other in Christ.

And today we use for the first time two new chalices bought with All Saints Funds in memory of Helga Farrell who died and entered the larger life a year and a half ago. This gift will beautify our worship and tangibly feed and nourish us sacramentally. The potential energy of memory and story and will be weekly unleashed as God’s people are fed and nurtured and sent into the world renewed.

And that’s not all: Today groups will gather to continue work towards the fall bazaar and another group will plan next year’s children’s chapel. We have completed another Unbinding the Gospel group, with people who have discovered new ways to pray, and have shared their faith stories with one another. We are getting ready for a very active Heritage Day. This summer the Property Committee, led by Andrew Brodt—a Boy Scout working for the rank of Eagle—will renovate and repair the choir room. And there is so much more.

In these and many other ways, we show that what Paul told the Christians in Corinth is true: we have a variety of gifts, activated by the Holy Spirit to build up the body of Christ. This is how the real power of the Holy Spirit is unlocked and becomes new vision, new energy and new hope.

The ancient prayer is still "Come Holy Spirit, our souls inspire and lighten with celestial fire...." We all have in us the energy, the power of the Holy Spirit. The Risen Jesus breathed on the disciples on that first Easter and gave them the Holy Spirit. That same spirit comes to us and is sealed in us at baptism. But our prayer is that this spiritual energy will be unleashed. We yearn for God’s power to be let loose and light up our hearts and all creation, and make a real difference in the world. It turns out that God has a turbine, an engine, to make that work real and alive. We, the body of Christ, are the ones whom God uses to let loose God’s energy and make it all go “vroom!”

Pentecost, Year A: Acts 2:1-13, I Cor. 12:3b-13; John 20:18-23

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