A Sermon for the Feast of the Pentecost–May 31, 2020 The Rev. Warren Hicks

A Sermon for Day of Pentecost
May 31, 2020—The Rev. Warren Hicks
Year A
After not speaking to you from this space in some 12 weeks, or 84 days, or 2032 hours, and roughly 125,000 minutes, I’m back where I feel like I belong.
I suspect that, like me, you all might take some comfort in seeing worship happen in a space consecrated for that express and specific purpose. That being said, we all know that something is missing. Or, more accurately, someone is missing. In fact, there are a passel of somones missing. Who knows who ‘they’ are?
We know who we are and, I hope, by the time I’ve finishing this sermon our curiosity about and care for ‘whoever they are’ might be whetted and kindled, respectively.
Further I hope you will begin to understand Pentecost in a fresh way and help it take its rightful place alongside Christmas and Easter as one of the three major feasts of the Church Year.
As I see it, today is an important, symbolic step in us getting back to are more regular and recognizable way of doing worship and being in the world. These two main areas both represent ways in which we respond to God’s action in the world and, correspondingly make that response matter for the work of building/revealing/restoring the Kingdom of God.
The creation is indeed ongoing and by virtue of our baptism you and I have not only been invited into the mission of God but we have been co-missioned with God to participate in the co-creation of the Kingdom of God which is central to God’s vision for the New Jerusalem where the lion and the lamb lie down together and the child plays over the adder’s nest.
Whether we are preparing to resume in person worship or resume our feeding and outreach ministries, I believe it is important for us to accept that we are not going back to ‘business as usual’ on a number of different fronts.
The details of the practical steps we will be required to take before being allowed to return to in person services is not yet specific, but we can be assured it will call for major adjustments to the worship experience.
Likewise, the fate of CAST for the coming year is an open question. The same is true of the AIDS cook in. Cooking for the day shelter has been placed on hold. Community groups accustomed to our hospitality have been impacted.
This does not mean, however, that we have been dormant. We have hosted blood drives, a food ingathering, Taco Tuesday and actually expanded our participation in Meals on Wheels deliveries over these last 12 weeks.
As we begin to be present to one another in all of the places in which we live and move and have our being let us be mindful of this important question;
“How do we, as the Body of Christ here in Chesapeake, go about re-inhabiting this changed landscape in the building at worship and outside in servant ministry?”
It is to be expected that the pendulum will swing from how we live out God’s Mission at worship and how we live out God’s Mission as we engage the needs, concerns and hopes of the world around us in God’s Name. As we move from one to another and in between the metaphor of dancing comes to mind.
This kind of dance, like many others, requires willing, gracious and forgiving partners. It also requires knowing when to lead and when to follow.
As we engage in our spiritual practices at worship, in providing and receiving pastoral care, at prayer, through study, relationship and stewardship I cannot help but be hopeful, eager and a bit anxious (if I’m going to be honest) about what is in store for us next. If we take our leads well, lead when it best suits the dance, listen well and learn from those who appear different than we are then we will have new learned a new step in the dance of our lives here on earth.
The one thing upon which I lean unreservedly is my faith that God will be there with us every step of the way. To rephrase in a couple of ways, “leap and the net will appear” or “when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive” or maybe most importantly, “speak LORD, your servant is listening.”
We must relearn the practice of both/and thinking in this all too either/or world if we are to have any chance of revealing anything except our own biases and desires, whatever they may be, to a world that has become jaded to the dissonant words and actions of many in the name of Christ. At the same time, we must repent of the times in which we have failed to speak out in the face of injustice and oppression and commit ourselves afresh to being the irrepressible force that our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry continues call “The Way of Love” To put it in the language of recovery, “our best thinking has gotten us here, what we need is a change of heart and a good brainwashing.”
Too many of us, (including yours truly) walk about with hard hearts and cluttered brains that could use a good softening and a little tidying up. That is precisely the work of the Way of Love.
Listen to the words the Ilia Delio; Franciscan Nun, Academic, Mystic, Theologian
“I am looking at my new neighbor in DC, a young black man who bought the house next door. He works for the Pentagon, smart and talented in many ways. Looking at him (right now, trying to fix his outer door), I am deeply troubled, no, outraged at the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmed Aubrey. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream in 1963 and almost sixty years later, that dream is still something of a nightmare. I understand the violent reactions in the cities but we have been here before; violence begets more violence. Something is deeply wrong in US culture and it will take more than a COVID-19 pandemic to wake us up to our root reality of interdependence. We are headed for a major catastrophe in this country unless we shift in a radically new direction. Binary thinking is disastrous; what is needed is a third force of love. We need a revolution in love, not pie-in-the sky love, but a love willing to sacrifice into something higher. If we continue to support closed systems of binary thinking, we will suffer the consequences of disaster that inevitably await us. We must get on board with an unfinished universe, which means all closed systems must cease.”—Ilia Delio Nun, academic, scientist, and mystic.
We no longer have the luxury of separating people into the categories them and us. There is only us and God’s passion for each of us is unquenchable, relentless, awesome and boundless. The third way, The Way of Love is the way in which is the Way of Jesus.
I told you I would bring our life of renewed worship and our engagement with the community around us back together by the end of this sermon. I hope what follows will serve to tie up some of the loose ends.
One may well ask;
  • “How do we get back in the game after so much time away?
  • “How will worship be different?”
  •  “Will we continue online worship for those who are not ready to return to in person worship (even if circumstances were allow us to ‘return to normal’)?
  • “We all have suffered loss during this time, how can I/we reach out in the midst of my/our own grief?”
These are all important questions.
I believe that congregations do not ‘choose’ their patrons or names without input from the Holy Spirit. What might that mean for us?
Today’s Gospel is Jesus appearing after his resurrection to speak with the disciples. They are locked in the upper room out of a sense of fear. What began as 12 was down to 10. Do you remember who was missing?
There was Judas of course, who else? Our very own Thomas. I like to think that Thomas was out looking for answers in the profoundly different personal landscape of his life in the aftermath of Jesus crucifixion.  This act, it seems to me, may very well have been one of profound faith and yet he still, too often, bears the name ‘Doubting Thomas’. I believe that we, like Thomas, in this changed should be willing to go outside and look for answers while always being on the lookout for the resurrected Christ.
Maybe it is not that the that one response was better than the other, but rather, as 1 Corinthians reminds us there are many gifts but one spirit. The health of the and faithful function of the Body of Christ (the church) depends on the authentic exercise of the gifts of its members in all their variety.
Our new reality is going to require the ministry of those who care for those who have found their way here and those who have yet to know the sense of ‘belonging’ that we have missed so much in these past 12 weeks. I return again to the question I offered you to ponder earlier.
“How do we, as the Body of Christ here in Chesapeake, go about re-inhabiting this changed landscape in the building at worship and outside in servant ministry?”
In closing I would like to deal with the last and save the others for another time.
I would argue that if you are not grieving something on any given day, you just might not be paying attention. What I think is really behind this question is an undertone of, “how can I possibly have anything to offer those who are hurting in the midst of my own, very real, suffering?”
I believe the simple answer to that question is, “Together”.
As we gather for worship in person again, it will be together.
As we set out to serve the world in God’s name, it will be together.
As we rejoice in personal or community triumphs, it will be together.
As we mourn our personal or community losses, it will be together.
This will require our best efforts and dancing with God in the two-step of action and contemplation. In the remembering of our past, both glorious and painful and in the praying and walking faithfully, step by laborious step, into the preferred and promised future that God has for this part of his Body at work in the world here in Great Bridge.