Monday, May 29, 2017

Fire of Mystery – 4 June 2017 – Pentecost

Pentecost, the consummation of Eastertide, has come. The birth of the church, the explosion of tongues, the Spirit poured out: our joy and gratitude are due to all of these.

. . . The miracle of tongues is a mystery of unity in diversity of which we can barely glimpse the meaning. And the Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh—what on earth does that mean? We understand the relationship. . . between the First and Second Person of the Holy Trinity parallels the relatedness of human families. But how can we know this Spirit that proceeds from the Father and the Son? – Paul G. Bieber

John 20:19-23

Pentecost happens every time when people gather and experience God. Every time. . . people are filled with the Holy Spirit. . . things happen that cannot be explained. . . people experience the power of prayer. . . people read Scripture together. . . people gather for worship. . . your faith tells you to act. Every time you experience you are not alone, but you are connected to a family to whom you are not related by earthly blood.

. . . But from time to time, especially when we feel empty inside, we can ask it for to happen again. We can sing together: “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. . .” And wait for the unexpected to happen—now and to you. – Sigrid Rother

Acts 2:1-21

The lessons for Pentecost vividly describe how the faithful are empowered with the Spirit for the building-up and care of the creation. . .  It is best to read the story in Acts 2 as high drama, motivated by Luke's theological vision. – Jeffery Galbraith

Understanding the Trinity is tricky. It is also necessary in order that no one “person” of the Trinity be give more weight than the others. In some circles, it is easiest to imagine the Creator because how else do we think we came into being. The Spirit may also seem safe because many traditions and “non-religious” people find comfort in “spiritual” experiences. Jesus, of course, is the stumbling block, but it is the Spirit who empowers us to life in the body of Christ.

We continue to ponder the identity of the Holy Spirit.

When we pray that this Spirit be sent upon bread and wine laid upon the table of the Lord, we pray that the one loaf and the cup of blessing be empowered by that same Spirit to be the body and blood of Christ, so that we may ourselves prove to be the body of Christ, blessing the cup in which our forgiveness is covenanted. And then going forth to be a blessing, sharing all our varieties of gifts in the same Spirit for the common good, forgiving others as we have been forgiven.

. . . This creator Spirit breathes life into the husks of our lives. And as suddenly as on that first Christian Pentecost, what had seemed burned out glows again with new ardor.

. . . The Holy Spirit is the way to a personal relationship with the Persons of the Triune God. . . characterized by forgiveness, by understanding, by unity that does not quench diversity. – Paul G. Bieber

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

In verses 4–6 Paul uses a series of parallels to heighten his key theme: whether spiritual gifts, service, or activities, all of these are from God. Not one of these gifts is to be set above the other in importance; service and activities are placed on a par with the traditional gifts of the Spirit. . . [Finally,] Paul introduces a new image of the body, to suggest that in the community differences disappear. – Jeffery Galbraith

Paul Bieber is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, San Diego, California.  

Jeffrey Galbraith is pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and a professor of business administration at Greenfield Community College.

Sigrid Rother is the associate pastor of Westerville Community Church, United Church of Christ, Westerville, Ohio.

Homily Service 41, no. 3 (2008): 4-14.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Walking a Pilgrim Route

This is Part Two of excerpts from Jennifer Lord’s essay in the Spring 2017 issue of Liturgy, the quarterly journal of The Liturgical Conference, which deals with pilgrimage in a number of ways.

Here, Lord describes the experience of the walking itself––an undertaking that she and her husband completed over an 8-week period in 2014 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. This was a 750-mile pilgrim route.

In 2013 I led a seminary travel seminar called The Way of St. James. Ten days into our pilgrimage. . . some group members discovered a booklet for sale showing each stage’s elevation gain and loss. One of our members chastised our guide: “You kept saying the day would be flat walking! And it wasn’t flat!” According to our guide’s definition, if we started and ended at relatively the same elevation then it was a flat day. We laughed: this, after a week and half. . .  (and still more days to go) of climbing in and out of river valleys! . . . 
At some point there are adjustments––to our packs, to our water supply, to bandages. . . there is café con leche and breakfast. . . there is lunch whether from a bodega, a bar, or from our packs. We stop at the chapels and churches that mark the route. At some point, there is an afternoon break or the end of the walking. . . The anxiety for a bed at the day’s end manifests as competition on the route: some pilgrims leave by 4:00 a.m. so they can walk in the cool air and also arrive ahead of the masses. . . We show our pilgrim’s passport for entrance, leave our hiking poles and boots in the appointed area, and claim a bed. We unroll bedding and hope for a shower with hot water (don’t run the water while soaping!). We rinse or wash clothes in the designated area. Perhaps we soak our feet; people trade foot rubs. Nap. Shop for supplies for the next day. . . and perhaps for a communal dinner. Have a beer. Nap or cook or attend Pilgrims’ Mass. Dinner. Camaraderie. Sleep. All of it: again. And: again. . . 
We always studied our maps and read about the coming day’s terrain. We checked the weather and our food bags, and topped up water bottles. We bandaged our feet, took anti-inflammation medicine, chose our clothing layers. But then we stepped into the day, into the unknown. We did all the familiar things and then walked into discovery. Over time, we discovered that we had become more at home in the walking than at any of the stops along the way. 
In the walking, we discovered that our sensibilities of interiors and exteriors had been inverted. Philosopher Frédéric Gros observes: “When you go ‘outside’ it is always to pass from one ‘inside’ to another: from house to office, from your place to the nearest shops. You go out to do something, somewhere else. . .” 
Walking the Camino inverts those sensibilities. . . It comes from walking the permutations of outdoors. . . Cold rain and sloppy fields, we walk it. 
The day after day after day walking is what inverts because we find out that we want to walk no matter what. . . The walking becomes the way we live in the whole world.  

Jennifer L. Lord, is the Dorothy B. Vickery Professor of Homiletics and Liturgical Studies at Austin Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, and president of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Jennifer L. Lord, “Walking the Camino,” Liturgy 32, no. 3 (2017): 3-13.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ascension –– 7th Sunday of Easter, Year A –– 28 May 2017

The challenge of the message of the ascension is to realize that God's healing and redemption of humanity has begun. Our humanity has been brought into the presence of the glory of the almighty God in Christ's ascension, and by virtue of this all humanity has been validated. For this reason all human beings having been created in the image of God, have had their humanity validated.

Those of us who bear the mark of Christ by virtue of our baptism must continue this ministry of validating the humanity of all people. This has direct implications on how we minister to other people. Poverty, human trafficking and slavery, genocide and all of the other realities that dehumanize people in our world, directly contradict that value and glory that God has bestowed on all people. How can we respond when the problems are so large and complex?

This week we are invited simply to gather. . . as the community of [the] faithful, whoever we may be, and cling to the hope and promise of the risen and ascended Christ, awaiting the giving of the Holy Spirit which will empower and gift God's people to respond to the needs of the world, all to the glory of God. –– Todd E. Johnson

GOSPEL READING: John 17:1-11

Year A (this year, vv 1–11) emphasizes Jesus' prayer for himself and his disciples; Year B (vv 6–19) emphasizes Jesus' prayer for the disciples; and Year C (vv 20–26), what might be called the whole people of God. All three, however, bring together, in glorious though penultimate conclusion, the first reading we all heard on Easter Day, namely that God shows no partiality and that Jesus, ascending to glory on the throne of the cross, is precisely concerned that his disciples live that nonpartiality out (as they will be empowered to do on Pentecost). . . .

Both the prayer and the energy for responding to the prayer are properly the work of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, work that has been fulfilled for us already. The task of disciples, and of the universal church, is not to effect or confect this, but to live it. –– Amandus J. Derr

FIRST READING: Acts 1:6-14

St. Irenaeus famously wrote in the second century that the glory of God is a person fully alive, or as one translator interpreted, “humanity at full stretch.” Today's texts are about our humanity as much as they are about Christ's divinity. They invite us to consider our glory as well as Christ's. Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, has been resurrected and glorified; now we humans by virtue of Christ's ascension have had our humanity glorified as well. To consider the incarnation is to consider the reality of God joining with humanity in Christ. Christ's ascension should not be understood as the separation of Christ's divinity from his humanity, returning each to their appropriate place. Instead, Christ's humanity was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, and with it all humanity ascended. The glorification of our humanity has begun. –– Todd E. Johnson

EPISTLE READING: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

In keeping with the thrust of the Epistles –– which is to help the church look to its furthest goals, its ultimate calling –– this passage tells the church to expect struggles and, in the face of them, to rejoice. The church is to endure hardships with humility, casting anxiety on God, for after a time “God of all grace, who has called you into eternal glory in Christ, will restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”

Amandus J. Derr is senior pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church (ELCA) in New York City.

Todd E. Johnson is associate professor of worship, theology, and the arts at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 172-182.