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Posts Tagged ‘Whitsunday’

“Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

“Speaking the wonderful works of God”

 

God has spoken to Man throughout the ages.  God communed with Adam in the cool of the morning.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s.  God commanded Noah to build the Ark.  God chose Abraham and sent him on his journey, communicating to his through angels.  God spoke to Moses from the burning bush to lead the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and gave him his sacred Law.  The tabernacle of the Ark of the Covenant signified the presence of God to the priests and people of Israel.

Yet even when the Ark was lost, God still spoke through the prophets of Israel, correcting and admonishing the priests, kings, and people when they grew lax with God’s Law and sought to worship themselves instead of God.  These prophets and the calamities visited upon the Israelites scattered many of them but sharpened and honed others.

Out of these others came Ss. Mary and Joseph, Ss. Elizabeth and Zacharias, and those who waited for the consolation of Israel.  The Son of God the Father became Man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Holy Ghost came upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her.  God raised a great prophet in the elderly womb of St. Elizabeth.  As her son, St. John the Baptist, preached and prepared those hoping for the restoration of Zion to receive their king, Jesus grew in stature and wisdom until his Baptism by St. John and his ministry amongst the Jews.

Thus we understand the first two verses of Hebrews:  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”

As we have worshipped in the cycle of Holy Church through the preparation for Easter, Pre-Lent and Lent, and thence through Passion Week and Holy Week, worshipping through the Passion, death, Resurrection, and then Ascension of our Lord Christ, so we come to the time Christ promised us:  Pentecost.

WHEN the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Christ gave the Holy Ghost to the Church to hold her accountable to what He taught her.  We are given the Holy Ghost in the Sacraments to bring God’s presence into our lives and accomplish all things necessary for holiness.  The Third Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Holy Ghost, instructs us, seals us in the knowledge of God, and preserves the teachings of Jesus Christ.

 

From the Confirmation rite found in the Book of Common Prayer:  “Strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace: the spirit of wisdom and under-standing, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear,”

Zechariah vii.11-12:  “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.  Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.”

St. John iv.22b-24 “…Salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Romans viii.9-11:  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

I Corinthians ii.9-10, 12:  “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God…. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

 

We are comforted – strengthened – by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit also leads us into all truth.  The two come together in that teaching of Christ, that the Holy Ghost will preserve and keep us in the word of God from Christ.  He “brings all things to remembrance”.

In the Collect, God “didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit” and we beseech God to “Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things”.

Teaching the hearts of the faithful and granting us right judgement are both brought about by the first thing St. Peter does after receiving the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.  He preaches.

He preaches that those who have not heard may hear.  He preaches that those who do not understand may understand.  He preaches that those who fail may be strengthened to succeed.  He preaches that the faithless may find faith.  He preaches that the stout-hearted give glory to God and lead others to glorify God as well.  He preaches by telling the truth that the authorities do not want to be told.  He preaches by speaking the wonderful works of God.

Will you stand up alongside the great apostle and speak the wonderful works of God?

 

“Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Most of us sitting in here and our friends, families, neighbors, and total strangers outside this church are not ready for what is to come.  We will die and be judged.  If we don’t die first, then Christ will return and judge us.  Each and every one of us has offended God and earned the fires of Hell.  Only Christ stands between us and everlasting damnation.

Since we have lived for ourselves and not treated God or our neighbors with pure loving-kindness, that lack of love has prepared us for the pains and separation of Hell.  Since we think that we are always right and think it proper to sit in judgement of our neighbors, we will fit right in there.

The Blood of Christ will get us into Heaven if we call upon His Holy Name and submit our straggly ole selves to dying and being reborn with Him in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  But even when He claims us for His own, we, being the way we are, are in no fit shape to live in the presence of God forever, much less a single day.

For this reason, Christ has ascended into Heaven and ten days later given us the Holy Ghost.  When the disciples walked and talked with Him on earth, they did not have the Holy Ghost.  Christ left them staring up at the sky, and He sent the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth to them in the Upper Room ten days later, on Pentecost, this very day.

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the gathered brethren, the Church.  We celebrate that Christ gave us the Holy Spirit of God to be with us and dwell within us so that we might snap to it and get with the program.  We are not okay the way we are.  We are not ready for Heaven.

Do you think about dying?  Do you think about mortality?  I grew up among churches that held proper funerals with proper viewings.  I knew that my elders died, and that one day, hopefully long in the future, I would join them.  I walked the cemeteries containing the bones of my ancestors.  I visited the grave of my first namesake.  I figured that I would die – one day.

But when I grew up some to be a teenager and looked at the Army and Marines with an increasingly serious eye, I began to reflect on what might happen if I did join up.  I wanted to be a good young man and do right by my country.  If that involved combat, then that would involve death.  If it did not involve my death, it would involve the death of somebody else.  That stopped me cold.  I enjoyed the next few years with cars and girls and kept thinking about that in the back of my mind.

When I finally did swear the oath, I was ready.  I wasn’t a soldier yet, mind you, but I stepped up to be made into one.

When we take up our cross and follow Christ along the path of sorrows up to our own Golgotha, we should know that we are facing death in a mature and adult way.  When we follow the way of Christ, when we keep the faith and run the course, then we are Heaven-bound.  It is better to finish the race dead last than it is to fall out.  We must step up and remain faithful to Christ to the very end.

Our prize is Heaven, and in Heaven we will live with God forever.  But we won’t only live with God forever, we will live with our faithful brothers and sisters who also faithfully ran the course.  We will live with the elect of God forever.  And if we are going to live with our brethren forever, we had better learn some good manners so that we all get along in Christ.

Christ has sent us the Holy Ghost.  We are bought with the death of Christ and are marching on to the heavenly Jerusalem, but we are not ready to live there.

Daddy Hall said of the Holy Ghost:  “He is also the gift of God, and it is by His presence that the Father and the Son are made present in our hearts and operate effectually for our good.”  By the indwelling of the Holy Ghost does the redeeming work of Christ avail us.  In the Holy Ghost, we are made proper children of God.  By the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, our very bodies are made temples of Almighty God.  Our own bodies!

Christ says in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  We have a very high bar to meet, and Christ gave us the Holy Ghost to stay with us and in us for our journey here on Earth.  We do not even have to earn our salvation, for Christ has done that for us.  Even as we grow in holiness befitting Heaven, we have the Holy Ghost – who is God, mind you – to dwell within us.

Summarizing St. John, Hall says:  “[The Holy Ghost] is sent by the Son, and it is by His operation that we are made members of Christ and Christ comes to us with saving power.”  Christ is with us through the Holy Ghost.  With the Holy Ghost, we grow ever closer to Christ.

To do anything other than strive hard to improve ourselves into the likeness of Christ is sheer laziness and impudence.  How dare we look our Savior in the eye as He sits in judgement of us on that last great day and say “thank you for saving me” having held back part of ourselves as we tried to skate by with the least we could do!  It’s a disgrace.  It’s an affront.  It puts our sins and contrariness between us and our Lord.  And we will no doubt pay the price for our mouthiness and disobedience in the future.  For those of us going to Heaven, we will be made fit for that beautiful place of light and refreshment whether we like it or not.

The Holy Ghost unifies us with our Savior.  We enter Heaven through the Body of Christ.  That Body of Christ is right here among us right now, in that tabernacle behind that veil.  Christ’s Body is both Man and God which allows us access to eternity and endless loving-kindness.  We enter Heaven through that Body, and in the next few minutes, Christ’s Body will be with us and given to you.  We don’t take Christ’s Body; we receive Christ’s Body.  This is why we cross our palms right over left to make a throne for Christ to dwell upon.  This is why we open our mouths and take Christ’s Body, either from that throne you have made for Him or from the hand of Christ’s priest.  We receive Christ, and in receiving Christ with faith and repentance, we are joined with Christ.  Receiving Christ without faith and repentance damns us to Hell.  It is better to cross our arms in front of our chests and receive a blessing than to eat the Body of Christ unworthily.  The Holy Ghost carries the grace of Christ to us in that most Holy Sacrament, and to receive Christ unworthily dishonors the Holy Spirit of God as well.  But when we receive Christ faithfully and truly, then the Holy Ghost works in us to bring us ever closer to God, purifying us and strengthening us with Heavenly Grace freely given from on high.

A certain modern set of preachers and praise songs will tell you that to fall in love with Jesus is to lose control in the mode of a teeny-bopper or fanboy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Following Christ and being filled with the Holy Ghost enables each one of us to grow into the full stature of the man or woman we are each called to be by God the Father.  We are given the gifts we are given so that we may exercise Christ’s ministry amidst this hurting and fallen world.  We are strengthened with virtues and heavenly power not for us to lose control, not for us to selfishly pursue our own agendas, not to benefit our friends, but instead to advance the Kingdom of God here on earth, to build up Christ’s Church, to help save the lost, to build up and not to tear down, to love one another as Christ loves us.

My sons and daughters, I commend to you this day of Pentecost calling upon God the Holy Ghost to strengthen you in all virtue and help root out all vice from you.  Pray to God the Holy Ghost to confirm and strengthen you in the way of life everlasting.  Ask God the Holy Ghost to guard and ward your way in this life, to convict you of your sins so that you may repent and be forgiven, and to protect you amidst the temptations of our wily enemy.

 

“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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