Romans 8: 22-28
ACTS 2: 1-17
May 23, 2021 – PENTECOST
Friends, did you hear the Word of God for the people of God this morning? Are you ready to celebrate God’s love … Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and teaching … the Holy Spirit’s direction?
“WE … the people who worship connected to this church called St. Paul’s … WE KNOW that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to God’s Holy purpose!”
Together, wherever we are on God’s earth this morning, together we can sense the prophet’s truth this morning … The LORD GOD … the God that you and me … we together know that this God, our God created the universe; our God is a God beyond our comprehension; just like the song says OUR GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD yet … you and you and you and all of you worshiping online this morning know just as I do that the LORD GOD we refer to sent Jesus Christ to teach humanity God’s clear expectations and to die for our sins so that all we need to do is to believe; truly believe … that God’s Holy Spirit is here for all of us just as the Spirit was there on that Day of Pentecost when with a rushing of the wind the Spirit came upon those early Christians.
WE KNOW and WE BELIEVE that the LORD GOD has a message for people like us; PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE not those who only claim membership or those who attend worship once or twice a year as their only God connector but those who BELIEVE and DEPEND on GOD; the faithful actively living lives in works and lives reflective of God’s directions … “THE LORD GOD has plans in mind for all of us who believe! They are PLANS, not disaster, PLANS friends …. THE LORD GOD HAS PLANS in mind for you and me … to give us a FUTURE with HOPE! When we call on the Lord and COME TO THE LORD … and PRAY to the LORD … the LORD GOD of CREATION will listen and when we search with our entire heart … WE WILL FIND GOD!”
So, this morning … on this DAY OF PENTECOST …. We are looking forward towards our future not locked into the past saying why can’t we go backwards … not focused in on the what was or what could have been … but together as God’s church based here in West Deptford New Jersey … as a church that for generations has embraced the clarity of Jesus’ teaching that ALL the LAW … ALL the RULES … ALL GOD’s expectations come down to TWO THINGS …. Not to a listing of human rules that empower some people at the expense of others … not to kicking some out while only allowing some in; declaring this one can share the Word of God but that one can’t …
JESUS TAUGHT … and the people of St. Paul’s of West Deptford have embraced the message that we are to LOVE GOD with all of our hearts, our souls, and our minds and then we are to love ALL of our neighbors just as Jesus loved …. ALL; Jesus loved those whom the rule setters rejected and slandered … Jesus loved the despised … Jesus loved those that the leaders told the people to hate and reject. FRIENDS THAT IS HOW THE PEOPLE of ST. PAUL’s love … this is a church energized in and always welcoming with love!
My goodness church … we have a reason to party today! We have a reason to celebrate this date on the calendar that has been set aside for thousands of years as the birthday of the Christian church. We have the authority to PARTY ON … with exuberance and joy as we look towards a future with hope … a future that God has planned a significant role for each of us young and old if we pay attention. AFTER ALL CHURCH …. When it comes to Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem … who healed the disabled and embraced those who struggled … together, we know HE IS RISEN!! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> “Joy to the World the Lord has Come … Let Earth receive her king!”
And, the Psalmist reminded us in the closing chapter of Psalms, “PRAISE GOD in GOD’s Sanctuary!! PRAISE GOD in God’s fortress!! PRAISE GOD with the blast of the ram’s horn!! Praise God with lute and lyre! Praise God with drum and dance! Praise God with strings and pipes! Praise God with loud cymbals … with clashing cymbals!! Let everything praise the Lord!!”
When you understand God’s love for each of us … when you get the fact that Jesus came here and made “unworthy Dave Delaney” worthy of the Kingdom of heaven … when we are willing to accept God’s Holy Spirit then we are ready to energize with other believers, with the church family, to make a difference in the world.
It SHOULD NOT SURPRISE any person of faith that KING DAVID danced with exuberance before the Ark of the Covenant after it had been recovered and brought back to the people of God Those non-believers who saw him were disturbed but people of faith should have joined the conga line with joy on their faces and praise on their lips!!
On that subtle day of Pentecost when believers from a wide range of nations were hanging out in a room together. They came from Africa, Asia, Europe, and right around the corner in downtown Jerusalem … they couldn’t speak each other’s languages so they were nodding at each other greeting each other with a wave but then …. Friends those individuals became alive in their faith;; they became the church of JESUS CHRIST … “Suddenly, a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the place where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Friends, God’s Holy Spirit came down on them and brought clarity not confusion …. A sense of united mission to move forward towards a future with hope just as this extended church family is challenged to go forward with hope and energy and clarity … They spoke a clear language of love that even non-believers could understand.
And, they partied … disturbing non-believers just like those seeing King David shook their heads at his joy in faith … the neighbors who didn’t appreciate a showcasing of happiness and joy created by God’s Holy Spirit declared that those people filled with hope and no fear and an understanding of God’s love were drunk but they weren’t … they were different from the world church … they knew the answer … the PENTECOST answer that the church of Jesus Christ is to love all … and love God … and not fear praising God nor showing the joy that we have because we know …. When we believe we know … We know our final destination on our journey and it is with God, Jesus Christ and all the saints and friends, isn’t that reason to PARTY ON?
I look out on this PENTECOST DAY at untold numbers worshiping with us from around the world either live on Sunday morning or at another time in their week. I look at the stained glass windows that bring in the light of God into this beautiful sanctuary. I consider where we are going … RED BIRD MISSION TRIP in July to care for some of the poorest people in America … the food pantry always feeding people … ALWAYS LOVINGLY FEEDING people and gaining a reputation statewide of being an OUTSTANDING FOOD PANTRY worthy of grant awards … I look at the doors that people struggling with their lives have walked through hoping and finding potential from those inside these walls. I can hear the kids rushing around this August in Vacation Bible School taught by amazing teachers, led in song by those gifted in music and creating art by the craftspeople of this church. I can sense the Holy Spirit changing lives because of the testimonies of those who call this church home … those who share their simple AFFIRMATIONS of FAITH with the world declaring GOD IS MINE and I AM GOD’s and that I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST SAVIOR to the world.
And, I remember my second week here …. When JEROME McKIVER in dreadlocks came riding to this church on his Harley he sat right about here and one woman of the church asked my young friend if he had a girl friend because she knew someone who might like a young man like him; a total stranger. And, then I see the back row of the church where my ladies have always sat … thinking of Harriet Lawson whose health has gone downhill for almost two years and who is now at our denomination’s home in Pitman. I rush to the overflow because it is in the back row that Kristina and Aleyna, two incredible fantastic and loving moms brought their twins … our twins … they knew that we would baptize their amazing children with love but they also knew some church’s created human rules to deny them that faith connection. I hurry up to the front of the OVERFLOW where Angela and Jason Houghton wheeled Cameron into church one Sunday … other churches had told them to keep their handsome son home because he made sounds of joy that disturbed their church people but at ST. Paul’s we want to hear the sounds of joy that a non-vocal young man filled with love but living with cerebral palsy has to make in church. This church family to a person embraced Cameron … and Cameron’s family.
By the way … this church believes that there is a special energy having children in church not kicked away during worship. We know they giggle and move around … we don’t mind if during a sermon they approach the pastor or sit in his arms during Holy Communion … LET THE CHILDREN COME JESUS said and this loving church declares the CHILDREN are to COME and don’t we miss Fish’s Children’s Messages that have lit the flame of faith through his stories in boys and girls for years?
And, then I come to this side of our church … prayers are focused on the usual residents. The last Sunday before COVID Bob, Zach, and I all wore the same St. Patrick’s Day tie. Bob our church’s patriarch and more importantly at 94 our church’s electrician is in the hospital fighting to get out. And this first pew … what can I say … the SKI’s came here after being pushed away from their prior church because Wayne and Donna lovingly adopted children whose skin color didn’t match the church family’s skin color. Logan never sits still in church and we love him and right now Logan is in the fight of his life and we love him and we are with him and we are fighting with him in his battle against that vile evil disease called cancer.
And, we do this because we are church …. We love others because we are church … we celebrate church because we are the children of God called to PRAISE GOD with JOY and ENERGY and as we move forward we need to remember that the world needs to see we are different we have got the Holy Spirit on our side!
In James we have heard that faith without actions is dead … and it should come as no surprise that when people see church attending folks dividing us up and putting others down that people choose not to discover the God and Jesus we embrace at St. Paul’s so it is incumbent on us to change the world!
On this PENTECOST SUNDAY … as we celebrate this church … as we eat some delicious chicken … as we laugh and sing and really sing I’ve got the JOY JOY JOY JOY down in my heart …
I am here to challenge all of us with two new specific projects that will make a difference now and for years to come.
FIRST … we are going to partner with HABITAT FOR HUMANITY to build a ramp for a local Gloucester County resident who desperately wants to live in a home that he can call his own. To build the ramp we will need to raise $3000 but more importantly we are going to do the work. And, yes friends and family of St. Paul’s of all ages can be on the work site and take on jobs. I can not use power tools and I am not handy but I can carry things. We will have more information but we are asking our world wide church family to donate funds to make this project successful by the end of August. Once we set up work dates I am hopeful that we will see an overflowing number of St. Paul’s folks out on the job site with smiles, singing songs of joy and showcasing that Christians are hopeful loving people who embrace everyone else in this world …
Our SECOND project is a legacy project for all of us. I am proposing that we turn the front green area along Church Street in front of our parking lot into a labyrinth where church members, community members, tourists, and labyrinth seekers from around the world can come for a respite from life. A place to pray and escape life’s challenges. Labyrinths throughout history have touched so many lives and a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer showcased 5 labyrinths within 25 miles of the city encouraging people needing to escape to go walk and sit at them. We already have greenery in our labyrinth’s space and I believe we can complete the project by Christmas so that we can gather as a church family this Christmas season with candles in our hands singing Christmas carols outdoors for the world to hear. Obviously, we need a team to pull this together and financial support for the benches, pavers, and others expenses.. The labyrinth will bring people who might not ordinarily discover St. Paul’s to our church site and offer an opportunity to discover how God is working through our church; a church that welcomes and loves ALL.
Today, we have increased our numbers thanks to the diligence and love and wisdom of our Reopening Leadership Team that refused to cower to complaints but rather to guide us safely through the pandemic. Our close quarters will continue our need to mask and have some distance from each other but on this birthday of the Christian church we are moving forward …. We celebrate life knowing Jesus loved us and that Jesus Christ HE IS RISEN!! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>
We need to understand that Paul references joy twice because joy in faith matters … REJOICE ALWAYS AGAIN I SAY REJOICE …. We need to show the world … the children … the teens … the young adults that the church of JESUS CHRIST can praise God …. Can party with energy … and can go into the world making the difference for individuals through love.
God told the prophet Joel, “I will pour my Spirit on all people! Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams!” Church there is work for all of us … let’s join together to make a difference for God and Christ.
And, let’s PARTY like we are people with something huge to celebrate … because we do have that reason HE IS RISEN!! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> AMEN