TRAVELING with the SPIRIT
Ezekiel 36: 26-29
MARK 4: 21-25 & 30-32
June 13, 2021
Yesterday, I drove home to West Deptford from Virginia Beach where I had the honor of officiating at my niece and now my nephew’s wedding. Yesterday, following Friday evening’s wedding celebrations started with a certain slow motion that always seems to accompany the day after mornings that follow evening parties like wedding receptions … I came downstairs in the guest house to see Ryan and Colleen in conversation with Jeanette and John. Of course, I spotted the coffee maker and some kind soul had already brewed more than enough coffee so that I could get my fill; I do love my morning coffee. I glanced outside and smiled … all was good. Jordan and Jonathan were happy in love and officially married. The celebrations had been wonderful and fun.
We each travel through life’s journey with the expected and unexpected awaiting us. There are pathways that we repeat over and over again with the understanding that each step will be very similar to the almost identical steps we have taken on those same pathways before. But, then we have to add into life’s journey the unexpected that occurs from planned excursions as well as from life’s whirling momentum taking us into places we never intended to go but suddenly due to circumstances they become our momentary active path before fading into memories or they become actual parts of our continued direction in life. How we move through our journeys of life is a reflection on the people we are. A reflection on our relationship with God and Christ.
As we continue to celebrate the renewal of faith and the potential reenergizing of our walk with God that the unique timing placement of Pentecost in the year 2021 has given us … I need to ask all of you while also considering the question for myself … are we including the Spirit of God as a traveling partner in life? Has Easter’s beautiful call HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> given each of us a new sense of God’s love for each human being? Has the global pandemic truthfully allowed each of us a ‘time out’ for decision making about our lives’ paths. Did those many months of isolation or semi-isolation wake us up to the very clear choice that exists between trying to squeeze into the world by mocking and putting down others and striving for self glory, riches or power versus the choice of serving the God of Creation who offers us through the teaching of Jesus Christ and the lessons of our Bible a clear and valid direction to go …. Providing hope not just for the here and now but for our eternity?
You and I are connected with God … obviously … through these St Paul’s moments because clearly we each have made the active decision to be in church today either in person or in your corner of the world through technology where you find that St. Paul’s worship service links you to the Holy experience that makes life better.
As Covid hopefully moves to our rear view mirror view of life, I can’t help but once again strive to hold onto the prophet Micah’s clarity as the directive to all of us because his Old Testament message affirms the call of Jesus Christ and that is why I repeat it often to those who come to this church, “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to DO JUSTICE, EMBRACE FAITHFUL LOVE of ALL, and to WALK HUMBLY with your GOD.”
It is the last phrase that has struck me recently as perhaps the most significant beginning point for our tomorrow’s. This church’s approach to Pentecost this year with so many of us wearing Pentecost caps and red colors for that beautifully uplifting worship service … Reminding us of the birth of the church that is tied directly to those people of faith in Jerusalem being recipients of the gift that Jesus has promised to us … that God has promised to us … the third reality in the Holy Trinity of God that we reference in so many of our Affirmations of Faith … FATHER, SON and HOLY SPIRIT.
Jesus taught, “whoever loves me will keep my word. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father.” And, we all know the commandments of Jesus, “Love God and Love ALL of our neighbors,” as Jesus loved.
So, church if we have those commandments down pat … if we are doing what the Lord God requires of our life … then we should be walking humbly with the God of Creation. And, I am under the assumption that you, like me, loves Jesus the Son of God so perhaps you already know that Jesus after teaching His disciples and all believers that if we keep His commandments we will be loved by God and that God and Christ will come to us and make our home their home.”
But then Jesus said that “The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom God will send out in Jesus name will teach us everything and remind us of everything” Jesus told us. And, then our Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, declares “Peace I leave with you … I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”
So, perhaps the question of the day for each of us to consider … are we traveling with the Spirit of God? Do we have enough security in our faith …is our faith essential to the people we are that we turn to the Spirit … that we seek out God in God’s Word … pause in prayer … when we are challenged in life do we embrace our Companion, God’s gift for us, to get us through or have we chosen a different companion for the highways and byways of life we journey on when we aren’t in a church service in person or online?
The cool thing is we don’t have to be rich to get this gift of God … we don’t have to jump through hoops, break dance, throw a football one hundred yards, sing in tune, or even memorize and recite pages and pages of doctrine closely adhering to an array of complex regulations and rules …. We don’t have to kick some people out of church so that others can be made more powerful or arrogant while claiming to represent God at least their god.
We just have to make a decision about how we live life … we have to believe rather than join because joining is merely getting a membership card and making an occasional visit. I am a member of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and I have the card to prove it but I could never tell you how those flowers and trees grow; I do not live my life for Longwood Garden nor even focused on my next visit even though I just gave them a mini advertisement and I do love their special events like Christmas. Sadly, many self identifying Christians hold out a membership card in the church because of a moment in time when they said they would join … perhaps they took over their family’s membership card … but they don’t really believe merely hold a self identified membership, which just like my last Longwood card can expire. Perhaps they like Christmas or Easter or like some of my trips to Longwood they occasionally go there once in a while to escape from the world’s insanity. But they don’t belong … don’t invite … don’t participate … don’t try to grow the church … and don’t bother to learn how to live for the church.
We heard in today’s reading from the prophet Ezekiel what the gift of God is like. In a verse preceding today’s reading “the Lord God says, ‘I will take you from the nations. I will cleanse you of all of your idols, you will be cleansed of your pollution.” It is very apparent that God expects that God’s people align with God … that through faith and we all know that faith requires a life change and works to be valid and real. In James, we read “What good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can not save anyone, can it?” James continues by pointing out that even demons believe God is real … but that faith is reflected in faithful actions in life, which are more than merely church attendance and begin with a desire to worship and praise God through the love of God and Jesus Christ that starts with following their directives.
So, I call on all of us to consider our relationship to and with God and Christ. Ezekiel tells us some of what God will do for those who allow God to take away the worldly idols and to wash off the world’s pollution because they have embraced and loved God. “God will give us a new heart and put a new Spirit in us.”
We needed Jesus to identify that Spirit, that Companion whom Ezekiel taught was part of God’s message. You see, we do need to accept and embrace and travel with the Spirit of God so that we can be steered away from the temptations and disasters of the world. We heard it in our Gospel lesson of the day when Jesus declared, “Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention! Listen carefully, God WILL EVALUATE YOU.” It’s interesting that God, Jesus teaches will use the same standards we each use to evaluate others … so what was that you were saying about your neighbor the other day … you know the one you don’t like?
Anyhow if the Spirit of God is with you you won’t be disliking that neighbor much less gossiping about the neighbor and the issues you have with them. You will be loving your neighbor, forgiving them for any wrong doing, turning your cheek, and inviting them to church.
Ezekiel continues to explain what having the Holy Spirit of God means to us when we allow the Spirit to travel with us each day. God will “remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one and in walking with my Spirit you will be able to carefully living according to my rules. I will save you from all uncleanness.”
The God of Creation will save us … will direct us … will make life better and give us a living and loving heart and we need to believe. We need to turn in our idols whether they are human or created … we need to stop living in the polluted streams and take on holy water.
When we allow the Holy Spirit to be our traveling companion, we will be like that mustard seed and our faith’s renewal and energy will only naturally lead us to invite others to church …. We will find ways to use our talents and abilities to care for those who are hungry and those who are hurting … we will use our social media and our words to heal and love rather than rant and rage because the Holy Spirit will stop us from putting down divisive commentary that we enjoy for the sake of the power of taking sides.
“You are my strength when I am weak, you are the treasure that I seek … you are my all in all.” “Jesus Lamb of God worthy is your name …. Jesus Lamb of God worthy is your name.”
So, I drove home … suddenly I hear a car honking and then my phone rings. It is Colleen she said, “Dad, I am right behind you … didn’t you hear my honking?”
Well, I heard the honk … didn’t recognize the car and since they left Virginia 45 minutes before me the last thing I though was that Ryan and Colleen would be behind me. But, out of nowhere on the roadway between Virginia and New Jersey unexpectedly there was my daughter and my son in law and together we drove the highway one after the other … watching out for each other … loving each other.
Have you heard the Holy Spirit calling out to you …. God’s gift … God’s companion … is ready today to head out into the world watching out for you and me while we watch and listen for the Spirit’s guidance for us. If you love God and Jesus Christ then that Holy Spirit is honking and doing all it can to get right next to you for the rest of the trip called life.
Friends, let God’s love be the force that changes you into the person you each can be and then take on the world with a living and loving heart leaving behind the past renewed in faith and reenergized in Spirit to build up the church of Jesus Christ in this world reflective of God’s love for all and call to all to live and work in faith. Declare COME HOLY SPIRIT COME walk in me and beside me because if we allow the Spirit in we will do amazing things together for God and Christ. AMEN