Friday, May 29, 2020


When the day of Pentecost had come, 
the disciples were all together in one place. 
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound 
like the rush of a violent wind . . . ."

Happy Birthday, Holy Comforter.
Today is your parish birthday and the birthday 
          of the Church Universal.
The bad news is that I am going to speak 
        -- not just about the Pentecost lesson --
but about the entire Book of Acts.
The good news is that I have only two simple points
-- Church change and life change. 
They both happen.

The story of Pentecost is from 
       The Acts of the Apostles, but it’s better known 
        as The Acts of the Holy Spirit.
Every important thing that happens in Acts
              is done through people by God’s Spirit.

To get the point, you have to know 
when and why this book was written.
In the first generation, 
         the Apostles led the Christian Movement.
They were the rock stars of our faith.

But then they began to die off.  
So, people were anxious.
Without Peter, Paul, Barnabas, James, and the rest, 
could the Church go on?

Luke’s point is that it wasn’t really about the Apostles.
It was about God. Whatever they did,
                they did by the power of God’s Spirit.
Leaders come and leaders go; 
         but the Holy Spirit is still here.

A young priest was called to his first rectorate.
His first Sunday, in the receiving line,
    an old church member named Joe said,
    “Glad to meet you. I’m a fore and aft Episcopalian.” 
“What’s that?” the priest asked.
Joe replied, “I was here before and I’ll be here after you.”
Well the Holy Spirit is a fore and aft Episcopalian.
Truth be told the Holy Spirit will outlast even Joe.

Holy Comforter has seen a lot of turnover.
Father Bill left to become rector of St. Alban’s;
Deacon Linda was redeployed;
Mother Kim became Director of Cathedral Ridge.
We have changed leadership in Youth Ministries.
Our parish administrator, Jackson, 
          has begun a new career.
And beloved lay leaders have moved to other cities.

None of these people – not one – left 
         because of anything wrong at Holy Comforter.
They all moved on in the ordinary course of life.
A 9-year rectorate is a good run.
A 3-year assistant rectorate is a good run. 
No one left because of anything wrong here.
It was just the way things go.

Impermanence is part of life.
In 500 BC, Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
The rate of change has not slowed down.
We have ups and downs. People come and go.
But as Frank Sinatra said, 
       “This fine old world just keeps turning around.”

Acts simple point is that 
        the Holy Spirit works through us.
And when we aren’t here,
            the Holy Spirit keeps working through new people.

We don’t place our faith in the people,
             however noble and gifted they may be.
We place our faith in the Holy Spirit.
Luke wrote Acts as the sequel to his Gospel.
In Luke’s Gospel, just what makes Jesus the Christ?
You might say “the Virgin Birth,”
          but how did that happen?
The angel said to Mary, 
           “the Holy Spirit will come upon you.”
Jesus was born by the Holy Spirit.

At Jesus’ baptism, Luke says, 
          he was “full of the Holy Spirit.”
When he began his ministry, Jesus said,
           “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
             because he has anointed me 
             to proclaim Good news to the poor.”

It is the Holy Spirit that makes Jesus the Christ
just as it was the Holy Spirit 
        that made the Apostles apostles,
           just as it is the Holy Spirit that makes priests priests
                     in ordination 
           and makes all of us Christians in Baptism.

Remember, each of you is 
     “sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism 
      and marked as Christ’s own forever
          -- not until there’s a clergy transition, forever!

Change is hard. Change is just a lot of trouble.
But Zorba the Greeks said, “Trouble? Life is trouble.
Only in death is there no trouble.”
Life is change and change is unsettling.
Life is unsettling. We were not made to be settled.
We are made to be on the move 
    like Abraham, like Jesus, and like the Apostles.

Change is a sign of the Holy Spirit moving among us.
The Holy Spirit is always changing things.
In Thessalonica, they prosecuted the Apostles
    for “turning the world upside down.”

That’s just what they were doing -- guilty! --
    because they were acting from the Holy Spirit
    and that’s what the Holy Spirit does.
She turns the world upside down; 
         then she turns it downside up.
She blows the status quo open 
         to new and unforeseen life.

So where do we place our faith?
In each other, yes, 
    but only because the Holy Spirit lives in us,
    inspires us, and guides us toward wisdom.
The Apostles came and went. Clergy come and go.
But the Holy Spirit is still here.

This isn’t just about Church. 
It’s about all of life.
The pandemic, for example, has disrupted our lives.
Some of the old ways will come back.
But not all of them. 
And there will be new ways we cannot yet foresee.

That’s unsettling. 
We are apt to miss the past
    and feel anxious about the future.
That’s natural. But hold onto this:
God never changes but God changes everything.

Henry Ward Beecher said,
    “ Our days are a kaleidoscope. 
Every instant a change takes place. 
New harmonies, new contrasts, 
new combinations of every sort. 
The most familiar people stand each moment 
in some new relation to each other, to their work, . . ..”

“Every instant a change takes place. . . 
     New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations . . ..”
It is foolish and futile to place our faith 
in the familiarity of the status quo.
We place our faith on the solid rock of God’s love for us.
You can take that to the bank.
God’s love is the constant that lies behind and beneath
    all the change.

Trusting God gives us the courage to live
    knowing that life is change.
We know where the change is headed,
    deeper and deeper into the Source, the Destiny, 
    the Meaning, and the infinite Beauty of everything.