Sermon: Pentecost B
1 Cor 12:3-13 (Roman Lectionary)
27 May, 2012
North Shore Baptist Church
More than Enough
(Prologue: Something Special)
It was a hot August day. The noonday sun was sweltering; there was a breeze blowing, but it was one of those unhelpful winds. The kind that just blew the hot air into the already hot and crowded field. The dust that is carried along just stuck to the sweaty skin of those assembled to hear the main event. The people pulsing as the warm-up band was playing. The music filling the air. The crowd was beginning to take on its own life. There were moms and dads. Kids dancing. And there was Maggie, in her special chair. Her chair with switches and knobs. Her chair that propelled her from place to place; moved her because her legs could not. She was bobbing and rocking in her special chair; grooving to the beats of the band; waiting for the main event just like everyone else.
Often times at school and at church Maggie felt left out. She was born with part of her spinal cord exposed on the outside of her spinal column; a condition called spina bifida. Born without the ability to mover her legs she was confined to her special chair that propelled her from place to place. Her chair with the switches and knobs. When the kids in the playground would play tag and tetherball, leaving her on the sidelines, it was her special chair that keep her occupied. The switch that would let her go to space, or the knob that communicated with the submarine at the bottom of the sea; she would escape to the places of refuge in her imagination. It wasn’t much better at church, the big people would often pretend she was not there. When she was at church and the big people would sing and pray and the other kids would go to their special church, she was left to sit in her special chair in its special place near the back. She would not go with them because she couldn’t get to their special church room. But she would flip her prayer switch and know she had a special connection to God. She would pray for her little brother and her mommy and daddy; she would thank God that the kids at school did not get hurt when there was the big collision during the soccer game; she would pray for her church asking that God would let them see her and know she could help them in their prayers and songs.
Many times Maggie would be left on the sidelines; ignored and forgotten about because she could not get up and participate. She was often considered less than everyone else because she was not “normal.” She knew she had gifts to offer, but people did not see them. People thought she was more of a burden, or if they were feeling especially pious they would present her as a token; “look we have a handicapped girl in our school,” or “we are open and welcoming, see we have a girl in a wheel chair.” What they missed was the Sprit that was upon Maggie. They did not hear her when she prayed or when she sang, they dismissed her and missed the Holy Spirit.
They missed it, but here mommy and daddy knew. And on that hot August day, people would have a Pentecost moment.
(Scene 1: They’re Just Babies)
People were being ignored and left out in Corinth. It is understandable…kind of. After all this was a fairly new community of believers. They were still trying to get a basic understanding of the faith they had been converted to. Corinth, unlike other communities to which Paul was the spiritual leader, was a fairly non-Jewish area. Often in other communities Paul would preach and convert at the local synagogue – which was the community gathering spot for Jews and Gentiles. But Corinth was a multi-ethnic shipping hub with many faith traditions being represented. Most of the new believers in Jesus Christ had come from the Greco-Roman traditions, followers of the gods of the Greeks and Romans. They were used to being in a system that made sense to the rules of the world; there was heirarchy. They participated in the honor/shame system that Rome had put in place. But through the teachings of Paul, they had begun to take part in the foolishness of the cross.
The first letter to the Corinthians is a letter that is trying to help them navigate their way through this foolishness. They deeply desired to follow this new way, but were still being held captive by the rules of the system they had grown up in. People were being left hungry at the Lord’s Table. People were still dominating their slaves. People were speaking to God in strange tongues; that is the way the oracles spoke the words of the Greco-Roman gods so it can’t be a gift of the Living God. People were being ignored because they were not fitting into the what was perceived as the “right way.” They were put to the sidelines because they were not baptized by the right person; by Paul or Apollos or Cephas. There were factions. A line was drawn that was saying you are either in or you are out; a line drawn by humans. A line that cold not see gifts of the Holy Spirit when they were staring them in the face. They were ignoring the image of God in their midst.
The early followers of the foolishness could not hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them because the sprits of the world were shouting much louder.
(Page 2: To the End of the Line)
The sprits of the world have not gotten any quieter. How often do I ignore someone because I don’t think I can help, or they will just waste what I spend on them? How often do I not consider that this person is a child of God, and has gifts to offer the community…gifts that would be a blessing if only I would have recognized they Spirit in them? I know I have often listened first to the sprits of the world and ignored the Sprit of the Holy One.
This happens at home, on a walk to the park, and in our churches. Because someone is too young, or too old to participate fully they are ignored. Because someone can’t speak English clearly their input is not solicited. Because of someone’s sexual identity they are considered somehow different or inferior.
Things of this world get in the way of our recognizing the One Spirit present among all those who proclaim, “Jesus is Lord.” Sometimes we get caught up in simply trying to survive; to recognize our own spirit that we miss the gifts someone may have to offer. When an opportunity that would have meant a certain amount of financial security is pulled out from under us; when the compensation of a job we have is based fully on elements outside our control; when we are graduating to the next grade and have no idea if our support system will be with us or if we will be left to sink or swim all alone. The white noise of the world whispers in our ears. Constantly reminding us that we are significantly insignificant. Tightening our sprits. Choking the life out of us until our peripheral vision beings to fail and we become tunnel visioned; focusing only on our ourselves and ignoring the Holy Sprit in the person next to us. Ignoring that that person has a gift that can help bring us out of our mess.
The white noise fills the airwaves when we hear of a person who wears the name Baptist saying that all “lesbians and queers and the homosexuals should be rounded up and put in an electrified pen until they all die.” The spirit of the Evil One fills the air someone who shares our faith tradition so totally disregards the Holy Spirit present in the lives of children of God that he calls for their deaths; in the name of righteousness. When our children hear such words, the white noise of the world beings to whisper in their ears that people don’t count. That is is ok to bully someone because the are different. Because they might be a boy who likes boys or a girl who likes girls. The white noise says they are missing the Sprit of the Holy. The white noise says to throw rocks and make fun. Then when that beloved child of God ends up killing themselves, then the world is better off. Words of hate that denigrate the Holy Spirit in any of God’s children, especially words which claim to be proclaimed in the same name of the Holy are words that proclaim in reality “Let Jesus be cursed!”
Friends, there are so many sprits in this world that are keeping us from recognizing that the grace of God in Jesus Christ is open and available to everyone. That all who proclaim “Jesus is Lord” are gifted by the Holy Spirit. There is so much white noise telling us and telling others to get to the back of the line. You do not matter. Your voice is not important. You have no gifts that can make this world better.
(Scene 3: The Spirit Strikes Back)
Among the new believers in Corinth, Paul had to remind them that they were all considered parts of the body of Christ. That they all had gifts to offer the body. Gifts given to them by the very power of God’s Holy Sprit. The one and same Spirit that was promised to them by Christ Jesus. The one and same Spirit that descended on the beloved son. The one and same Sprit that cried upon the cross. The one and same Sprit that exploded the stone that sealed a tomb. The one and same Sprit that descended on that house during the feast of pentecost. The one and same Spirit that entered them as they took that first breath of new life after emerging from the waters of baptism. The one and same Spirit that proclaims, “Jesus is Lord.”
Paul tells the believers in Corinth that they all have gifts. That poor and dirty one who comes to the meal late has the gift of preaching. That the repentant and generous slave owner has the gift of knowledge. That the Greek has the gift of tongues. That the Jew has the gift of interpretation. That the man has the gift of prophecy. That the woman has the gift of miracles. That because of embracing the foolishness of the cross all are made foolish. By joining God in weakness all are made weak. By becoming low and despised they join the God who came to dwell among them; and in doing so participate in a new wisdom, live in a new strength, can boast in an assurance that they are one with a God who loves them beyond any of the world’s imaging. That they have the power of the Holy Spirit, and are empowered to work of the common good of all of God’s children.
(Scene 4: A New Hope)
Sisters and brothers, you have been given gifts of the Holy Spirit! Today is Pentecost and we remember that the Holy Spirit is a spirit that is alive and moving in our world today. That despite all of the white noise in the world, we have been called out and given gifts that are given to us by the grace of God. By proclaiming “Jesus is Lord” we are given a power that enables us to say to the world that hate and brokenness are not of God. Gifts that allow us to sit with another who is in pain and is suffering. Gifts that give us the ability to say that everyone is a beloved Child of the Most High God.
The gifts of the Spirit do not discriminate. Children have them. Adults have them. African-Americans have them. Karen have them. Chin have them. Phillipinos, Japanese, Hispanics and Euro-Americans have them. Straights have them. Gays, Lesbians, Bi-sexuals, and Transgenders have them. Vicitms of abuse have them. The homeless have them. The rich have them. The working poor have them. Students and professors have them. Moms and dads; toddlers and snarky teenagers all have them. The Holy Spirit gives us all gifts to use for the common good. We are all part of the body and when one suffers all suffer. And like the body the parts that work compensate and assist a suffereing part until it is healed and can fully particiapte again. This is how it is in the Body of Christ.
Some have the gift of wisdom. Sone have the gift discernment. Some have the gift of being able to offer a smile at just the right time. Some have the gift of writing a letters that seem to have the words of encouragement some one needs. Some have the gift of teaching Adventures in Learning. Some have the gifts of music. Some have the gift of presence. Some have the gift of agitation. Some have the gift of listening. Some have the gift of talking. Some have the gifts of a life time of stories. Some have the gift of leadership. Some have the gift of working with hyper-active children. Some have the gift of working with cantankerous adults. Some have the gift of laughter. Friends, you may not be able to preach like Peter or you may not pray like Paul, but you can tell the love of Jesus, for the Spirit gifts us all.
The hot wind was still blowing when the time came for the main event. People were beginning to get on edge. The humidity was starting to choke the crowd. They were getting restless. And then out came a girl in a special chair. She look out at the crowd. Slowly as they began to see the girl in the special chair on the stage the began to quiet down. This is not what they had expected. They came to see the winner of the contest held by the radio station. They came to hear the voice they had heard on the radio.The voice that soared and told a story just by holding a note. They did not come to see a special needs kid singing songs. But then Maggie opened her mouth. “I see trees of green, red roses too. I see ‘em bloom, for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” As she sang the words pour out and people began recognize the voice they heard over the airwaves. The words of the song that declared how beautiful the world is began to infect the people and soon they all began to join Maggie. They began to experience the gift of healing she brought. They began to experience the gift of hope she embodied. They forgot about the special chair, and the girl who could not walk and began to cheer for the girl who helped them discover gifts are present where least expected. Who helped them discover that the gifts we are given are more than enough.