Sunday, June 2, 2019

Feast of the Ascension: True stewardship

Today we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. Since this principal feast falls on a Thursday, we transferred it to Sunday. (See BCP, p 15)

Lectionary: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

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En el nombre del Creador, Redentor, y Santificador. Amen.

Our Scripture readings today speak to us of power - the power of God given to those who believe. This is radically different from earthly power, however. Let’s take a look.

In the story from Acts we hear Jesus’ last words on earth: "… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of “the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” In the Gospel from Luke, as Jesus was ascending into glory, he blessed his followers, and they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy…” (the Greek word “chara” being translated here as ‘joy’ means: great gift, extraordinary power).

So, what is this power they are speaking about? The answer is simple: The power they speak of is love, and yes, it is as available to us today as it was then.

We have been baptized by water and the Holy Spirit. Knowing full well the cost of love, Jesus gave us the power of his own love – love that prays for those who persecute us, forgives those who harm us, and gives of itself for the sake of the other. This love compels us to stand by those who hate us, going toward them, not away from them, so that we can bear the light of this love into their darkness.

This love is more powerful than anything else in creation. It is the source of all life and the hope of the world. This love that we have been given can transform lives, heal bodies, move mountains, and renew the face of the earth.

We, who are believers and witnesses of this love, which is the love of God in Christ, are called to receive the gift of this love for ourselves, and to use it for the sake of others. Remember, after Christ ascended, it was the disciples who went about preaching, and teaching, and healing the sick, and restoring the lost. This is neither beyond our ability nor (should it be) beyond our expectations for ourselves and our church community.

So I ask you, St. David’s family, in what ways is this power, this love, being manifest in and through us right now? Are we models of forgiveness in a hate-filled world? … of humility in a world that worships aggression? …of generosity in a world that grabs for personal power? Are we icons of hope to the hopeless? …light to those trapped in darkness? …comfort to the suffering or lonely?

It’s so easy for the church to get distracted from our mission, but the mission is remarkably simple: bear the extraordinary, powerful, transforming Love of God into the world. Make known this amazing love to those who don’t know it, or have forgotten it, or had it stolen from them by “good Christian folk” who had it all wrong. Be Love in the face of hate and ridicule. Stand humbly in the presence of earthly power as Jesus did and embody the Source of true power as She acts through the weak, the least, and the last. Detach from anger, from being right, from the rewards of this world, and seek only the Love that makes no sense – the Love that forgives all, welcomes all, and values all – all people, all creation, all.

When the generations to come look back on our part of this ongoing narrative, what will be the story they tell about us: the St. David’s community in 2019? Will they sing songs about how the power of the love in our small church transformed Cullowhee and Jackson County? It’s a goal…

The greatest, most powerful thing in the whole world is the same now as it was when creation was being spoken into being: love. And this love has been given to us as a gift from the Creator of the universe. More amazingly, it is this Love, God Herself, who dwells in us.

Take a moment (close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing that) and turn your thoughts inward. Open your hearts and enter that beautiful temple of God’s Holy Spirit known as your body. Enter reverently, marveling at the fact that God created you in all this intricate, distinctive physicality; that God chose you knowing all your strengths AND weaknesses; and that God dwells in you. Stay there a moment in peace and awe as you feel the love of God within you, on you, all around you, making you one with all that is, all that was, and all that will be. Claim this moment of Holy Freedom – the freedom to be exactly who God made you to be. Let’s stay in this moment for just a few seconds and allow it to sink in…

Now open your eyes and look at where you are: in this beautiful, holy space, surrounded by friends and co-members of the body of Christ known as St. David’s. We have been clothed with power from on high.

When the disciples first experienced this, they returned to their lives exhilarated. That felt sense of elation and openness of heart is how our bodies experience "Holy Freedom: the full awareness of ourselves as part of the unfolding Divine Will."(Source: The Enneagram Institute)

We, as a church, having been clothed with power from on high, are unlimited in our potential. Remember, Jesus told us that, as amazing as his ministry was, we would do greater things in ours.

This church community is being gathered together by God – as an intentional divine action - because the expression of God’s love, in each one of us and in all of us together, is exactly what is needed in this time and in this place to do the work God has for us to do.

Brother Keith Nelson, of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal Monastery in MA, says it like this: “Jesus, our savior and our model in all things, teaches us that anything glorious that is visible in us or any glorious work wrought by our mind or heart or hands is the manifestation of God’s glory. Since that glory is not ours, it is an unlimited supply that we can spend without counting the cost.”

This is true stewardship of our gifts: to use all that we’ve been given without concern for depleting them or even ourselves, knowing that we are animated by and operate within the abundance of the eternal love of God.


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