“God is Love. Love casts out fear. Even the most ardent revolutionist, seeking to change the world, to overturn the tables of the money changers, is trying to make a world where it is easier for people to love, to stand in that relationship to each other.” Dorothy Day
Catholic Hadith activist Dorothy Day writes, “Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may at any moment become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself “What else is the world interested in?” What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships.
“God is Love. Love casts out fear. Even the most ardent revolutionist, seeking to change the world, to overturn the tables of the money changers, is trying to make a world where it is easier for people to love, to stand in that relationship to each other.
“We want with all our hearts to love, to be loved. . . . It is when we love the most intensely and most humanly that we can recognize how tepid is our love for others. The keenness and intensity of love brings with it suffering, of course, but joy too because it is a foretaste of heaven. . . .
“When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them. God sees Christ, His Son, in us and loves us. And so we should see Christ in others, and nothing else, and love them. There can never be enough of it. There can never be enough thinking about it. St. John of the Cross said that where there was no love, put love and you would take out love.  The principle certainly works.  . ..
“Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much. 
 John of the Cross to María de la Encarnación, July 6, 1591, in The Collected Works of John of the Cross, trans, Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1979), 703.
 Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage (New York: Catholic Worker Books, 1948), 52.
 Dorothy Day, House of Hospitality(Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2015), 267.
When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. And then he’s so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never lived.”
Long before Internet, reality shows, or other mindless distractions Jesus taught us something about living in the present, in mindfulness. It comes from Luke’s gospel; what happens in that space between two sisters named Martha and Mary.
In the ancient world, hospitality was a big deal. Since there were no hotels like we have today, travelers relied on families, friends, and even strangers to welcome them in for some respite from their journey.
When someone dropped by, it was commonplace for everyone to stop what they were doing to help out, and make that person feel right at home. This seems to be the case when Jesus stops by to see Mary and Martha, the sisters of his dear friend Lazarus.
As the story suggests, Martha expected her sister to help prepare a meal for their guest, and not plop down at Jesus’s feet while she did all the work. I get why Martha complains. There’s an imbalance in the way it’s supposed to work.
When Kathleen returned to college, I took over a lot of the duties she did. She didn’t ask me to do this, I stepped in because stuff needed to get done. During this time, I had a few Martha moments – banging pots and sighing loud enough for the neighbors to hear – because I wanted my kids to help get supper ready. Who could blame Martha for doing the same?
Having said that, I also identify with Mary who jumps at the chance to sit at Jesus’ feet, taking on the posture of a disciple. If given the opportunity I’d exchange sweating over a hot stove to learn directly from him.
I’m curious to know which sister you are more like. The striving Martha who busies herself with the practicalities of life. Or the mindful Mary, who understands the importance of being present. Maybe you are a little of both, like me; constantly striving to find the divine presence in your everyday life. Of course, there’s a third person in this story.
In the space between Martha and Mary is Jesus who accepted the invitation to find refreshment in their home. I’m convinced Martha wants this moment to be perfect for her special guest.
But when she complains about her lazy sister, Jesus just smiles and says, “Martha, Martha, Martha. Stop getting so anxious and distracted.” Although we don’t know how Martha reacted to Jesus’ answer, I’m sure it’s not what one wants to hear when the pot is boiling over and the bread is burning.
Now, I’ve heard a number of sermons that make Martha out to be the bad person in this story. But I don’t think Jesus sees her that way. Luke does not suggest Jesus is upset by her busyness. After all, he wants to eat, and someone has to prepare the meal.
Phil Hooper suggests Jesus says these things to his hostess because she’s worked herself into "a state of anxious distraction" over something as basic as lunch.
Have you ever thrown a dinner party, only to spend the entire time in the kitchen making sure everything goes according to plan, and still everything goes wrong? I have. Ask my wife why I am no longer able to use our outdoor grill.
If we only focus on Martha’s frustration, then we miss the bigger point. True hospitality isn’t about making a perfect meal. It’s about being fully present. Martha’s focus is on her sister when it ought to be on Jesus. For he is the One who gives our work meaning and significance.
Jesus calls out Martha, not to chastise her actions but to awaken her heart. He knows that all the cooking and cleaning and the tending to the small, daily things can open the door of possibility for the divine in-breaking of God in our lives. (Hooper)
But if we’re not paying attention, when our work is not done mindfully of God’s ever-present love, then we might miss it. And we’ll miss the peace and wisdom that comes with it.
Mary’s actions teach us that our presence, our full attention, is the most important thing we can bring to the table.
Jesus doesn’t want us to lose our focus of him … in the many things that worry and distract us in our daily life. Take a moment to think about the “many things” out there distracting us. Not just the big stuff like the pandemic, our politics, and prejudices that still plague our communities. But the little stuff too. I mean how many times have you been distracted during this message?
Just as we need God’s full attention and presence on us, so too does God need ours. The best way to do this is by keeping our focus on Jesus. This is what Mary does. She takes the opportunity to be in God’s grace and glory by being present with Jesus. As Luke states, Mary has chosen the better part.
Again, Jesus isn’t trying to make Mary out to better than Martha. That’s not his style. He’s inviting Martha, and all of us, to enter that sacred space where God comes to meet us in real life. The dichotomy between the two sisters isn’t either/or. It’s both/and. We are both Martha. And Mary. Our needs are both internal and external. Christ both sustains us. And summons us to be his heart and hands in the world.
One of my favorite church stories is about St. Bonaventure - a man who struggled to accept his call to be a monk. Because of his crappy attitude, he was given the job of washing the dishes after every meal.
Bonaventure made it very clear to his Abbot and the other monks, that he hated and despised this task. Yet it was there among all the messiness that this saint developed a deeper understanding of his calling. And more importantly, made a deeper connection to Christ who had called him to serve.
Bonaventure’s story shows us that service comes in all forms. Some more glamorous than others. But it’s all needed in the kingdom of heaven. We often see monotonous tasks like doing the dishes, or dusting, or folding the laundry as annoying necessities rather than acts of holiness.
But not Bonaventure. Like Martha and Mary, his commitment teaches us that “The path to sainthood does not lie in showy ostentation, in external honors and achievements, but in the mundane, humdrum tasks of daily living.”
In a pile of dirty dishes, in the hunger of a crying child, in the sewing and mending, in this sacred space, God comes to meet us and make real change happen. To quote Tish Warren, “God is forming us into a new people. And the place for that formation is the small moments of today.”
Divine transformation is carried out in real life, where we dwell with God and one another. But if we are distracted, and not fully focused on the One who transforms us, then we might just miss it. And miss out on all that God wants to give us.
As you go out into the world, may you never lose sight of Christ in your midst. He’s not just in the busy work, but he’s also in the homeless man at the off ramp; in the addict passed out in the park; and in the elderly widow who’s terrified to go out into the world.
When we are able to see Christ in these heavenly bodies, then we will be able to see Christ within us; transforming us from inside out.
The crisis and challenges that worry and distract us are the very places where God comes to claim us and call us and bless us with love. That love, my friend, is the good part of life that Jesus says, will never be taken away.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol 3. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010.
Hooper, Phil. Trick Question. episcopalchurch.org. July 10, 2022 (accessed July 15, 2022).
Warren, Tish Harrison. Liturgy of the Ordinary: sacred practices of everyday life. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity, 2016.
In John’s first epistle, the Apostle writes, “God is love.” He goes on to encourage us to love one another, because those who love will know God. We need to remember this, especially in these trying times, that it’s in the way we love one another that people come to know us, the church.
It’s in the space between being loved and becoming loving beings that we enter the flow of God’s infinite love in a place we call Anamesa.
So, our theme today is love. No surprise. I’ve vowed to make love my priority. I will continue to preach this particular word and action until it erases all the hatred and anger that permeates throughout creation. Some of which has seeped out from the church.
Today, I want to focus our attention to probably the most well-known verse in the entire bible. It comes from the mouth of Jesus as our reminder of who God is, and why God does what God does for us. It comes from John 3:16-17.
Billy Graham is reported to have said that all of his sermons come down to these 27 pivotal words that make up John 3:16. In fact, every one of his messages could be boiled down to one word in particular: Love. And not just any love but God’s infinite love for us.
Simple, yet profound, these familiar words have created the very foundation of Christian theology. Yet, they are also difficult words for us because they stretch and challenge us constantly. And for good reason: living into the flow of God’s love is serious business.
While this passage is popular in Christian culture, the church has not done a very good job living them out into the world. There are still people being excluded, and judged, and marginalized.
But here’s the thing. Infinite love has no boundaries, no limitations, no exclusions. It has been given to us all, not for our condemnation but so that we can be exalted into the heart of God. God’s love is infinite, limitless. It either flows in and out of everyone, or it doesn’t flow at all. We don’t control the flow. We only enter it.
Jesus began by saying, “For God so loved the world…” to let us know that love originates from God. It is a gift given to everyone and everything. We don’t earn it. Or buy on Amazon or at Target. It just shows up in our life without any precondition outside of God’s own desire to give it away whether we deserve it or not.
That’s why it’s called the good news because who among us is worthy? Jesus said you are, I am, the whole world is. For some strange and mysterious reason, we are the objects of God’s affection.
This can be hard for many of us to understand and accept. Many of us don’t feel worthy or deserving of this love. Other’s think that they can control it or use it to draw circles around themselves in order to make it exclusively their own.
Jesus makes it very clear here. God so loved the world…that God was willing to come to be with all of us. For those of us who believe this, well, we too bear the responsibility of making love a daily practice.
Just as God’s infinite love was made manifest in Christ, we too must we allow the flow of God’s infinite love to become visible in us as we move through the space between being loved and loving beings.
This is the goal for me and you, as individuals and as the church. Thankfully, we have a good example to follow. Jesus knew the power of love. He also knew the dangers as well. Yet he dared to love faithfully and fearlessly.
By looking at Jesus, we will know what infinite love looks like, sounds like, and acts like. We will be in that infinite flow.
By living out God’s love like he did, we will grow a compassionate heart…not one full of contempt. Through his faithfulness to God’s love, Jesus showed us how to heal, how to forgive, how to accept all people for who they truly are - beloved children of God.
If we are going to follow Jesus and we must follow his way, by entering into a love which knows no boundaries, crosses all lines, and goes to all depths and heights to save and redeem the world back to God’s open heart.
Simple, yet difficult because we get in our own way.
On those days when I feel like I’ve failed to live up to what I think God has called me to do, I recite John 3:16 out loud.
Instead of saying “the world” I say my name. “For God so loved Ian that He gave His only begotten son for me.” I make it personal because God’s love is personal. It’s been given to me, and to you, and to anyone and everyone who wants it.
Our self-worth begins with the sure and certain truth that out of great love for us, God came to be closer to us. God did not send Christ to condemn us but to save us; to heal and redeem us.
In spite of whatever has gone horribly wrong in your life, whatever has wounded or hardened your heart and caused you to stumble or rebel, God has already made peace with you through Christ. That’s the good news. That’s the gospel truth.
God sent the world this gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you and I might have a new life that extends beyond the many places we are in right now. Through Christ, God breaks down the walls and barriers we’ve built around ourselves. In this sacred space of Anamesa, God moves wildly and recklessly to make sure no one and no thing is left untouched by God’s merciful grace and love.
The goal of the Christian church is to testify to this infinite gift in all that we do. Jesus said it like this, “love one another as I have loved you.” This tells me that we are both the loved and the loving, called to live it out in this space between.
In a homily entitled “We Create Our Destiny,” Richard Rohr made this shocking confession. “If God’s infinite love and grace is not flowing through the church, then we might as well throw away the Christian religion because it’s not doing the world any good.”
Like we’ve seen in the past few elections, most Christians don’t behave any differently than anyone else. Try to imagine Jesus behaving like many of us do towards someone we don’t like.
The world is watching. Some are waiting for us to mess up, which we so often do. But I believe most people are looking to see if we’re authentic, if our actions meet our words.
The world is hungry for love, and tired of all the arguing and fighting. Christ’s church needs to lead the way. And that way is the way of love. That’s why I pledge to preach it every week. But what good are my words if I’m not willing to back them up?
God isn’t asking us to be perfect. God loves us despite our imperfections. God wants us to jump into this divine flow and love just as wild and recklessly as God is willing to do.
Through Christ, we are invited to be one with God. And one with each other. This is a life-long journey… a daily and dangerous practice that strengthens our personal faith as well as our faith communities.
Thus, I think we all need John 3:16 tattooed on our hearts. We need to memorize it, reflect upon it, teach it to our children. We need to jump into it and give ourselves over to it, so God can take full root within us.
Without such love we suffer, anguish and perish. But with it, we thrive and bear the good fruit of the Spirit who moves us in the space between being loved and being loving beings.
Based on an original sermon Love on July 24, 2016.
Indermark, John. The Greatest of These: Biblical Moorings of Love. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.
Rohr, Richard. We Create Our Own Destiny. Homilies With Richard Rohr podcast. February 23, 2019 (accessed on June 29 2022).
Ziegenfuss, Lynn. Youthworkers.net. Oct. 2008. http://www.youthworkers.net/pdf/T5200810.pdf (accessed July 22, 2016).
...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Now, today is Father’s Day, when I’ve often used this time to talk about my dad who has played a pivotal role in shaping my faith. But I’d like to honor another father who taught me how to use this faith with purpose and meaning. He was an Irish immigrant named Vince who embodied these nine qualities like it was a second skin.
Before we go there, I want to point out that Paul used the singular tense, fruit, not fruits, to describe the actions of the Spirit. This tells us that they’re not independent but interconnected.
Moreover, they’re not our actions but are the Spirit, who works through us.
It’s like a bowl of fruit salad, where you put watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, and other fruits into one bowl to make one meal. For the record, my father-in-law would have a good joke about me comparing him to a bowl of fruit salad.
Starting with the last fruit on this list, Vince embodied SELF-CONTROL. Unlike the horrific stereotypes of Irish men, he didn’t drink or fight. He never lost his composure when faced with a tough challenge. Even in the most difficult moment of His life, Jesus also exercised great self-control. He possessed the power to end his suffering, but instead Jesus stayed focused on the job he was sent to do.
Self-control helps us from getting run over by life’s challenges. It keeps us rooted in what is right. And prevents our desires from leading us astray from doing God’s will. And it also produces GENTLENESS, the next fruit in our salad.
Although he was a big man, with an even bigger personality, Vince was a very gentle human, with a tender and mild disposition. From the way he cradled his grandchildren to how he treated his employees, Vince always showed forgiveness and grace over anger and revenge.
Much like Christ who said, "I am gentle and humble of heart," Vince never insisted on having his own way but often yielded to others.I think this spiritual fruit is often ignored because it makes us seem vulnerable and weak.
By watching Vince closely, I learned the strength of gentleness, especially as it reveals our FAITHFULNESS, a spiritual fruit that helps us live our life in accordance with God's will at all times. Jesus did this to a fault, even when it costs him his life.
If you knew Vince, then you knew he wore his faith on his sleeve much like Jesus did – not in a pious way, but in the many ways he helped others.
Because of his faith, people could depend on Vince and trust he would always do the right thing. That’s how he was faithful to what God was calling him to do. As I’ve stated before, “Church is a verb. Faith an imperative. Christianity an action.” Christ gives us the Holy Spirit to help us remain faithful to these tasks.
watch the message here
I think Paul gives us this list so people will know our faithfulness by the fruit of GOODNESS we produce.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “One does well by doing good.” If that’s so, Vince did really well. A good father. A good husband. A good brother, uncle, and friend. The examples of his goodness are way too long to go through, but if you can think of a good deed, there’s a good chance Vince did it.
Summarizing Jesus’ ministry Peter stated, "Jesus Christ of Nazareth...went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). That was Vince who never took his eye off the One who describes himself as, “the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep" (c.f. John 10:11-18).
We’d all do well by taking Paul’s advice to imitate the goodness of Christ who constantly revealed God's glory and grace in the world through the Spiritual fruit of KINDNESS (c.f. Philippians 2:3-8)
Kindness is a kind of holy sacrifice; a willingness to give to others above and beyond what we own them. Jesus was the poster child of kindness. Healing, feeding, and forgiving others without ever asking for anything in return. On the night he was arrested, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. Instead of worrying about himself and what’s to come, Jesus reacted with kindness and compassion; immediately healing the man who was taking him to his death.
Although Vince trained as an Army medic, I don’t recall hearing any stories like this. But countless times I witnessed true kindness in the way he cared for “the least of these.” The homeless, the widows, the orphans, the in-laws like me.
If you met Vince, you were met with kindness, that at times ame with a lot of PATIENCE – an often-overlooked spiritual fruit. I asked Kathleen to describe her father’s patience. She said, “He listened, didn’t rush to judgment, gave you the benefit of the doubt. He was very good about making sure you were heard.” Are these not Christlike qualities?
Jesus always exercised great patience with his disciples. Always quick to show God's mercy and grace. Paul wrote, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him.” (1 Tim. 1:16)
We have all benefited from Christ’s immense patience, haven’t we? One such benefit is receiving Christ’s PEACE – the spiritual fruit of wholeness and completeness that comes from knowing God’s love for us. Jesus is the incarnate promise of God’s love, the perfect peace made visible to us.
In many ways Vince a peaceful man. he showed God’s love in such a way that made you feel like everything would be alright. As a father of nine, he knew what it meant to be a peacemaker. Whenever he caught the children fighting, he’d make the hold hands and sing, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me...”
Like most parents discover, when there is peace in the house you rejoice. The that’s because in this fruit salad, peace and JOY co-exist as one. More than a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, spiritual joy is a state of being undisturbed by the negative things in life once you realize God's grace and love for you.
Growing up in a poor farming village in Ireland, Vince knew the difficulties of life. He knew struggle and suffering and sacrifice. He may not have had the luxuries that his children enjoy today, but he was rich in ways most of us could only hope for. Vince’s joy was not dependent on his circumstances, but on what God’s love and grace had done for him.
No matter what space he found himself in, Vince always brought joy with him to share. Always quick with a smile. And even quicker with a joke or a song. Always with love in his heart to give away. Jesus told His disciples that his joy will remain in them, and it will never run out (John 15:11). My father-in-law took that to heart, because that joy stayed within him to the very end.
The joy Christ gives us comes from God, whose steadfast LOVE for us is the first fruit of the Spirit. Love is God. God is love. God’s love created us. And God’s love has saved and redeemed us.
Just as branches of a tree or a grapevine have to be connected to the trunk in order to bear grapes or apples, we are connected to God’s love through Christ who gave away this fruit as if it could never run out.
Thus, Jesus tells those who follow his way, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will abide in you” (John 14:15).
“This is my commandment” he said, “that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
When Jesus told them, “There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for his friends” (John 15:13), our Lord went on to show us what that means for us today; setting aside our own desires, to follow God’s will and way.
Just as God shows love to us, we too are called to love one another – without condition, or any thought of receiving something in return.
So, it is in the sacred space of Anamesa we must always keep our focus on Christ Jesus who said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Between the fruit and the vine, the Holy Spirit moves in us and through us allowing Christ’s light to shine among us so the world can see what God’s love looks like. And give God all glory.
This Advocate is a great gift given to us. With it, we can do anything Jesus did, and so much more. Whatever space you find yourself in today, keep your heart and mind open to follow the Holy Spirit who leads you along the pathway of God’s righteousness.
Because, like Paul would come to understand, “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8:14).
As God’s children it’s up to us to go out into the world to bear the fruit of God’s Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This is how we church and co-exist as one family; living, and loving in this heavenly fruit salad that we called life.
I started this blog to find ways for us to be more like Jesus. I chose the name Jesus Not Jesús believing if we could approach all people as sacred and holy beings - like we might with someone holy and sacred like Jesus- then maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to judge, harm, shame, cheat, or kill those strangers in our midst.
I’ve never been an immigrant. But I do know what it’s like living in a place where people make sure you know you’re not wanted there. One such place was a church. Imagine what our communities could gain if we approached every Jesús or Maria or Muhammad as if we were standing before the Divine. After all, we are all made in the same image of the Divine.
Henri Nouwen wrote a lot on the subject of compassion, towards others and ourselves. Today I read this from his book You Are The Beloved that got me thinking about the simple acts of kindness we can show towards one another like Jesus taught through his words and deeds.
Nouwen wrote, “And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer. . . Those who can sit with their fellow man, not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there, can bring new life into a dying heart. Those who are not afraid to hold a hand in gratitude, to shed tears of grief, and to let a sigh of distress arise straight from the heart can break through paralyzing boundaries and witness the birth of a new fellowship, the fellowship of the broken.”
It’s in the way we meet one another in their pain, suffering, hardships, and need that we do the greatest miracles - healing others and ourselves. It’s in the space between me and the other that the Divine is seen and felt, fully alive, both divine and human.
Compassion is not easy work. It’s a lifelong journey that takes daily practice. But this is how we are called to be in this world fully present and fully alive. This is how peace spreads across borders, love through families and communities, and hope throughout all eternity. It simply begins by looking at another human and seeing the image the divine within them. And doing so may you also see that image reflecting in you.
In the church calendar, today is Trinity Sunday -a time when I am supposed to speak on the Triune relationship between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is not an easy task. The church actually split over it.
Again, Jesus gives us a pretty solid clue when he tells Philip, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. If you don’t believe that, then look at the works I’ve done.”
It seems Jesus is one with God because he lives out God’s word perfectly. And God is one with Jesus because those who keep the commandments God abides in them. Jesus shows us how this works in that everything he says and does reveals God’s glory and grace to the world.
In the space between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit moves with action and purpose, making Jesus’ words and deeds come into fruition. The three work together as one to bring healing and restoration into all of creation. That’s the Holy Trinity in a nutshell.
There’s a lot more to it as you might imagine. But I want to talk about something else Jesus said when he was answering Philip. He said, “If you believe in me, the Spirit will move through you so you can do the works of the Father like I do.” Then he adds, “you will do greater things than these.” And that, my friends, is the church’s mission in a nutshell our call is to do greater things than Jesus.
God the Father needs us to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven. God the Son comes to us in the flesh to show us how to do it. And God’s Spirit is given to us to do what he did, so others will know the way of God’s righteousness and follow suit.
But this spirit is only given after the Son ascends back to the Father. And therein lies the problem for the disciples. They don’t want Jesus to go away.
Years ago, a very dear friend of mine was redoing his will. He and his wife had chosen Kathleen and I to care for their child should anything ever happen to them. On one hand, that’s a great honor. And a great responsibility. But it’s also a great weight for me because I know that in accepting this responsibility also means losing a great friend.
The disciples have been with Jesus pretty much every day since he called them to follow him. They’ve worked together, sat around the fire together, laughed and broken bread together. They were Jesus’ best friends. Partners in his ministry. Now, he tells them “I’m going away without you. You got this.” The Twelve don’t want to hear that.
Jesus assures them that it’s going to be okay and in fact they should be happy that he is leaving them because they will receive this great gift, an Advocate, who will help them do things they never could imagined themselves doing.
The same is true for us today. The same Spirit given to the first church is the same in this church. With that said, let me quote this warning from Spider-Man who said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Between you and me, this feels like a set up for failure. An impossible mission at best. I’d love to be able to turn water into wine, or heal people’s diseases, but I can barely manage my honey-do list my wife makes for me how will I ever do greater things than Jesus? I know my limitations and weakness, my lack of focus and how lazy I can get. How does God expect me to save the world?
But here’s the thing, Jesus isn’t sending us out to do the impossible. He’s sending us out with God’s Spirit because with God all things are possible. Jesus is connecting us with the Father so we too can move like the Son and the Spirit with meaning and purpose, to heal and restore the world.
watch the entire message here
To quote Barbara Brown Taylor from last week, “The same Spirit of God that had entered Mary and given birth to Jesus, has entered those who believed so that God could be born again.”
As the church, our job is to be the bearers of God’s Holy Spirit out in the world. How we define ourselves begins with how we allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through us like it did in and through Christ who loved without conditions and forgave without restraint.
It’s in this space between you and me, God’s Spirit moves like our own breath – encouraging us to proclaim the gospel; to produce the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We all possess the abilities to be like Christ because it’s not so much you and I doing the work, but Christ who is in us. Scripture tells us that it’s his faith that does all the heavy lifting. Our faith just opens the door for him to move about.
In giving us the Spirit, Christ is giving us his power, his consciousness, his wisdom, and strength. It’s not us, but Christ through us who befriends the outcast, heals the sick, speaks up for the marginalized, and stands up against the sins of the empire.
I think that’s why Jesus says all we need to have is faith the size of a mustard seed to do great miracles. A little bit of time, or a little bit of energy, can help a person out of a jam. A little patience can bring about great peace. A simple smile, or a few kind words, can calm someone who is anxious. It doesn’t take much for God to come in and do a lot of good through us.
Church is a verb. Faith is an imperative. Christianity is an action. To follow Jesus is to be like him, every day, in all that we say and do.
It’s about showing his heart through acts of mercy, generosity, and love. It’s about being his visible body to the poor and hurting. It’s about being his hands for someone to hold on to when there’s nothing else. This is what healing and restoration looks like in the Kingdom of Heaven. This how miracles happen every day. This is how the face of Jesus is seen in every space we enter.
It only takes a little faith to receive the same Spirit that empowered Jesus to act and inspire. The only thing stopping us from doing what he did, is ourselves. We all have limiting beliefs that we are not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, or faithful enough to be of service to God. But between you and me…we are.
I think Jesus made that perfectly clear when he entrusted his ministry to us. Jesus knew what he was doing, ordaining us with the Spirit of God, to keep his mission going. He empowered us to do the undoable.
If you want to forgive someone who has hurt you, Jesus believes you can.
If you want to heal a broken relationship, Jesus tells you to go for it.
If you want to cast out the demons of anger, hatred, and violence, then do it in his name.
Through Christ, we’ve been given all that we need to do greater things than these. Like Paul wrote, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
It’s only a matter of time that the Apostles will understand just how powerful of a gift this Spirit is.
Following Pentecost, Peter and John went to the temple to pray. On the way, they met a man who had been lame since birth. Every day, the man sat at the gate of the temple and begged for alms. When he saw the two Apostles about to enter, he asked them for a handout. Peter looked the man in the eye and said, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk.”
They reached out and pulled the man up. Immediately his ankles and feet were strengthened. And this man, who had never walked a day in his life, began jumping and leaping and praising God as he entered the temple all on his own. Everyone who saw him “were filled with wonder and awe.” (c.f. Acts 3:1-10)
A lot can happen in that space between you and me, if we are willing to awaken our hearts to the work of the Spirit. Just as we breathe in and out, so too does the Spirit move between us to do the healing work of God in the world.
In closing, I would like to remind you of one more thing Paul said. “It’s not me who lives, but him who lives in me.” Through Christ, God invites us to become a part of the power of the Holy Trinity; moving as God moves. Loving as Christ loves. And being actively present, just like the Holy Spirit is all around us.
If we show up and allow Christ to be seen between you and me, then we will bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And so much more.
It’s hard sometimes, for me to speak of God’s Holy Spirit with words because what words could really do it any justice? I could go on and on about the feelings, the unexplainable and the mystery of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, but that too would require words. Instead, I have always relied on other people’s words to be my own. After speaking of the Holy Spirit for Pentecost Sunday, I was sent these words below that I felt deepened my words. And these words I would like to share with you. They came from a daily devotional that I receive from the Center of Action and Contemplation, which is lead by Richard Rohr. He borrows them from Grace Ji-Sun Kim. He’s what she had to say…in her own words:
God’s Spirit in the Bible is identified with the Hebrew word ruach, which can also mean breath. Korean-American theologian Grace Ji-Sun Kim explores the Spirit’s creative power in the Old Testament:
Breath evokes the sense of the intimacy and presence of the Spirit, who is with us always, even when we are unaware of it. Ruach is the breath of life and the power to live (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In the Old Testament, life-sustaining breath comes directly from the Divine—the creative power of Yahweh who bestowed life upon creation (Job 27:3). . . .
In Genesis 2:7, it is after God breathes into Adam that Adam comes alive. The word used in the text to refer to God’s breath is neshama, which is a synonym of ruach. Ruach is used to mean “breath of life,” as in Ezekiel 37, when the dry bones in the valley come to life as a result of God’s ruach.
Creation emerges out of the energies of God’s own Spirit, bridging the gulf between Creator and creature, actor and act, and master and work. Human creativity is intimately bound up in God’s own creativity. Ruach can give life to the lifeless and bring renewed life to those who have no hope. The Spirit of God is at work in creation.
The creativity of God begins in creation itself: the creative act of God that brings all things into existence and coexistence. “This breath is the essence of life” (Job 12:10), and without it is death. And all life is derived from one source, which is God. Thus, life and death are dependent upon the presence of the divine breath, as in Job 34:14: “If [God] should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath.” God’s ruach sustains the being of the universe and energizes its processes. God is constantly present and breathes with the breath of the world.
Kim describes the Holy Spirit as the divine life-source of all creation:
The Spirit of God is recognized at the beginning of the Bible as it plays its role in the creation story. The Holy Spirit as breath is the force that gives life to all life in the cosmos (Genesis 1:2). As it does so, creation becomes understood as an act of God. The Holy Spirit moves the biosphere and gives life to everything in it. . . .
The Old Testament shows the Spirit—not just any spirit, but a life-giving Spirit of God—as the divine power that creates, sustains, and renews life (Genesis 1:2). This power of the Spirit is found in the prophetic books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel. For God to bring breath to dry bones shows the power of the Spirit to give life, always. Even in situations of death, sorrow, despair, and hopelessness, the Spirit can move us and create a space of joy to be alive. If it can bring back to life what was dead, what more can the Spirit do for us?!
Excerpt from Richard Rohr’s daily devotional on June 8, 2022.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the Holy Spirit: Hand-Raisers, Han, and the Holy Ghost (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018), 17–18, 19, 20.
I like to think that just as we can see leaves rustling on trees or our breath in the cold morning air, we can see God’s Spirit whenever we see acts of love and kindness happen in the world. I think this is what it means to be ‘church.’
In a beautiful sermon on Pentecost, Barbara Brown Taylor describes this scene like this, “Before any of them could defend themselves, that mighty wind had blown through the entire house, striking sparks that burst into flames above their heads, and everyone of them was filled to the gills with God’s breath.”
In one giant divine breath, the Christian church was born. And those who inhaled it, well…their life would never be the same again.
It’s not unusual to speak about the Holy Spirit as the breath of God. The Greek word for "spirit" is pneuma, the same word for "breath." And in Hebrew the word is “ruach,” which has many meanings; including “wind, breath, and spirit.”
Breath has gotten a lot of attention these last two years – mostly because of COVID and wearing masks for long periods of time. But for me, it was until the tragic death of George Floyd that made me realize the only time we really think about our breath is when we run out of it.
Wind is another story. It tussles you and slaps you, screams and howls at you. It can bite you, break you, and even blast you away. Wind can generate enough power to light up a city, and destroy it at the same time. Wind is wild. And wildly unpredictable. And it’s hard to ignore.
At a very young age, my dad taught me how to sail. Part of this training was learning how to read and understand the wind. I would set sail in the Gulf of Mexico the way most kids rode their bikes; daily, excitedly, and recklessly.
I remember one quiet summer morning I took our catamaran out by myself. As I drifted over the placid waters, I trimmed the sails and manipulated the rudder to capture what little wind there was. Gliding slowly, my mind began drifting further and further away from the shoreline.
The gentle lapping of the water against the boat, had me so completely relaxed that I was caught completely off-guard by a sudden gust of wind that came out of nowhere. It filled my sails with such intensity that it caused the boat to flip over.
While I believed I was old enough to set sail on my own, I knew I didn’t weight enough to right the boat. So, I sat and floated in the Gulf of Mexico, wondering where that wind had come from and where it was going.
Pentecost is our reminder of how God’s Spirit can catch us off guard, tip us over, and turn our world sideways. Although she might leave us feeling adrift at times, God’s Spirit never abandons us. In fact, she’s always so close to us that we often forget she is there.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “In the Holy Spirit, God comes to be as close to us as our own breath.” To think that God’s Spirit is more intimate with us than we are with ourselves.
In that space between inhale and exhale, the Bible tells us that Spirit of God is always present, “praying in us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy…the kind of life that death cannot destroy.”
But here’s the thing. We can feel the wind kiss our cheeks. We can smell hints of coffee or mint on someone’s breath. But how do we know that the Spirit is here?
I like to think that just as we can see leaves rustling on trees or our breath in the cold morning air, we can see God’s Spirit whenever we see acts of love and kindness happen in the world. I think this is what it means to be ‘church.’
I think Jesus would agree that random acts of love and kindness are the best ways we can worship and glorify God. And it’s the Holy Spirit that empowers us to take the love that has been given to us through Christ Jesus, and breath it out into the world.
As Barbara Brown Taylor put it, “The same Spirit of God that had entered Mary and give birth to Jesus, has entered those who believed so that God could be born again.”
You see, in that room in ancient Jerusalem, God wasn’t becoming incarnate in one body. Instead, God breathed life into a universal body of believers who inhaled the breath of the Spirit, just as Jesus had, and “used their own bodies to distribute the gift.”
Pentecost is not just a one-time event any more than it is an annual birthday celebration. It is the very gift of life from God that needs to be celebrated and shared every day.
Every breath we take is a reminder of who we are as a church and as believers. Thus, every breath we release says something about who we are and what we are about.
If we inhale God’s spirit of love and forgiveness, then we must exhale God’s spirit of love and forgiveness; just as Jesus did from his first breath in Bethlehem to his final breath on the cross at Golgotha. If we speak the name Jesus, if we use our breath to call ourselves Christians, then every breath we are given must be used to tell his story through our words and deeds.
In the space between our inhaling and exhaling, God moves in and out of us. With one divine breath, God fills the lungs of ordinary people like you and me to empower us to do extraordinary things. How will we use that power to inspire and execute acts of mercy, kindness, and justice in all the ways we love?
As Keri Day writes, “The Holy Spirit is a subtle power. It’s the secret force behind all beauty, truth, and goodness; every act of kindness and compassion; every wise insight and every noble decision.” When the church lives faithfully in the Spirit of God’s love, “every need can be cared for and every painful circumstance can be met.”
This is how one gentle breath can turn into a mighty wind that can move with such force that it catches the world by surprise, and tips it over towards the righteousness of God.
Between the horizon and the shoreline, I sat on the pontoon of my capsized boat. As I dangled my feet in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I felt a light breeze kiss my wet skin; reminding me I was not alone. God was with me.
Before my parents could send out a search party for me, an elderly man in a rusty old fishing boat puttered over to help right me over. As I grabbed the tiller and trimmed the sails, I found just the right amount of wind, breath, and spirit to sail smoothly and safely home.
If these last few years have taught us anything, it’s that unexpected events happen every day. We can fear capsizing or running aground. Or we can settle into the truth that God doesn’t stop breathing in us; empowering and guiding us to proclaim the good news of God’s redemptive love in all that we do.
Between each inhale and exhale, God moves in us and through us. By this normal, everyday action, God transforms us to become living, breathing, thriving vessels of love and grace wherever we are.
I believe this was God’s intention for us from the very beginning. Nothing has changed since the Spirit of God hovered over the darkness and breathed all of life into existence. As we sit here, in Anamesa, we are a part of this divine breath.
When our Lord let go of his last breath on the cross, God took it, and strengthened it into “a holy hurricane” that burst into flames above the disciple’s heads and filled their gills to capacity. Like Barbara Brown Taylor notes, “It was as if God wanted to make sure that Jesus’ friends were the inheritors of Jesus’ breath.” In the same way, God used the Spirit of the first church to ignite something amazing in us.
We must ask ourselves how will we turn our gentle breath into a mighty wind that can set the world on fire? How will we move with such Christ like force that it breathes life into new kinds of communities where justice and equality are the new norms?
Our Lord gave us this Spirit to do good in the world. How will we use our gifts of breath so others can see God’s glory in and all around them?
We know what Jesus did. He loved, healed, forgave, redeemed. The disciples took that spirit and created loving and lasting communities around the world. We’ve been given this gift for a reason.
How will we inhale and exhale the divine love of Christ upon one another?
How will we use each breath to speak Christ into our communities where there is hurt, pain, suffering, and darkness?
How will we inhale life and share it abundantly with each other, just as Jesus did by loving God, loving others, and serving both?
A refresh of an original sermon entitled Wind. Breath. Spirit. (May 15, 2018)
Bartlett, David L., and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 3. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007.
Day, Keri. We Need A Pentecost. May 3, 2018. www.christiancentury.org/article/critical-essay/we-need-pentecost (accessed May 18, 2018).
Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey: A Day Book of Wisdom and Faith. New York: Harper Collins, 1997.
Taylor, Barbara Brown. Home by Another Way. New York: Cowley, 1999.
"Joy is essential to the spiritual life. Whatever we may think of or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thoughts and words cannot bear fruit. Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that his joy may become ours and that our joy may become complete. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing—sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death—can take that love away.
First of all, the only point of a gun is to kill. That’s what it was designed for. And that’s what it does. Let’s not pretend they named it an assault rifle for some other reason. An assault is an act of violence done to someone. You can argue these weapons of death are for protection, but the only way a gun will protect you and your loved ones is if you are willing to pull the trigger and kill someone. God has made it pretty clear, that killing is a no-no.
Speaking of commandments…Our obsession with guns is nothing shy of idolatry. If you are offended by me saying that know that I don’t care. These facts offend me and ought to offend you. America has more civilian-owned guns than it has citizens. We are 25 times more likely to die by gunshot than any other country in the world. Gunshots are the leading cause of death in children.
As far as I know, we are the only country that supports an organization whose only job is to protect the gun industry. With the blood still fresh on the linoleum floor of Robb Elementary, the NRA is meeting to discuss new ways to spin the same old story. “It’s a mental health issue.” And my favorite, It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people.” We’ve heard their lies. And they don’t work anymore. The right to bear arms doesn’t give you the right to bear false witness. Another no-no of God’s.
Gun advocates want us to believe that the only way to protect ourselves from gun violence is to arm ourselves with more guns. That idiotic logic has helped produce more mass shootings this year than we’ve had days. It’s gotten so out of control that the phrase “gun violence” has become synonymous with the name America. It’s time to go in a new direction.
The 2nd Amendment isn’t a sacred document. Nor is it more important than any other amendment. Or our right to live, and to live a life with liberty to pursuit a life without the fear of getting shot.
So to every politician and voter who call themselves Christians, remember the word of Jesus who said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little children who believe in me, you’d be better off if a great millstone were fastened around your neck, and you were drowned in the sea.”
On this Memorial Day, I light this candle in honor every child of God whose light has been extinguished by a bullet. As it flickers, may it remind us all of the Eternal light for which they are now a part of.
Most humans don’t train for these kinds of events. When Joe Garcia got the news, his heart didn’t just break, it shattered. While putting flowers on his wife’s makeshift memorial, Joe suffered a fatal heart attack - leaving their four children instantly orphaned. Their names are: Cristian, José, Lyliana, and Alysandra.
There will be more names added to this list if something isn’t done to ensure everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But I fear nothing will.
Zara Rahim tweeted, it’s “Insane how the only notable change since Sandy Hook is that kids are now formally trained to hide, barricade doors, fight, or run for their lives. That was the solution. Too literally put the responsibility on kids to figure it out and wish them good luck.”
How many more must die before we say this is enough?
If you’re like me, then you’re probably suffering with compassion fatigue. Trying to keep up with the latest trauma is leaving even the most faithful feeling helpless and hopeless.
I’m tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of grieving for this insanity. The Bible doesn’t tell us not to grieve, but we must not grieve as those who have no hope. But this week, it doesn’t feel like that anymore.
As I searched the bible for a word of scripture that didn’t sound cliché, something jumped out at me that gave me a glimmer of hope. It was a name that I had never really noticed before. It’s from the lectionary reading for today. (Read Revelation 22:8-16 here.)
I think we can all agree with John who reminds us that the darkness is filled with evildoers, immoral people, murderers, liars. People who not only prey and kill innocent children but also people who turn a blind eye to it, or worse, gaslight it for political power.
No matter how bleak the world gets, no matter how dark the night becomes, we will always have light of Christ, our Morning Star, ushering in a new day.
For those of us who are in a dark place right now, here’s what I reminded everyone on Easter morning - God does some pretty amazing things in the dark. Between dusk and dawn, God is not asleep but hard at work. The psalmist writes, “He who keeps you will not slumber” (Ps. 121:1).
When we set our eyes upon the Morning Star, we are reassured that the darkness never wins. Death does not have the final word. God does.
In Christ, we know a new day is dawning, but not yet. This is the paradox of our faith. We long for a new heaven and new earth that Jesus promises. But until that day comes, we are called to navigate this dark space – by abiding in him, living out his word in the world.
That word is love. And that love is the light of Christ that shines upon us; exposing the darkness for what it really is. As the church, the very body of Christ, we must let his light shine brightly through us if we are to confront and conquer evil. This is no easy ask.
Thankfully, Jesus does not leave us helpless. He has armed with all the power of the Holy Spirit to tear down the systems of injustice, and destroy the idolatry of guns, power, and greed.
We have what it takes to demand sensible gun laws and to vote politicians out of office if they are unwilling to create those laws. We have what it takes to ensure every child has the chance to let their potential shine brightly. The same power that was given to Jesus himself has been give to us to transform a dark world into the loving light of God. But what good is that power if we only keep it to ourselves?
We can no longer stay silent, fearing the dark shadows. We must stand up and act out by shining the light of Christ on the real evils that are infecting our communities, our country, and this world.
If Easter has taught us anything, it’s that the night may rage for a time, but it will always succumb to the light. As it is written, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
During our time of suffering and pain, we are not alone. We have each other. And we always have the indwelling love of God with us. Whatever darkness you’re experiencing right now, I invite you to hold onto the truth that God is love, and such love is eternal. Just as love comes from God, so too does it return to God. When we die, we will lose everything that life gave us except for the gift of love.
The million dollar question is how will you use that gift of love today? How will you shine Christ’s light so brightly that people will be drawn to its warmth?
If you believe gun violence is a mental health issue, then what will you do to make sure that people receive the health care they need. If you are tired and worn out from living in fear of gun violence, then what are you going to do to put an end to it? If you think the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is important for us as a nation, then what will you do to ensure that every life gets a chance to experience it fully?
Jesus says, “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me to repay according to everyone’s work.” What we do today, matters. In this sacred space of Anamesa, we must always remember that our actions, like Jesus’ own name, will echo throughout all time and space.
There is an eternity behind us. And an eternity ahead of us. But it’s here, in this moment, we expose the darkness for what it is by shining the light of Christ, our morning star, so that all of God’s children can live to see another day.
Inspired by a message by Bryan Chapell from The Hardest Sermons You'll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times. Zondervan. Kindle Edition, 2011.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”