Apostles beginning to spread the Gospel in every language, I’ve been thinking a lot about birthday celebrations and traditions. The first thing that I thought of actually wasn’t my own birthday tradition, but a tradition from the fictional world of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I have a particular love of Hobbits, the little country folk who love nothing more than good company, good food, and good gardening, and I think that these lowly Hobbits have something to teach us today. These festive people have a particular birthday tradition that is a bit foreign to us. On our birthdays we generally receive gifts, and today we remember that the Spirit does give us each gifts, but the Hobbits do something a little bit different on their birthdays. It is tradition in the Shire for the Birthday halfling to give away gifts to their friends and neighbors. This gift giving spreads throughout the whole community, on my birthday I give you a gift, on your birthday you give someone else a gift, and in a couple generations, the gifts we gave may be passed on to a new recipient who will use them in whatever way makes sense in their context. .
Today, we come to this place because we have been given something by someone, the light that dances on the Paschal candle has somehow sparked in us, and we have caught the life that sustains us through the changes and chances of this life. This morning, we began our liturgy with tolling a bell in remembrance of those who we have lost this year due to gun violence, this act of solemn witness is a fruit of that light we carry. There is so much pain and brokenness in this world, in this community, and that is why I think the Hobbits have something to teach us on our birthday. No matter how small the gift, no matter how dull the bell, no matter how dim the flame, our neighbors are hungry for the gift of Pentecost. The refreshment of Living Water that Jesus brings out of the hearts of believers and the warmth of Holy Fire that Moses and the Elders and the Apostles received are such powerful forces of healing that we must share them in whatever ways we can.
By merit of our Baptism, we have been caught up in this ministry of healing because we each have been given some gift, we each have some story of how God has touched our lives.When I think of Living Water, I am reminded of another Gospel story from earlier in John. Around noon Jesus meets a woman at a well and has a prolonged conversation with her. This woman, who society had shunned, who had likely internalized this shame, came to the well at a time when she could avoid seeing anyone. But Jesus sees her, he listened to her, he gave her something new and refreshing, he allowed her to tell her own story, and some new sense of life came welling up in her heart. After she had received this living water from Jesus she couldn’t help but tell everyone she saw, saying “come and see”. “Come and See”
When I think of Holy Fire, I think of two people. First, my Great-Grammy. She was the woman who introduced me to Jesus and sat next to me in Church praying when I was too young and too shy to even speak the Lord’s Prayer. The second is my best friend who encouraged me to not be afraid of the fire of God’s love, “lean closer to the fire” he says every now and then. Both of their witnesses have stirred the flame of my faith when it was wavering or growing dim. And like wind over coals, our prayerful encouragement and presence with others can reignite something in their lives that helps to bring life anew. The Spirit, our advocate, can give us the strength to advocate for others, if we let Her lead the way.
Saint’s James and Andrew, as I listen to stories about your community, as I scrolled through your website, and as I look around, I can tell that you have been listening for the ways the Spirit has been blessing your community. To those who are being welcomed into the parish family today, I’m excited to hear how you are equipped for ministry in the midst of this community. As you all continue to gather week after week to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, continue to turn around and walk out that door. At the end of today’s liturgy, we will extinguish the Paschal Candle, this great light that has been burning in our midst for the past 50 days. But really, the true Light of Christ will never be extinguished in this community as long as two or three gather together to be fed and to go out into the midst of the community. If the heavens can declare God’s glory with no words or language, imagine what we can do, equipped with a multitude of languages and gifts on Pentecost, maybe we can participate in God’s redemptive work, maybe, just maybe, Babel can begin to look a little more like Eden.
En el Nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo. Amén.
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