Monday, October 28, 2013

Sermon: Spirit Poured Out

 Flower, Spirit, Colors
Sermon for Pentecost XXIII, Proper 25C
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse, October 27, 2013
Lectionary readings for the day, click here.
Sermon based on Joel 2:23-32
“O Children of God, rejoice and be glad,
for God will pour out God’s spirit upon all flesh.”

Good morning.  It is good to be with you today and
always a joy to share in a baptism!

Our readings today are so rich. 
The Hebrew Scripture from the prophet Joel is the same text
that Peter used on Pentecost when
“suddenly from heaven there came the sound
like the rush of a violent wind…
and all of them gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

This scene appears in the book of Acts and
recalls Joel’s prophetic news that
God would pour out God’s spirit upon all flesh. 

Bishop Gene Robinson[1] tells the story of a time when
"…A priest in a large church in Florida…
decided to dramatize the Holy Spirit coming like wind
in a spectacular way.
The priest got [an] engine out of
one of the boats used in the Everglades—
an airplane propeller attached to a big gasoline engine—
and mounted it in the choir loft high
in the back of the church.

{The idea was that} wind from the propeller
would blow out across the congregation
when the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit was read.
It seemed like a great idea.
The priest and an usher gave it a dry run
on Saturday afternoon, and although it was incredibly noisy,
it worked just fine, and promised
a spectacular effect for Sunday morning. 

So when the great moment arrived,
and the lector read,
"And suddenly from heaven there came a sound
like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house,"
well, at that moment, the engine coughed once and
then howled into life. 

But the effect was a little different
than it had been at rehearsal. 
The sudden screaming gust of wind sent sheet music
and bulletins flying out over the congregation. 
Coiffures came undone and hair streamed out from faces. 
The preacher's sermon notes were gone with the wind…
Everything was messy, and noisy, and
absolutely unpredictable.

And that's just the way it is with the Spirit. 
It's that part of God that
refuses to be contained in the little boxes we create
for God to live in,
safely confined to the careful boundaries
we set for God's Spirit. 

The problem is--and the possibility is—
God just won't stay put. 
And God won't let you and me stay put,
content to believe what we've always believed,
what we've always been taught,
what we've always assumed…” 
Today, in Joel, we read about God’s offer of plenty, of promise, of possibility. 

But it wasn’t all good news in the book of Joel. 
See, in a nutshell,
the book tells how swarms of locusts came
as a punishment to the people.
Joel called the people of Israel
to repent by worship and fasting.
(In fact, we use verses from chapter 2 in our
Ash Wednesday service to guide us
in worship and fasting before Lent.)
Joel says that if Israel repents and returns to the Lord,
that army of locusts will leave and never return. 

Not only that, Joel announces,
God will respond to those lamentations in a kindly way.
Joel’s initial message of woe is replaced by
a message of hope. 
Joel’s message of trouble is replaced by
a message of possibility.

“O children of God,
be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God…”
for God has given early rain, full threshing floors,
overflowing vats, satisfying banquets and inspiring worship.
Joel tells the people to rejoice
not only over restoring the fertility of the ground,  
but even more importantly over
restoring the covenant relationship with God.
The restoration of the covenant with God.

Joel’s message for the people was all about
restoring relationship with God
and with each other. 

And, the God who promised, in free grace,
to restore abundant life to Joel’s people
is the same God who offers us salvation;
the same God who pours out God’s spirit onto all flesh;
the same God who will pour out the Spirit onto
today in her baptism.

During the liturgy of the Baptism,
take note that we invoke God’s Spirit
more than a dozen times. 
By this initiation into the Church,
into Christ’s Body,
a holy and life-giving spirit will again be poured out
and our relationship with God will be restored and refreshed.

As we renew our own Baptismal Covenant, recall for yourself: how and when God first poured God’s spirit into your heart, how and when you felt that new exhalation of divine breath, how and when you felt God’s love and forgiveness deep in your bones. 

“Then afterward,

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…
On everyone,
God says,
I will pour out my spirit…”

With vibrant, inclusive language,
we hear one of the few times in the Hebrew Scripture
of women who prophesy.
, we have big plans for you!

And God has big plans for us. 
Just as Joel called the people to be glad and rejoice in plenty,
Joel calls us to retrain our vision away from trouble and lack,
toward possibility, and
toward the promise of God’s Love.

Who are we to know what God is about to reveal?
What if God is about to do something good
and we miss it because we are too scared to look? 
How is God calling us, this day,
to use our plenty, our possibilities,
to work for the coming of God’s justice in the world?

·        Perhaps God is calling you to take part in
the cleanup effort of schools in the budget-weary TUSD through the Adopt-a-School program or
by helping build homes in partnership with community members and low-income families through
Habitat for Humanity.
·        Perhaps God is calling you to teach or
offer homework tutoring with the ASMP, or serve on Altar Guild, or pray in fellowship with the DOK.
·        Perhaps God is nudging you to use your well-educated
voice towards immigration reform or for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.
·        Perhaps God is guiding you to pledge a tithe this year
in connection to a deepening of your faith and
an awareness of God’s love in your heart?

God has big plans for us and pours God’s spirit on us,
giving us the strength and hope
for the coming of God’s reign here on earth. 

Joel proclaimed God’s promise,
“You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.” 
We hear this echoed in John’s Gospel that
“the word became flesh and dwelt among us and
we have seen his glory, the glory as of the father’s only son.”
God is in the mist of us, here!

Today, God is calling us to use our gifts, our plenty, to work for the coming of God’s reign. 
Today we are called to imagine what Joel’s vision of salvation
means in our day – to imagine the possibilities.
Today, God promises that everyone who calls on
the name of the Lord will be saved.

May we, this day, respond to God’s plenty,
God’s promise and God’s possibility – and
become re-enchanted with the world that God has made. 
God has big plans for us to make it even better.

Rejoice! Be glad!

[1] The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, In The Eye of the Storm: Swept To The Center By God (Seabury Books, 2008) 9-10

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sermon: Teresa of Avila

Sermon for October 15, 2013 ~ 10:00 Healing Service
Feast Day of Teresa of Avila, Nun
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
For online access to the readings click here. Matthew 5:13-16

I speak to you in the name of One God, Father Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

Today is the feast day of Teresa of Avila. 
She is well-known as a Spanish mystic and some of you may know of her already?

I am curious what you know about Teresa?

You may have heard some of these quotes?

Born in 1515 in Avila, Spain, she was formed at the time
of “the Renaissance” –
of the “discovery” of America
of the realization that the earth was round
Old and sacred certainties were less certain.
May things were doubted, questioned, researched, discovered.
Humans were becoming aware of their “interiority.”
Sounds like she could inform us today!

Teresa became
          A mystic
a religious reformer,
founder of convents,
author of four books,
the first woman to be raised as Doctor of the Catholic Church and
considered one of the great masters of Christian prayer.

Her biography includes these snippets:
·        Include from Holy Women Holy Men
o       Close spiritual friend of St. John of the Cross
o       Took pleasure in the study of the saints’ lives and “used to delight in spending times of contemplation, repeating, “for ever, for ever, for ever, for ever, they shall see God.”[1]
·        Born into nobility, her mother died when she was 14
·        Nearly died when she was 24 but attributed her cure to St. Joseph’s intercession
·        Experienced profound conversion when she was 44
·        Performed a miracle when she was 46, bringing her nephew back to life
·        Finished her book The Life…a collection of her works and memoir at age 52, followed by The Way of Perfection and her Meditations on the Song of Songs
·        At age 56 she founded seven convents
·        She was denounced in the Inquisition at Seville and ordered to retire at age 60, but she did not.  She wrote The Interior Castle and continued directing the convents, experiencing declining health due to an accident falling down stairs.
·        Despite the demands of her administrative and missionary work, Teresa found time to write numerous letters.
·        She proved to be gifted with practical organizing skills, warm friendship, and a lover of and beloved of God.
·        She dies on October 4, 1582, but that was the year the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, so the date became October 15.

If I was to introduce you to her at a party,
I would remark about her commitment to the interior life.
This commitment was very ordinary and very accessible for us,
mere humans who are not saints. 

She followed the St. Ignatius of Loyola “exercises”
for discernment and prayer. 

I recently found this little book in the library,
“15 Days of Prayer with Saint Teresa of Avila,”
by Jean Abiven a devoted student of Carmelite spirituality.

The book opens with,
“You are going to spend fifteen days, dear reader friend,
in the company of Teresa of Avila, or more precisely,
you will spend fifteen days in the company of the Lord
with Teresa’s help…”[2]

The introduction continues to reveal that
Teresa’s writings inform these prayer periods. 

“…[here,]…we find the progression of a soul,
which…asks itself fundamental questions,
battles against sin,
gives itself to Christ with all of its spark,
a soul which must continue to discern
how to read him in daily life and
how to recognize him through the [blessings] received…” 

Indeed, the author relays,
“…the actions of her whole life serve as witnesses
to a constant prayerful union with the Lord.”

Here are the stages that Jean Abiven proposes
for his “15 days of Prayer”

·        Days 1 and 2: Getting onto the road: How do we pray? Who am I in the eyes of God?
·        Days 3 and 4: The merciful benevolence of the Savior to the sinner that I am.
·        Days 5, 6, and 7: Jesus presents himself to me, asking, “Do you want to follow me?”
·        Days 8 and 9: What do I do, Lord, to join you?
·        Days 10, 11, and 12: Discerning the Lord’s initiatives.
·        Days 13, 14, and 15: Remaining united to him in our daily lives through service to the Church.

In each of these daily reflections,
Teresa provides a kind of spiritual banquet,
with include scriptures and poetic writings
For example, The Business of Friendship (p. 1)

It seems to me that these reflections
bring Teresa into our midst, this day.

Today’s Gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount, connects us to Teresa’s devotion to the interior life.
In today’s passage about being the salt of the earth
and the light of the world,
we can imagine Teresa meditated and prayed about this. 

Her commitment to interiority is what kept her soul “salty” and her light shining.

I found that The Message provides a fresh interpretation, in our own vernacular:

13 “Let me tell you why you are here.
You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out
the God-flavors of this earth.
If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?
You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14-16 “Here’s another way to put it:
You’re here to be light,
bringing out the God-colors in the world.
God is not a secret to be kept. …
If I make you light-bearers,
you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand.
Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop,
on a light stand—shine!
Keep open house; be generous with your lives.
By opening up to others,
you’ll prompt people to open up with God,
this generous Father in heaven.

And so, this day, as we commemorate Teresa of Avila,
may we find ourselves committed anew to our interior life. 

May we be the salt-seasoning that
brings out the God-flavors of the earth in all our relationships
– family, friends, co-workers, and even our enemies. 
With God’s grace fresh in our lives,
may we be generous with our lives,
opening our interior life with others and
sharing the God-colors in the world. 

May we know that God loves us all, generously, freely, faithfully. 


[1] Holy Women, Holy Men, p. 638
[2] Jean Abiven, 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Teresa of Avila