“Be Alive, Be Very Alive”
A sermon by
The Rev. Keely Franke
May 27, 2012
Today’s the day. The day when we celebrate, reenact, and relive that very first Pentecost. The day after Jesus’ ascension when the Holy Spirit swooped down and found a group of disciples huddled in a building. Suddenly that building came to life. Violent winds rushed in, not unlike the winds with the thunderstorm we’ve had of late. Tongues of fires lit up on heads. And the Holy Spirit began to speak through the disciples in many languages. Thereby cracking open the walls of that small building and moving these folks outside into a much larger world than they had known before.
Summer in Minnesota is a lot like Pentecost. If the warm, breezy days don’t seduce one to go outside after 7 months of being pent up I’m not sure what else could. Come May neighbors talk to each other for the first time in months, planning parties and gardens and long weekends at the cabin. It seems there’s hardly a Minnesotan that stays inside for more than 3 hours in the summer months.
Just the other day I was heading over to Nina’s to meet one of you for coffee. As I rounded the north corner of St. John’s I felt my whole body relax. The smell of freshly blooming lilacs and the feeling of warmth on my skin engulfed me. I stopped for a moment to take it all in and I sighed with relief.
In Romans Chapter 8 Paul describes this feeling so beautifully. I encourage you all to go home and read this chapter. It’s my new favorite chapter in the Bible, at least for this week. In it Paul says, the Spirit intercedes for us with “sighs too deep for words.” He talks of all of creation groaning inwardly and in labor pains for new life. The Spirit is moving through us in Romans much like Acts. Except for Paul the Spirit goes beyond anything our human language can express to the longing experienced only in sighs too deep for words and in groaning.
It’s that point at the beginning of the summer season when so much is possible, so much is waiting to burst forth into new life. The round buds on the peonies are on the verge of unraveling their beauty and the poppies have just this week popped. Likewise the irises are beginning to display their beards in all their glorious splendor. At St. John’s we too are at the beginning of the summer season both literally and metaphorically. There is so much energy here you can almost hold it in your hands like a bud and feel it beginning to take root and to blossom.
One of the areas I have experienced this the most of late is with the Farmers Market that is set to open in just three weekends on June 17th. Like the onset of summer, this is a project that was just waiting to be started and once the right people were in place has arisen quickly. Last week someone mentioned the speed at which this is taking place. To which one of the ever so wise and gentle matriarchs of St John’s replied, in only the way she could, “Well, that’s just how the Spirit works.” And indeed it is. The Spirit sighs, and groans, and moves through us taking us outside of our comfort areas and out into the world.
Lee Miller is a member at Holy Apostles, the primarily Hmong congregation we partner with who will be providing the farmers for the market. Lee is responsible for starting the program with these farmers called “Fields to Families” and he is also a liaison for the Farmer’s Market. In one of our many emails this week Lee said this. He said:
“It will be good for St John’s people to meet and come to “know” our farmers. We take our Anglo level of sophistication for granted. For example, we assume they have computers and internet service. But the elders do not. Grandkids maybe. In addition, the farmers are dirt poor… Yet this is infinitely better than the deprivation they endured in the refugee camps. Some have offered to help them plant the tomatoes. They will see true poverty… yet true hospitality, sharing whatever they have. Of course, at the end of the day, we get to return to our comfortable homes among other relatively wealthy Anglo neighbors. Still, we will have walked a day in their shoes. Jesus would say walk further.” Amen, I replied to Lee’s email, Amen. The Spirit always says, walk further.
I don’t know about you but the deep sighs summer brings for me are not only sighs of relief and release from my duties. But even more so they are a groaning for action. A longing to do more, to be more, to give more, and to take more from this life. To be more fully and truly alive.
I wonder where the Spirit is groaning in your life this summer? Where have you experienced “sighs too deep for words?” How is the Spirit moving you outside of your comfortable walls? In what ways is the Spirit calling you to live your life most fully? If you’re trying to figure it out I invite you to come take a walk with me this summer. I believe the Spirit moves and speaks in movement. Jesus walked all over the place probably for this very reason picking up people along the way.
Today we will be baptizing little baby Eleanor. We will begin by making vows to walk with her throughout her life. Then we will pour water over her, calling the Spirit down to rest upon her head. By doing so we proclaim that she is indeed a child of God. And as her community we will promise to raise her and form her in this life. And when the time is right we will set her free to go live her life in the power of the Spirit she receives today.
Paul ends Romans chapter 8 with this: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is God’s promise to us. This is the promise of the Spirit Jesus’ disciples received that very first Pentecost and the Spirit we pass on to Eleanor today. You are never alone. So be fearless. Be alive, be very alive. Amen.