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Day of Pentecost June 4, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-25; 27-35; Corinthians 13:1-13; John 7:37-39
Christ Episcopal Church,
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, June 4, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,
and let the one who believes in me drink.”
I am thirsty today,
so very thirsty,
for peace in this world,
for kindness and gentleness, and sanity
          in this time of madness.
Thirsty for the day
when waking up
brings no news
          of another terrorist attack,
no news of more vicious threats and behavior
          toward persons of color, Muslims, Jews,
          Lesbian, BiSexual, Gay, Transgendered, Queer persons,
no news of yet another grievous insult
          to our wounded environment,
no news of the hubris, the cruelty, the stupidity,
          the evil,
                   of this foolish and dangerous age.

And so
I come to Jesus
thirsty for the living water
          of his peace,
          his kindness and gentleness . . .
thirsty for the living water
          of his trust in God and his hope,
thirsty for the living water
          of his righteousness and justice
thirsty for the tears of his grief
at the damage we are doing
to the wondrous web of being
          that is his Creation . . .
the wondrous, woven together
living, harmonious interdependence
of beings –
the waters salt and fresh, and the air,
the mountains and the valleys,
the rocks and soil and sand,
trees and bushes,
birds, and insects, and fish, and reptiles,
and mammals and human beings . . .
all of which co-exist
for each other,
not one more important than the other.

This is quite a come-down
for our erroneous sense
of human superiority . . .
we are not the be-all and end-all
of the Creation . . .
we are not its owners . . .
we were appointed its caretakers,
its stewards . . .
its wellbeing entrusted to us  . . .
We stand not apart from the Creation,
but within the Creation,
          as a part of Creation,
          woven into the web
           with all the parts.
The psalmist had it right:
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
”The earth is full of your creatures.
All of them look to you,
          to give them their food in due season.
You give it to them; they gather it;
          you open your hand,
and they are filled with good things.”

The Psalm appointed for today
is a song of awe and gratitude
          for the beautiful arrangement and rightness
                   of all God’s Creation,
where all things work together for good . . .
The part we sang today is less than a third          (11 verses)
of the whole.                                                                (37 verses)
Here are more of its lovely lyrics
(portions of Psalm 104, paraphrased, re-ordered)
“You spread out the heavens like a curtain,
You have set the earth on its foundations,
You water the mountains from your dwelling on high;
You send the springs into the valleys,
          All the beasts of the field drink their fill.
Beside them, the birds of the air make their nests
          and sing among the branches.
You appointed the moon to mark the seasons,
          and the sun knows the time of its setting.
You make darkness that it may be night,
          in which all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The sun rises and they slip away
          and lay themselves down in their dens.
You make grass grow for flocks and herds
          and plants to serve mankind,
That they may bring forth food from the earth,
          and wine to gladden our hearts.
Oil to make a cheerful countenance,
          and bread to strengthen the heart.
Man goes forth to his work
          and to his labor until the evening.
That’s how it’s supposed to be:
a Creation of harmony and balance
in which the interconnectedness of all
          works for the well-being of all . . .
a Creation whose harmony and balance
are threatened by the very creatures  
in whose care God has placed it . . .
It is all connected:
the greed for more than what has been given,
the exploitation of natural resources,
rising temperatures
          and severe weather,
endangered species,
inequality, poverty,
          homelessness, hunger, anger,
wars over territory and resources,
          ethnicity, race, religion,
          the displacement of entire populations,
exploitation of the powerless by the powerful,
          the weak by the strong,
                   the poor by the rich.
It’s that same terrible litany,
from the time of Adam and Eve
          and that damned piece of fruit,
from the time of the Psalmist,
from the time of Jesus
until now . . .

we have abused,
to the extent of our ever-increasing power to do so,
all that God has entrusted to us.
All the Creation
is groaning
under the stress put upon it
by our actions and inactions:
our selfishness and heedlessness.
And strands of the wondrous web
are strained to the breaking point.
The song of the Psalmist
could now be sung
as a lament
          for what once was.
A message too grim
for a celebration of Pentecost?
May the Spirit lead us always
into all truth.
Could not the psalm also be sung
as a song of hope
for what might become,    
a song of trust
in the redeeming work of the risen Christ
          abroad in Creation
                   and at work in us by
                             the power of the Holy Spirit . . .
striving for the restoration
          of God’s harmony and balance
within the individual and the community,
among the nations, in all of God’s creation.
re-weaving the web,
re-claiming the unity of all beings,
re-newing the body of Creation
          so that the variety of gifts
          manifest in all its members
                   unite in service of the common good.
We traditionally think of Pentecost
as the giving of the Spirit to the church . . .
It is spoken of that way in Scripture,
for instance,
in the Acts story of the first Christian Pentecost.
But what if we were to think of Pentecost
as the giving of the Church to the Spirit . . .
the giving of the Church to the Spirit.
We traditionally speak of baptism
as the giving of the Spirit
to the newly-baptized . . .
And Paul,
in his First Letter to the Corinthians,
speaks of the Spirit
as given to the believer.
But what if we were to think of baptism also
as the giving of the newly-baptized to the Spirit . . .
the giving of the newly-baptized to the Spirit.
What would it mean,
what does it mean,
what could it mean,
to be given . .
to be given
          as Church,
to be given
          as individual,
to God’s Spirit,
to that rushing, violent wind,
to those flaming tongues
          of God’s burning desire
                    for God’s Creation,
to see visions, dream dreams,
          to prophesy?

We are not our own,
we have been given to God’s Spirit.
Suddenly it’s the Spirit
who’s in charge,
and not us.
It’s the Spirit
who seizes us,
empowers us,
thrusts us
into the world
with the gospel news
of God’s presence in all creation.
It’s the Spirit
who is working in us,
doing more than we could ever ask or imagine,
working through us
to mend, restore, heal,
repair the breach, make the peace,
proclaim and demand justice,
stand for what is right,
build the kingdom
          of right relationship with God,
          with one another,
                   with all of creation.

We come, thirsty, to Jesus
to drink the water of compassion and hope,
that out of our hearts
may flow rivers of that living water,
over all the land,
over all the Creation.
We leave,
this moment’s thirst slaked,
but our deeper thirst never quenched,
we must remain thirsty
          with the thirst of Jesus
                   the thirst for Jesus,
we must keep coming to drink,
          so the rivers of living water
          will continue to flow from our hearts
                   to satisfy the thirst of the world.
Dear sisters and brothers in the risen Christ,
on this Pentecost morning,
when we renew our baptismal covenant,
we will promise
to “cherish the wondrous works of God,
          and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation.”

All creation,
All that is in the universe,
          seen and unseen,
to be cherished and protected,
for it’s all connected.
Jesus came
“not to be served but to serve,”                     [Matthew 20:27; Mark 10:45]
Is it possible
that we have been placed in Creation
          not to be served by the Creation,
                   but to serve the Creation?
Come Holy Spirit,
and renew
our conviction
our courage,
our will,
our determination,
fill us with your power,
and renew the face of the earth.