Like Stained-Glass, Love is Revealed by
Light from Within
Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, Pentecost, 8 June 2014
Whitsunday; Year A RCL: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23
On this special day when we celebrate the birthday of the Church, please join hands with each other & sing with me. (You know the lyrics: “Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us, happy birthday, Dear Church, happy birthday to us!”
Thank You! Now for a Birthday Question & Answer exercise.
Q. What images come to mind when you sing Happy Birthday?
A. (candles, cake, gifts, smiles, fun)
Q. What images come to you about the coming of the Holy Spirit?
Q. What images come to mind about God?
A. (holy, creative, lamb)
How about laughter?
Anyone thing of laughter when you think of God?
Our Psalm today tells of God's playfulness – having fun with creation:
“Yonder is the great & wide sea...& there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it.”
God makes something just for fun!
I don't know if I have seen a Leviathan. I have seen the humorous-looking duck-billed platypus & the silly blue footed booby.
God makes things to enjoy.
God who creates with such delight & gives in such abundance yearns for us to celebrate life, to live in harmony with God, God's creation, & each other.
God gives us the Holy Spirit so that our love may overflow more & more with knowledge & full insight to help us know how.
God, in whose image of Holy Community we are made, breathes the Holy Spirit into us & gives us new life because Jesus dies for us, forgives us & erases our sins.
On that cross Jesus says: “Father, forgive them.” The disciples hear this.
In today's Gospel, after Jesus says “Receive the Holy Spirit,” the disciples hear him say: you have a choice – we as Jesus' disciples have a choice – to forgive or not.
How can we not forgive when we hear our loving Jesus in his dying breaths ask God to forgive us?
What abundant love! We worship the God of love & wholeness who generously pours God's Spirit on all kinds of people & gives us gifts for the common good, gifts to share.
God entrusts us with the work of spreading God's love.
Notice: in today's Gospel Thomas is not with the disciples. There are other disciples/followers absent in that room when Jesus breathes on them & says “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Thomas & others ARE there on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes in such a powerful way that some observers think they are drunk.
When we encounter something new & powerful, we struggle to make it fit what we know. Something new & powerful can be like looking from outside the Church at the images in our beautiful stained glass windows. We don't see clearly.
Here's another Q & A....
Q. What makes stained glass images sparkle & shine?1
Q. How does stained glass look in here at night?
A. (dark, unclear)
To make them shine when it's dark, rig up floodlights outside like two parishioners did for our Easter Vigil! They are an example of people working together in the Body of Christ to let light shine - literally.
We are like stained glass windows. We are made in the image of God. We are crafted to live & to love in Holy Community, to shine the Light of Jesus Christ so that our Brothers & Sisters in the human family can see Jesus more clearly.
When darkness sets in, our beauty is revealed by the Light within us.2 When we shine the Light of God's Love on our Sisters & Brothers, we work with God, bringing light into their darkness.
That darkness may be something hard to forgive.
My Brothers & Sisters, the Holy Spirit has given this Body of Christ the gift of healing. One way you express it is through your Habit of Forgiveness3 that I have witnessed.
On Pentecost, God sends the disciples what is needed to share God's Good News. God gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our Habit of Forgiveness, in our work sharing it so that our Sisters & Brothers can develop this gift.
God speaks through authors, who tell amazing experiences of the grace of forgiveness. This grace brings the Light of God's Love that people need, like stained glass needs light.
For inspiring looks into this inner light, I commend to your reading The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, which I quoted recently; Ed Bacon's 8 Habits of Love, & Eric Lomax's book (now also a movie) The Railway Man “A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality & Forgiveness”4.
You will read real experiences such as this one Ed Bacon shares from South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation Commission in the post-Apartheid era with President Nelson Mandella & Archbishop Desmond Tutu.5
he author tells of an elderly black woman & the white policeman who forced her to watch as he tortured, murdered & cremated her son & her husband.
“The last words she (hears) her husband (speak) before he finally (dies are) 'Father, forgive them.'”6
When the commission asks her: What would justice look like to you? She lists these 3 things7:
- She wants the policeman (Mr. Van de Broek) to go wherehe cremated her husband & gather the dust so she can give him a decent burial.
- She says: Mr. Van de Broek has taken away all my familyfrom me & “...I still have a lot of love to give. Twice amonth, I would like for him to come to the ghetto & spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him.”8
She wants this murderer “to become her son
so she (can generously) pour
her remaining love into him.”9
- Then she says: “I would like Mr. Van de Broek to knowthat he is forgiven by God, & that I forgive him too.”Then she asks someone to lead her across the courtroom because, she says:
“I would like to embrace him so he can know that he is truly forgiven.”10
This widow is
a stained-glass window,
the image of God's Love,
shining with God's Light from within.11
Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Boston: Grand Central Life & Style. Grand Central Publishing. 2011.
Giridharadas, Anand. The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2014.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 31 May 2014.
Lomax, Eric. The Railway Man. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 1995.
Voyles, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR: The Appreciative Way. 2010. www.appreciativeway.com.
1 Note: Influenced from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross quoted by Robert J. Voyles, p. 44, “Teaching Forgiveness” based on his Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment.
3 Note: Term from Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Pp. 119-144.
4 Note: Quoted from book jacket cover & inside title page.
5 Bacon. Ibid. Pp. 119-121.
6 Ibid. P. 120.
7 Bacon. Ibid. P. 120.
8 Ibid. Emphasis mine.
9 Ibid. P. 121.
10 Ibid. P. 120. Emphasis mine.
11 Ibid. Paraphrase of Kubler-Ross. P. 44.