Monday, June 5, 2017

Celebrate This Red-Letter Day!

Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, Pentecost, 4 June 2017
Whitsunday; Year A RCL: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23
Notice how much action takes place in our brief Gospel:
Jesus overcomes physical barriers humans use to keep out other people.
Twice he says “Peace be with you.”
He shows the disciples his scars.  They rejoice!
Jesus gives the disciples work to do & empowers them / us
for this work he has started.
He gives the choice to forgive or not.
Knowing Jesus asks God to forgive us as he dies on the cross, how can the disciples – who deserted him – not forgive?
How can we not forgive? We have the Holy Spirit to guide us in the work of forgiveness.
Embrace God’s love Jesus expresses by choosing to forgive you.
Embrace God's deep love for you, which God powerfully expresses by the Holy Spirit choosing to live in you.
Embrace God’s expansive love with which God our Father chose to create you.

The day you were created, the day you were born were red-letter days. Today is a red letter day. [Our term is from the ancient habit of writing Capital Letters in red & later religious calendars & prayer books indicating saint days with red letters.]1
Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church. We also have our monthly birthday candles for you with June birthdays to blow out after worship. There’s a difference between birthday candles & tongues of flame alighting on disciples so they speak in ways which make some observers say they're 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 a church at stained glass windows. We don't see clearly.

On Pentecost we see red which reminds us of the tongues of fire. We tend to focus on fire's power. Fire has power to provide light. The disciples speak in ways which enlighten listeners' understanding of God's love.
We often speak of God’s love. What about God’s laughter?

When you think of God,
how often do you think of playfulness?
Notice: our Psalm today tells us of God's playfulness. God has fun with creation. It says: “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 funny-moving blue footed booby. God makes things to enjoy :)
We enjoy having light when it’s dark. Light can have a playful quality. We speak of how light plays on a window. We see how light plays & enlivens stained glass2
Notice the difference in this icon when it has no light & when we remove what blocks the light shining through it.

 We are like stained glass.
Made in the image of God, we are crafted to live & love in Holy Community, to shine the Light of Jesus so our brothers & sisters in the human family can see God’s love more clearly.

God who creates with such delight & gives in such abundance yearns for us to celebrate our love & live in harmony with God, God's creation, & each other. How?
God gives us the Holy Spirit so our love may overflow more & more with knowledge & full insight to help us know how.3

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.
God gives us what we need to do hard work.  God gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our Habit of Forgiveness4, in our work sharing it so 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 which 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; Eric Lomax's book [which is also a movie] The Railway Man “A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality & Forgiveness”5
  & Ed Bacon's 8 Habits of Love. 

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.6  The 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 [say] before he finally [dies are] 'Father, forgive them.'7 . . . .

When the commission asks her: What would justice look like to you? She lists these 3 things8.

1. She wants the policeman [Mr. Van de Broek] to go where he had cremated her husband & gather the dust so she can give him a decent burial.*

2. She says: “Mr. Van de Broek [has taken] away all my family from me & I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto & spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him.”9
[She wants this murderer “to become her son so she [can generously] pour her remaining love into him.”]10

3. She says: “I would like Mr. Van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, & that I forgive him too.” And 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.”11

This widowed mother is a
stained-glass window,
the image of God's Love,
shining with God's Light from within.12

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.
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.

2 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 Paraphrase of Philippians 1:9-10.
4 Note: Phrase from Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Pp. 119-144.
5 Note: Quoted from book jacket cover & inside title page.
6 Bacon. Ibid. Pp. 119-121.
7 Ibid. P. 120.
8 Bacon. Ibid. P. 120.
* Note: I do not know why her son's ashes were not in the same place.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid. P. 121.
11 Ibid. P. 120.

12 Ibid. Voyles. Paraphrase of Kubler-Ross. P. 44.

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