Pentecost 2008

Pentecost 2008
May 11, 2008
Verses 1 & 4 of the Book of Acts 2:1-11
‘Pentecost And Mother Church’

Happy Birthday! Perhaps that greeting should be, Happy Mother’s Day? Actually both greetings are correct. Because according to the Liturgical Calendar of the Church, being as today is the Feast of Pentecost, we are celebrating the anniversary of the founding of Christ’s Church (her ‘birthday’). And according to date on the secular calendar today is also Mother’s Day. So, Happy Birthday and Happy Mother’s Day as well!

It has been our parish’s custom and pleasure over the past 11 years, to have with us each year on the Feast of Pentecost, the Bishop of our Diocese, The Right Reverend Arthur David Seeland. On the occasion each year the bishop customarily presides or celebrates, and is usually the preacher that day although occasionally he has asked me to preach the sermon. This year, due to his state of health, his visit this year must be delayed for two weeks. He will be with us on the last Sunday of this month. And we hope that you will all be here to welcome him. And so it falls to me to preach the sermon this Pentecost Sunday. And I am delighted to do so).

Do you know the date of your birthday? Of course you do. Do you know the birthday of your spouse? You had better! Do you know the birth dates of your children? Lets own up to it gentlemen, mothers are more apt to remember those dates than fathers are. Well now, do you know the birth date of the Church? You’ll feel proud of yourselves, because you’ll answer PENTECOST! And you are right in giving that answer.

Now here is a trickier question. In which year the Church was ‘born’, so to speak? If you don’t know, perhaps I can help. How old was Jesus when he was crucified? If you answered 33, give yourselves a gold star. As Pentecost occurred a total of fifty days after Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, that means Pentecost fell in the same year as his death, Resurrection and Ascension, the year 33 A.D.. Hence, 33 A.D. was the year of the Church’s ‘birth’, and Pentecost is the feast day on which we commemorate the birth or founding.

If you want to read about the details of its birth, read the second Chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, or reread this morning’s scripture lesson appointed for the Epistle. You’ll reread the details about the disciples, whose number on this occasion would have to include the Eleven, as well as his Blessed Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and others who were gathered together in the Upper Room.

Logically we may assume that this was the very same Upper Room in which Jesus had eaten the final Passover Meal with them prior to his Passion and Death. The same Upper Room in which he appeared to them following his Resurrection, the same room in which one week later he appeared, when on that occasion doubt-ing Thomas was with them and beheld for himself the Lord, and touched him, and believed! There they now were in that Upper Room waiting for the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised to send. They had no idea what to expect, no idea how he would come.

You’ll reread too details about that commotion; described as sounding like something akin to the frightening sound of a hurricane – a rushing, mighty wind – filling the entire house. They looked around at each other and saw little flames dancing over the heads of each other, perhaps at first not realizing that just such a flame was dancing above their own! Those little ‘tongues’ of flame over them then lead them to begin speaking in other ‘tongues!’

Apparently the people outside heard something unusual themselves. We’re told something was ‘noised’ abroad. Was it that same as what had been heard inside? Actually what they soon heard was more powerful, yea more compelling, than a rushing wind. You see, those formerly gathered in the Upper Room had left the confines and safety of the room and were now outside in the streets, having come down to be amongst the public. And what the public was hearing was more astounding than a loud and forceful wind; they were hearing essentially unlearned men speaking to them in their own native tongues. Not just ‘speaking their language’, but with the ability to speak to them boldly of the Christ.

Prior to coming down amongst the public, the windows had been shut and the door bolted. Certainly not for fear of the night: because it was already morning! But for fear of the Jews: because they had crucified the Lord and had hostility also for his followers. But now here they are to be found amongst the people, no longer fearful, but fearlessly telling them about the very Lord who they had crucified! Because of the Infusion of the Holy Spirit into their souls they went from fear and hiding to Faith and Courage!

But should you read only the portion of the Book of Acts appointed for today’s Epistle lesson, and not the second chapter in its entirety, you miss reading the end result of that day. Peter preached and as the result that very day 3000 converts gave their souls to Jesus Christ. So Pentecost is not only the birthday of the Church, it is the anniversary date of the first sermon ever preached about Jesus, and the first sermon ever preached by Simon Peter who but 50 days prior had openly denied the same Lord. And of equally great importance, it is the anniversary of the first influx of Converts into the fledgling Church. Converts who had come from many different regions of he world.

Should you desire to know more about the history of the fledgling early Church continue reading the remaining 26 chapters of this 28 chapter book. You’ll find even more of its history if you will trouble your-selves to read the Epistles that follow Acts: the things that Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude recorded for the instruction of early Christian converts and congregations and for our own edification and instruction as well.

But today is Mother’s Day as well. And I would not wish to ignore the importance of those oh, so wonderful women to the lives of every one of us. There’s no denying, we would not be here today were it not for them and their sacrifices on our behaves. Poems have been composed about them, songs written about them, sermons preached on them.

Our mothers! We are indebted to them in so many ways, yet there is no way that we can ever begin to repay them the debt we owe them for the great sacrifices they made for us. They put their very lives at risk to bear and to birth us: Some even gave up their lives doing so. In this cemetery and every cemetery rest the remains of many who did that, dying in childbirth or soon after.

They bore us into this world. They nourished us with their own bodies and weaned us. They changed and bathed us. They warmed us and clothed us. They guided and counseled us. They corrected and disciplined us. They sheltered and protected us. They forgave us and inspired us. In all, they loved us, unconditionally.

They are so precious, so unique, so wonderful, to each of us is given only one natural mother! The Lord himself, Jesus Christ our Lord, in his humanity, had only one natural mother! Mary, the Blessed Virgin, the Mother Most Blessed, the Theotokos (or God-Bearer) as she is titled in the Eastern Church, the Mother of God as she is titled in the West. So loved by our Lord that even as he hung in agony, dying on the Cross, his thoughts turned to her. Who would care for her? And how could she further continue her motherly role? ‘When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.’ She too is our mother, whom Jesus has given to us. Have we taken her into our own home and into our own hearts?

Seeing as today is Mother’s Day, I also want to say a few more words about Mother: that is, at this time about Mother Church. Hearing the Church referred to as ‘Mother Church’ may, or may not, be familiar to you. Among Catholic Christians (Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and Anglican Catholics) ‘Mother Church’ or ‘Holy Mother Church’ refers to the Universal Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ, which commenced with the first Pentecost.
This Universal Church is considered to be the Bride of Christ, holy and blameless, for whom He died, and she is also considered to be the Mother of all the Christian Faithful. And the term has come to have other designations, many ecclesiastical, with even some secular meanings. North Carolina is the ‘mother church’ of the furniture industry, for example.
In Catholic Christendom, there are ancient references to the Church as our ‘Mother’ to be found amongst the writings of such early Church Fathers and personages as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Justin the Martyr, Irenaeus, Cyprian of Carthage, the great Athanasius, Ephraim, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Gregory the Great, to name a few of its early sources.

Christ’s Universal Church, founded on Pentecost, has behaved as our spiritual Mother. Through her sacraments and offices: We were given a Second Birth, and by the bathing have also been changed; we are redeemed and regenerate. She nourishes us with the Son’s Body, and has weaned us from milk to his Precious Blood. She has warmed us with the Holy Spirit and clothed us with his Seven-fold Gifts. Through her doctrine and teaching she also guides and counsels us. Keen for our growth and development, she disciplines and corrects us. Through his Power he conveyed on her, she is ever there to forgive us. By his grace, she shelters and protects us. She sounds very much like a Mother! For not unlike the example of our own human mothers, our spiritual ‘Mother’ Church loves us unconditionally, because God in Christ shows us He loves us unconditionally. Indeed in all these many ways the Church is our spiritual ‘Mother.’

In conclusion, just as on this day we show our love and respect for our earthly Mothers (living and those already departed), so on this Pentecost Sunday it is only meet and right for us to express and demonstrate our love and respect for our Spiritual Mother as well.

Alleluia, the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world; O come let us adore him.