When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
`In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "
Martin Blank has some “issues.” In 1984 he graduated from high school and on the night of his high school prom he stands up his date – also the love of his life – and disappears. Turns out, he had joined the army. Issue number one arrives in the form of an invitation to his ten year high school reunion. He doesn’t want to go. Issue number two is that his employer requires him to return to his hometown – Detroit – for a job. Issue number three is that he encounters the love of his life – Debi. All of these issues sort of crash together when Debi discovers the type of work to which Martin is employed …
He explains it to Debi by saying, “When I left, I joined the Army, and when I took the service exam, my psych profile fit a certain… “moral flexibility” would be the best to describe it. I was loaned out to a CIA-sponsored program – it’s called “mechanical operations.”… turns out, Martin’s moral flexibility fit the profile of an assassin. Debi’s father thinks this is actually a good thing as it is a “growth industry.”
Anyhow… This leads back to issue number two – his employer wanting him to go back to Detroit for a “job,” which in turn leads back to issue number one of the high school reunion and not wanting to go. As he explains to his psychiatrist – he is now somewhat conflicted on his line of work – his perceptions of his classmates and why he doesn’t want to go, “They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and you know, they’ve all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? ‘I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How’ve you been?’”
You know I like my movies.. and I have my favorites. If I were to list my top five, the list would be filled out with Harry Potter, so I just count that as one, which makes room for others, including Grosse Pointe Blank. I can’t recommend this one to you because there is shooting and killing and explosions and an unfortunate incident with a dog named Budro, but I can tell you it is a riot.
Now please don’t go running off to the Bishop and telling him, “Fr. John says we all get to be assassins,” but I thought of Martin Blank in the context that there is for each of us a specific purpose.. something to be fulfilled. For us – hopefully there are no assassins – but purposes will include those things such as father and mother, doctor and factory worker and all the rest, but first and foremost, the specific purpose we are all called to fulfill is to be a disciple of Christ.. his follower.. and combined.. His Church. We are called to be Christ’s Church. To proclaim His message of salvation to the world and to make disciples of all persons….
Does that sound like a big job? An overwhelming charge? Is it possible? Can we happy few meet the obligations of this commissioning given by God?... The answer to that question is a resounding, “YES!”.. You have within you – as individual persons, individual churches and corporately all you need in order to accomplish what Christ has called you to... You may say, “I am only one, what difference can I make?” or “We are so few.. too small.. there is no way to fulfill this call.”… but that’s just the devil sowing seeds of doubt in your mind, because what God has commanded CAN be fulfilled…
Often times, when we think of the Body of Christ, we think of it in terms of all the people.. all the Christians.. all the churches as one.. as the Body of Christ, but originally, this was not Paul’s idea of the Body of Christ. Originally he thought of each individual church as the Body of Christ, containing within its members the full outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.
Robert Banks in his book, Paul’s Idea of Community, wrote “The ‘body’ most clearly and fully finds expression as ‘church,’ even if it is also visible when it does not assemble. The community at Corinth [.. the church that Paul wrote his letter to..] the community at Corinth is not said to be part of a wider body of Christ or to be A ‘body of Christ’ alongside numerous others. It is ‘THE body of Christ’ in that place. This suggest that wherever Christians are in relationship there is the body of Christ in its entirety, for Christ is truly and wholly present there through his spirit. [Banks concludes] This is a momentous truth.”…
Today is the day of Pentecost.. we as the St. Joan of Arc Regional Ministry – like it was on that first Day of Pentecost – are all gathered under one roof. We are fulfilling God’s purpose. We are proclaiming His Holy Word and here in a bit we will even be baptizing in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is a time for you to celebrate as the Body of Christ.. the universal church… but you must not forget that when you are gathered individually – St. James’.. St. Andrew’s.. St. Mary and St. John’s.. St. Mark’s.. when you gather as individual churches.. you have within you all that is necessary to also BE the Body of Christ. When even two or three of you are gathered, you have within you the same gifts that were given on that first Pentecost and the same abilities as the largest churches have today….
Do you think that is true? Are you sitting there saying to yourself, “That sounds good in theory, but try and put it into practice.” Well.. I’ll tell you why it’s true. Not why I THINK it’s true, but why it IS true…. You ready for this… It is true that you have all that you need in each of your individual churches to BE the Body of Christ, because it is not about you… It’s not about you… instead, it is about God. It is about God working through you.. and God is not limited by size or numbers. God is not limited by anything. John the Baptist and Jesus both point to a similar idea…
Remember, with John many Jews were coming down to the river to be Baptized. The Pharisees and Sadducees came to see what the fuss was about. John cries out to them, “You brood of vipers, who told you to flee the wrath to come”.. in other words you must also be baptized.. and then he says, “And don’t think to say that you have Abraham as your father.”… that is, don’t think just because God made his covenant with Abraham that you can be saved outside of Jesus. For, John declares, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” In other words, if God needs followers, he can raise them up out of nothing….
With Jesus the idea was the same… when Jesus was making his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The people were crying out “Hosanna”.. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The religious leaders got all nervous. They were afraid of the Romans coming down on them for welcoming Jesus like he was some kind of king. So they said to Jesus, “Rebuke your followers.. make them shut up.”.. and Jesus responds, “I say to you, that if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.”… If the people do not worship God, then the stones themselves will...
God is not limited in the fulfilling of his purposes. He can use anyone or anything, even the stones of the earth. Therefore, you cannot say we are too small.. we are too few to be of any use to God…. You as individual congregations and as the St. Joan of Arc Regional Ministry are each the Body of Christ and your size and numbers are the perfect number to accomplish God’s purposes in this wounded and lost world… You are God’s chosen people for this time and this place and through you this world can know the love.. the truth.. the healing.. the very power of God. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.”…
On the Day of Pentecost, God’s church was given all the gifts required to fulfill His purposes. You have those gifts. They are yours. Lay hold of them.. claim them for yourself as an individual and as a part of His Body.. and go into this world of His and make Him known so that all may know that He is the Lord their God….
So that this holy work might go on, we continue on page 301 of the BCP with the welcoming of new members into His Body.. His Church through the sacrament of Holy Baptism… “The Candidates for Holy Baptism will now be presented.”