Saturday, July 11, 2020

Pentecost 6A

Entrance Psalm 65:9-13

9-13Oh, visit the earth,
    ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
    fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
    Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
    soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
    bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
    scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
    Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
    a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
    Oh, oh, let them sing!

The Message (MSG) | © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson


• Our prayer psalm 65 describes creation rejoicing because God "visits" earth. This psalm and today's reading from Isaiah 55 are very much like Psalms 96, 98 and 148 appointed for Christmas. In that nativity poetry, when God comes to us in the baby Jesus, mountains and hills, valleys, streams, and rivers also sing for joy, clap their hands…


Isaiah 55:10-13

10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.


• During the Babylonian exile, via the writer we sometimes call Second Isaiah, God provided and people received assurance the Word would bear fruit, would achieve God's desire. Hebrew here is dabar that denotes both speech and action—walking the talk. In a wonderful parallel to Psalm 65, these verses promises God will send us humans out with joy, lead us with shalom; mountains and hills will sing, trees will applaud like an excited audience.


Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

3And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!"

18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

Matthew So Far

• Matthew 1 through 4 tell us who Jesus is with his genealogy, birth, and very early life.
• Chapters 5 through 7 covered the Sermon on the Mount.
• In Matthew 8 and 9 Jesus moves from proclaimed words into enacted deeds that help explain his teachings.
• In chapters 10 through 12 we've heard Jesus' instructions and commissioning for mission, for the church sent out into the world. That's us, because all of us are sent people or apostles! Jesus also warns us what may happen to us as his ambassadors.


Parable

• Matthew 13 includes the biblical number of 7 parables, starting out with one about seed, sower, and earth (dirt, ground, land).

Paraballo originally meant to throw something edible to a crowd in order to tame its appetite for violence. Later on "parable" assumed the meaning to play alongside. Parables don't necessarily contain knowledge or abstract truth; parables aren't moral tales, arguments, or objective statements. Parables can be similes, allegories, metaphors, comparisons—except when they're not.


Today's Gospel Reading

• This Parable of the Sower comes with Jesus' own interpretation. Greek for "grain" in 13:8 is fruit. This is the Parable of the Sower: the person who has the seed and who plants the seed. This isn't the Parable of the Different Types of Ground or even Different Harvest Yields. It's not about how prepared and receptive we are (rocky ground, rich dirt, well-prepared soil, spent earth…) to the seed of the word; it's all about the boundlessly extravagant generosity of the sower.

However, we all know each of us is every one of these ground conditions at various times, often during the same day. All of us reading this blog know God assumes the burden of creation's wholeness and salvation; all of us know God calls us to live as God's presence on earth; all of us know to draw upon scientific insights and our own experiences. For example, remember when we first planted milkweed in the church window boxes to attract Monarch butterflies? Apparently it was Pastor Peg's first time planting milkweed, and as abundant as the results looked, she later discovered a different variety would be even better.


COVID-19: Reflecting

For today? The psalm-writer, Isaiah, and Matthew's Jesus all express confidence in the effectiveness of God's word and presence. Amidst ongoing pandemic and protests, instead of contextualizing these passages by figuring out how they align with where we are today, let's simply consider the astonishing beauty of God's creation. Our heads and hearts need a break!

• Do you have a favorite place where you especially sense God's presence?

• Do you have house plants or a garden where you live?

• Do you have a favorite national park or botanical garden or greenhouse?

• Do you grow some of your own veggies or herbs?

• Do you ever buy cut flowers at the farmers' market or supermarket?

• Do you draw or paint or photograph creation scenes? (I enjoy doing all of those things.)

• What state or country you haven't been to would you especially love to visit because of the reputation of their nature and wildlife?

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Pentecost 5A

COVID-19

Lockdown continues; the number of cases in the USA continues to rise. We may start parking lot-courtyard worship during August or September, which sounds wonderful! We can meet at 10 for Sunday School (it probably will be bring your own drinks and donuts), segue into worship, and then ease into a combined actual-virtual Zoom coffee hour-bible study.


Prayer on Psalm 145:8-14

God, we know you are full of grace, mercy, and love. Your goodness and compassion embrace all creation. Your creatures reflect your glory; they proclaim your presence to all the world. We trust the faithfulness of your word, the graciousness of everything you do. God, you always have cared for the weak and broken; resurrection from death always has been your response.

Thank you again for the many committed essential workers. Please continue to keep them safe; please continue to help us be your presence wherever we go.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Zechariah 9:9-12

9Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the [waterless] pit. 12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Today we get selections from Handel's Messiah!

Similar to dividing the book of Isaiah into three major sections, the writings of this post-exilic prophet who ministered during the restoration of Jerusalem and Judah divide into 1st Zechariah (chapters 1 through 8) and 2nd Zechariah (chapters 9 through 14). Zechariah lived around the same time as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai.

All four canonical gospels identify Zechariah 9:9 with Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week:

• Mark 11:1-11
• Luke 19:28-38
• Matthew 21:1-11
• John 12:12-19

Today's passage from Second Zechariah includes the florid soprano aria "Rejoice, greatly, O Daughter of Zion" that announces a gentle ruler whose dominion or reign will mean the end of war and the fullness of shalom. Next in the Messiah, an alto or mezzo-soprano promises "He shall feed his flock," followed by a soprano singing "Come Unto me."

Matthew 11:7-15

7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8…Someone dressed in soft robes?… 9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, and much more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written, 'Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you to prepare the way for you.' 11No one greater born of a woman than John, but the least of these in my kingdom still is greater. … 14And if you are willing to accept it, John is Elijah who is to come. 15Let anyone with ears listen!."

In these verses that come immediately before the gospel for today, Jesus says about his cousin, "No one born of a woman [no human] is greater than John." Then Jesus adds that from his viewpoint, John is so great that for him John is the prophet Elijah who had to return before the Messianic age could happen.

Jesus' cousin John was the son of temple priest Zechariah whose song of praise to God at John's birth included, "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways." [Luke 1:76] With confidence in the promises of the God of his priestly father, John went into the wilderness by the Jordan River to call out religious and political injustice and greed, to offer a baptism of repentance, and to announce the ministry of his cousin Jesus. You may remember the Jordan was the boundary and border between Israel's desert wandering and their settling down in the Promised Land?

However, despite John's importance, Jesus insists "the least" in his reign or kingdom is even greater than J the B. Last week I quoted the late chef and Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon's succinct observation God saves ONLY the "last, lost, little, and least."

Although John the Baptist's father's name was Zechariah, he probably wasn't even a distant relative of today's featured prophet Zechariah. Like Zachary, Zechariah means the Lord has remembered, so the hope it offered made Zach a fairly common name.

Matthew 11:16-19

16"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17"We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon'; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

Today's gospel reading gives us a famous contrast between rugged, untamed John the Baptist by the riverside outside polite society and his slightly younger cousin Jesus. It's become common to say Jesus demonstrates the lifestyle God's people are supposed to have, John's doesn't make it, yet John's invitation to all clearly models grace and community on the margins, rather than only at the established centers of society. Even people (like us?!) who think we know how Jesus' followers are supposed to be, appear, and act, still recognize the same God acting in different ways in different people and varied circumstances.

Matthew 11:28-30

28"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Today we get selections from Handel's Messiah!

Matthew 11:28-29, rest – Exodus 33:14, "I will give you rest." In Genesis 2:1-3, God's own sabbath rest after creating the world and everything in it.

Over the past few weeks in Matthew's gospel, Jesus has given instructions and cautions for the church in motion. To be church means first to be gathered in the Holy Spirit around word and sacrament and then to be missionaries or apostles (both words refer to being sent) in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost. But how far and wide have we been able to move lately?

Recent months have given anyone with a heart for justice and compassion opportunities to identify and call out injustice, violence, and pain in ways that help raise awareness and create hope for a just, free future for all inhabitants of planet earth. The pandemic has people shutting down and staying in, while the call for justice inspires us to get up, get out there, show our concerns and urge the powers that be toward systemic changes.

There's not very often only one valid interpretation of a scriptural passage, but these three verses can't be interpreted as Jesus' telling us to get out there and get active in the thick messiness of the world's needs. Here as Jesus invites us with the inclusive word "all," he promises us restful relief from all the overwhelms.

• If you could sit with Jesus right now, what would you tell him?

• What burden would you ask Jesus to lift from you as an individual?

• What burden would you first beg Jesus to remove from your immediate surroundings—maybe only your biological family, possibly only southern California?

• What is the very first weight you wish Jesus would lift from the entire world?

• Maybe some of us even need to rest from the heaviness of our incessant pleading prayers to God that everything will get right again?

PS: Notes on yoke in verses 29-30: a pair or a yoke of oxen shares the burden and a well-constructed yoke rests lightly on their shoulders, so "yoke" can refer to the pair of oxen wearing the instrument that joins them together or to the (usually wooden) yoke itself. Jesus could have been contrasting the negative yoke and burden of religious and imperial demands with the light weight of keeping covenant with God and neighbor by obeying the ten word or commandments.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pentecost 4A

Matthew 10:40-42

40"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."

COVID-19

Lockdown continues with #StaySafeStayHome, #SaferAtHome and California Governor Newsom's orders to wear masks every time you go out.


Psalm 89:1-4, 14-18

The psalter is the prayer book and the hymnal of the synagogue.

1I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
2I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

3You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:
4"I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'" (Selah)

14Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

15Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
16they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.
17For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.
18For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.


Backtracking: this is Matthew's lectionary year

Trinity Sunday – Octave of Pentecost – Matthew 28:16-20


• All authority in heaven and earth
• Go, sent, into all the world – make disciples
• Baptize! Immerse! into the way and the life of Jesus
• I am with you always! Refers back to Emmanuel, God-with-us, at the start of Matthew's gospel


Last week – Pentecost 3 – Matthew 10:24-30

• not peace but division
• Jesus' call of discipleship sometimes puts a disciple at odds with their family of origin or with others they associate with socially, in the workplace, maybe at church
• Jesus creates a new family of his disciples who have experienced the new birth of baptism and who follow his way of justice and righteousness
• to be worthy of Jesus, take up your cross – both the Roman empire's (and other imperial entities) literal cross of execution and giving up our own preferences for the well-being of the other and of the community


Today – Pentecost 4 – Matthew 10:40-42

We're in the 6-month long stretch of the green and growing season of Sundays after Pentecost Ordinary Time that's anything but common and conventional as it emphasizes the church in the power of the Holy Spirit of life, of resurrection, of love, of newness. "Ordinary" refers to structured, ordered, arranged, laid out in a pattern.

This is part of Matthew's Missionary Discourse with Jesus' instructions for living in mission as missionaries or "sent people." We also find the miss root in words like missile, commission, permission, missive, emissary. Earlier in this chapter 10 we hear the famous: 11Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

• Hospitality begins and ends this 3-verse long short snippet.

10:40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."

We talk a lot about God's call to us to welcome others, but this passage isn't about that! It's about our getting out there and becoming a guest that others welcome.

In that time and place emissaries, envoys, ambassadors, sometimes a house-servant would represent (re+present / representative) and carry with them the full authority of the person who sent them. It wasn't very different from our elected governmental officials making decisions for us as voters. By electing them, we send those people to serve in our stead in congress, in the state legislature, in city hall. Our vote authorizes them (gives them authority) to speak and act for us. In a similar way we represent Jesus, Jesus represents God.

Reward here is about earned wages, payment you're entitled to, and not a gift of grace.


Prophet, Righteous Person, Little One

Prophets speak God's word of hope and promise for a different future; the end of the old, the beginning of the new, and call people back to the freedom of keeping the commandments. Broadly, a prophet is anyone who speaks for God; that includes us with our baptismal roles of prophet (speaker of God's word), priest (mediator between earth and heaven), and sovereign (caretaker of creation).

Righteous people work for justice, integrity, and restoration of relationships after the manner of prophets. Doesn't that include us?

Little ones are people in any kind of need, so at various times that includes all people inside the church and outside the church. The late Gourmet Chef and Episcopal Priest Robert Farrar Capon insisted God saves only the last, the lost, the little, and the least.

Whichever of these groups you happen to be in at whatever time, Jesus calls people to identify you with Jesus and Jesus with you!


What Now?

I probably can speak for everyone when I say we miss live worship, weekly Eucharist, choir that by now would be on summer break, brunch time tasty eats and interesting conversations, but with cases multiplying and too many people not complying with basic distancing or with the order for masks statewide, I'm in no hurry to return to church campus. We're not going back yet, so what now with these verses from Matthew's gospel?

From what I've observed, everyone at church does their best to welcome visitors, strangers, and returning newcomers to church, and most of us probably do well in our other spaces and places. Sometimes we discern wisely with a good outcome; other times our risk may not yield great results.

But Jesus' words here aren't about our own hospitable behaviors and actions; they're about actions of others related to our presence. This isn't about us welcoming others; it's about others welcoming us. Earlier in this chapter Jesus tells people to shake off any residue of inhospitable situations that may have gotten stuck on you and move on to the next possibility.

This is about getting out there and becoming a guest.

Everyone has vivid memories about surprising welcomes. I've written about the astonishing welcome a group of Tongan United Methodists in A Former City gave me, but I don't believe these verses refer to that general type of situation. I'm not convinced they're about when a family you suspected was down to their last handful of change invited you over for a dinner that turned out to be a royal feast.

• Is it about door-to-door evangelism to invite people to your new church start or revitalized neighborhood programming? That sounds closer, but I truly don't know. Tell me!

Along with asking what type of hospitality in which setting Jesus' words could refer to, an important related question is how persistent does Jesus call us to be before we shake off the dust from that encounter.

• How many times at what intervals do we reach out to individuals and organizations in our attempts to connect? Please tell me your response to this one, too?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Pentecost 3A

Romans 6:1-11

1What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 10:34-39

34"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and one's foes will be members of one's own household. 37whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

COVID-19

Despite public spaces and retail places opening up more, #StaySafeStayHome #SaferAtHome continue. Even someone like me who has a wide libertarian streak appreciates Governor Newsom mandating wearing masks statewide. If people won't consider the needs of others, laws need to move them to act properly. We need to continue praying for effective treatment and for a vaccine. As devout Christian Nancy Pelosi pointed out a while ago, science is one of many ways God acts in the world.


Prayer

God whose gracious power brings us seasons of fall, winter, spring, and summer; God whose Spirit uncovers broken systems and human failures, we thank you for another summer and for going before us and leading us to be your presence everywhere we go. Please, please continue to bless all the essential workers and keep them safe.
In the name of Jesus,
Amen.


Green and Growing Season

This is the third Sunday after Pentecost; three weeks ago we celebrated the fiftieth day of Easter and the gift of the pentecostal Spirit of Life—grace, love, resurrection, God's abiding presence in us, the church, as the body of the Risen Christ. In baptism we receive the gift of God's Holy Spirit that enables us to do those "greater things" that Jesus promised. During this season, verdant green is the color for vestments, paraments, banners, etc., just as it was last winter during the few Sundays of ordinary [ordered, structured, delineated] time after Epiphany.


Family

For today the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) that suggests our scriptures pairs Paul/ Saul's Romans 6 baptismal passage with Jesus' warning about following him and the cost of discipleship related to family members. Matthew 10:38 is the first "cross" reference in Matthew's gospel, and it's about the disciples, not about Jesus! Jesus well knew anyone at odds with the Roman occupation government was at high risk for crucifixion; most likely Jesus started anticipating his own crucifixion even earlier than we read about in the gospel narratives. Although this refers to literal crucifixion, it's no stretch also to interpret it as putting to death our own desires, preferences, lifestyles that clash or interfere with God's call to us. As we hear Paul's famous baptismal passage, we remember the cross did kill Jesus, but it didn't succeed in keeping him dead.

The nuclear family we've known and still imagine in the twenty-first century is not a fixture in the Bible, though we hear about parents, children, spouses, in-laws. Jesus instead describes a new family configuration of people who follow him. Biological heredity comes into the mix, but more than anything, this new family is by Jesus' blood, by baptismal water and word. In Matthew 12 that comes shortly after today's reading…

Matthew 12

46While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." 48But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' 49And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."


History

The letter to the church at Rome is several decades earlier than the gospel we received from Matthew's community; for Saul / Paul of Tarsus, the gospel is death and resurrection. Paul considers baptism a new exodus, liberation from slavery of all kinds: sin, death, and the devil as we say in the baptismal liturgy; freedom from all forces and enticements of empire that are agents of death. In the life-changing event of baptism, the Triune God claims us forever.

The community gathered around Matthew the tax-collector well may have known the letter to the Romans since epistles were round-robin documents that circulated from church to church, often receiving edits and revisions along the way. However, as we've observed, Matthew's Jesus would not have done baptismal theology the way Paul does in Romans, or as we do in the 21st century church. In the Great Commission when he told his followers to go everywhere, teach everyone, baptize them, Jesus wouldn't have used the Father, Son, Holy Spirit baptismal formula. Most likely Jesus simply said "baptize" without suggesting words to accompany the action.


Emancipation Proclamation / Juneteenth

President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862 took effect New Year's Day 1863. Texas was slavery's last outpost; in Galveston on June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger announced all slaves had been freed. The attention news media and social media gave to Juneteenth this year has been exciting! The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified December 6, 1865.


Baptismal Connections

In the previous chapter 5 of Romans, Paul is astonished how sin could have taken over even something as life-giving as the Ten Words or Commandments. In today's passage from Matthew, Jesus alludes to sin and divisions taking over the gift of family. Households will become divided until they claim Jesus' forgiving love, mercy, and justice that obliterates boundaries sin has caused between human families (tribes, clans, countries, every kind of group). Baptism unites us to God's entire family in every place and every time; as Jesus explains, God's family consists of those who follow Jesus by acting like Jesus. In short, God adopts all of us into a reconfigured family in which Jesus' relatives include everyone who follows him.

In this week's passage from Romans, the Apostle Paul asks "Do you not know?" in a way that suggests they don’t know – or if they do know they don't yet get it, possibly haven't quite claimed it. In baptism we have died with Christ. We have been buried with Christ. We already have been raised with Christ into a new future. Do you not know that? Do I not know? Do we now live that?

Baptism unites us to God's entire family in every place and every time. In baptism, every one of our human stories intersect with each other, plus, the waters of baptism first connect us to the story of the entire universe, of this created world.

Aside from Easter Vigil, in actual baptismal liturgies, and often at funerals, this Sunday is the only place in the 3-year lectionary we hear this baptismal passage from Romans. During the baptismal liturgy and during the great fifty days of Easter, thanksgiving over the water begins, "We give you thanks for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters and you created heaven and earth. By the gift of water you nourish and sustain us and all living things." Do you remember Emily beautifully pouring water into the font from a lovely pitcher in previous years? Sigh…

The story of our own baptism takes us back to "in the beginning" of Genesis 1, expands to include our current relationship to planet earth as well as to our human siblings, and stretches into the future of all creation. Our present and our future as people of the resurrection is bound up with that of the earth.

"… I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother … one's foes will be members of one's own household."

"foe" in the NRSV is a word we don't use very often, but I left it rather than looking for a different translation.

In Romans, Paul mostly is concerned with divisions between Jew and Gentile. But humans cause divisions in countless ways—between nations, political groups, religious groups, ethnic groups, coworkers, nuclear families, extended families. You easily can expand the list. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, (another easy et cetera you can continue) are among life-negating behaviors that destroy our own and one another's humanity. These lists imply insider-outsider language. Insider-outsider realities. What are our frames of reference? Ethnic? Cultural? Denominational? National?

Saint Paul asks if we do not know? In baptism our primary familial kinship and identity is under the reign – or kingship – of the crucified and risen One. It is a gift we already have received. It's truly a gift to be the sister, brother, parent, niece, or cousin of [insert name here], wonderful to live as a citizen or resident of the USA, of Italy, of any country that gives people the right to vote, free markets, the rule of law, but those identities are not primary.


Change is Gonna Come!

Similar to how it was in Jesus' time, we've become aware people opposed to contemporary legal, social, economic, cultural systems of … insert one of hundreds here … can expect to be silenced by … insert typical organizational or popular or governmental action here. Especially over the past few weeks, more and more death-dealing structures of sin and systems of oppression have been exposed.

As we gaze with horror and sorrow on (for example) products with packaging that displays ethnic stereotypes, statues of known slaveholders, we need to be careful to read the present through the past (historicism) and not make the easy mistake of reading the past through what we know in this present moment (presentism), by interpreting past events through current values, lenses, practices, and even preferences. A book review I read complained that the book was "so 1983." The book had been published in 1983, and who knows what year the author started writing. We can't live in a future that hasn't yet arrived, but we can learn from the past to help create a better now, and a greatly improved future.

In the power of the cross and the empty grave, by grace we can deal with the past and trust it no longer will enslave us.

How can death and resurrection inspire us to face hard past realities while also working together into a hope-filled future?

Baptism incorporates us into all humanity's history and into the history of planet earth with all its varied flora and fauna. No one is free until every one is free. No person is free until all creation is free. When I was facilitating some and helping teenagers lead other after-school activities in a previous life, my search for songs with solid theology that didn't use explicitly Christian language turned up "Free to Be, You and Me," that somehow I'd missed when it was current.

Free To Be

There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live

In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be you and me

I see a land bright and clear, and the time's comin' near
When we'll live in this land, you and me, hand in hand
Take my hand, come along, lend your voice to my song
Come along, take my hand, sing a song

For a land where the river runs free
For a land through the green country
For a land to a shining sea
For a land where the horses run free
And you and me are free to be you and me

Every boy in this land grows to be his own man
In this land, every girl grows to be her own woman
Take my hand, come with me where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll run

To a land where the river runs free
To a land through the green country
To a land to a shining sea
To a land where the horses run free
To a land where the children are free
And you and me are free to be you and me

Music by Stephen J. Lawrence; Lyrics by Bruce Hart

Just as the constitutional justice and liberty the Emancipation Proclamation granted for everyone still isn't complete, the freedom and fulness of life Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension granted all still isn't complete. Death still rules many social, economic, political, ecclesiastical structures and systems, as well as aspects of our lives as baptized individuals.

The story of our own baptism takes us back to "in the beginning" of Genesis 1, expands to include our current relationship to planet earth as well as to our human siblings, and stretches into the future of all creation. Our present and our future as people of the resurrection is bound up with that of the earth.

Our individual lives and our living together are full of the paradox of already done but not quite finished.

• Poet Wendell Berry counsels us, "Practice resurrection!"

• John Cena reminds us, "Hope and effort together is a great recipe for making [seemingly] impossible possible."

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Pentecost 2A

Exodus 19:2-8a

2They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

3Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites."

7So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do."

COVID-19

Despite some public venues cautiously being allowed to carefully reopen, #SaferAtHome continues countywide for everyone who can rock it.


Prayer

God of the desert, God of abundant provision, God who claims us in Jesus Christ as your specially treasured ones, events around the world and in this city have unsettled us; they've disrupted everything, but they've also been helping us imagining possibilities for our future. In the power of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, may we listen to your words, may we see our neighbors needs, may we be your presence wherever we go; in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Ordinary Time

The church's year of grace has journeyed into a 6-month long season of green and growing Ordinary [ordered, arranged, structured, organized] Time when we count Sundays after Pentecost. Matthew's year continues, so most of our gospel readings will be from Matthew.


Pentateuch – Exodus

Today's first reading is from Exodus, one of the five books of the Pentateuch or Torah. Like "Pentecost," Pentateuch starts with the prefix Pent or five. Exodus mainly tells the story of the Israelites (Children of Israel in some versions) making their way or exodus out of slavery in Egypt, into freedom in the promised land of Canaan. In the chapter after today's reading we find the Ten Commandments or Ten Words [decalogue: deca=10 logo=word].

You also can find the Ten Words of the Sinai Covenant in Deuteronomy 5:5-21.


These Are the Words

3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say…"

5"If you obey God's voice and keep God's covenant … then you shall…"

God's love always is unconditional, but God's protection and the fulfillment of God's promises usually require human obedience.

Verse 5 calls God's people a "treasured possession." The Hebrew segullah is a fun word and concept! "Treasured possession" in verse 5 of today's first reading goes beyond a simple object into the idea of a real treasure that's highly valued and monetarily or emotionally precious. Because the King James Version says "peculiar people," it's no surprise I needed to know the etymology of the adjective peculiar. I found it all over the interwebs, so no need to cite a specific site.

From mid-15th century, peculiar is from Latin peculium that literally means property in cattle originating from when cattle (pecus) or flocks were the most important form of property. Even now we sometimes say something is "peculiar to" (or particular to) to indicate belonging to a situation, item, place, or person. Later on "peculiar" started to mean distinguished, special, particular, or select—mostly in terms of wealth. Around 1600 it became unusual, odd, unique, uncommon. English has the related word pecuniary.

So when God calls people peculiar, the root of the word tells us those people are God's treasure, God's wealth, God's bounty.

7"So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him."

We've mentioned the Ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant are working papers for our life together. On Lent 4 2019 we discussed Covenant in Scripture if you'd like to review it—or if you weren't there.


Doing the Word

You have seen –  therefore – if – then you shall

8The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do."

As a result of liberating the people from slavery in Egypt and gracing them with presence and supply in the desert, God had convinced Israel this God was worthy of obedience, so they received the commandments as a gift of grace rather than as random untethered demands. Moses announced, "these are the words" and the people agreed, "we will do the words." In God's words spoken through Moses, [because] "you have seen" God's mighty acts of deliverance, the people knew obeying God would lead to life.

Let's update into this year 2020 and make that, "we have seen – therefore – we shall do." Because we have experienced Jesus crucified, dead, risen, and ascended, we know keeping covenant with God and with one another will lead to life for all creation.


Identity Formation

Israel left imperial Egyptian slavery and trekked through a series of deserts on their way to the land of promise. We know life teems beneath the still appearance of the desert's surface, and ecology hasn't changed all that much, but without easily available food, water, and shelter, they needed to trust God for everything. In addition, in a desert you can't plan or plant, administer or stockpile anything.

Like Israel, when we're in a geographical desert or one of life's metaphorical deserts, we only can receive life as gift. In the desert you can't plan or plant, administer, manufacture, or stockpile. Both COVID-19 and the strong recent revival of Black Lives Matter with its call to justice for everyone everywhere qualify as uncharted desert wilderness? We need to fully trust God in these matters? Yes! It's both painful and reassuring, but trials, difficulties, and disappointments shape, form, and refine us to a far greater extent than when "stuff" happens as we planned or expected or hoped.


Neighborology

5"…if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples… 6you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation."

God making Israel holy meant Israel would take on God's characteristics and nature, just as (we discussed last Sunday) baptism immerses us into the characteristics and nature of the Trinity. As the scriptures tell us, as Jesus showed us, God's nature includes passion for justice and mercy, care for the stranger and the marginalized—and love of a party with good drinks and tasty eats!

God called Israel to represent God by caring for each other and for strangers, foreigners, sojourners (literally resident aliens!), widows, orphans, all who don't have legal or social protections and may already have fallen through the cracks. Lacking legal protections and falling through the cracks? Wouldn't that include the environment? In the same way God called Israel, God calls us to represent Jesus everywhere we go. The Old Testament outlines God's Ten Commandments as Words of Life for living in covenant with God and with one another; the New Testament gives us Jesus' capsule version to love "God, self, and neighbor."


Doing the Word – Where We Live

The baptismal hymn in 1 Peter 2:9 we recently heard on Easter 5 closely parallels this OT passage and describes us in the church as chosen, royal, holy, God's own people. "Holy" means sanctified like God; it also means being set apart for a particular purpose. Doubtless the writer of 1 Peter knew the Hebrew scriptures well, so probably composed this as a riff on our Exodus passage.

The past few months have torn open expectations of every kind of stability: economic, social, religious, etc. Even essential workers who've regularly left their homes for work have more unscheduled time, more time to consider what now. What's next.

The people Moses helped get out of Egypt announced they'd do God's word in the world. God calls us to speak out and act out words of life wherever we are, wherever we go. How do we bring God to life for people we encounter?

What's now for us? When we get back to the church campus, we'll have a lot of discussion about the direction of our existing ministries and about new possibilities. For example, will we revive and continue CERT training?

I don't have any suggestions or questions this week. How about you?

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Trinity Sunday 2020

Rise, Shine, You People!

1. Rise, shine, you people! Christ the Lord has entered
Our human story; God in him is centered.
He comes to us, by death and sin surrounded,
With grace unbounded!

2. See how he sends the powers of evil reeling;
He brings us freedom, light and life and healing.
All men and women, who by guilt are driven,
Now are forgiven.

3. Come, celebrate, your banners high unfurling,
Your songs and prayers against the darkness hurling.
To all the world go out and tell the story
Of Jesus' glory.

4. Tell how the Father sent his Son to save us;
Tell of the Son, who life and freedom gave us.
Tell how the Spirit calls from every nation
The new creation.

Text by Ron A. Klug with the tune Wojtkiewiecz, after composer Dale Wood's original Polish name


COVID-19

Trinity Sunday initiates our fourth month being together away from the church campus.


Trinity Sunday…

…is the octave of Pentecost that celebrates a doctrine or teaching rather than a time-and-place event. "Octave of Pentecost?" The church long has celebrated important days for eight (think an octave on a keyboard) days rather than only one. "Trinity?" Scripture strongly implies a Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier God as three-in-one / one-in-three triune, but never uses the word trinity. Although the Trinity is that copout word mystery, human brains still try to describe it, with most attempts turning into the heresy of modalism. Those include ice, water, vapor; son, friend, accountant, father… oh. That equals a quadrivium of four.


Matthew 28:16-20

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."


"The Great Commission"

We baptize using water (an element of creation) accompanied by the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism incorporates us (literally immerses us) into Jesus' death and resurrection, into the trinitarian nature of God as Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.

Although Jesus' great commission in Matthew 28:19 is the only occurrence of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit baptismal formula in the bible, it was one of many later additions to the original text. When we read and interpret scripture, we sometimes need to remember Matthew's gospel is the most heavily redacted or edited of the four canonical gospels. The early church baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus, Jesus the Savior, or similar words. The first recorded mention of the Trinitarian baptismal formula was in the late fourth century!

None of us was there when Jesus sent his disciples into the future with a promise to be with them forever—neither was Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother/Saint Teresa of Kolkata. Jesus probably said something like go everywhere you can, teach everyone you meet by word and example, and baptize (immerse) them into my way of life that brings heaven to earth, the lifestyle I've been showing you and you've been learning.


Perichoresis=Describing the Trinity, Anyway

• peri=around
• choreo=dance

Instead of analogy or simile, early church fathers and mothers wrote about the perichoresis of the Trinity. Peri refers to around, nearby as in perimeter, peripatetic, peripheral, pericope, perigee… Choresis has the same root as choreography, so perichoresis means dancing around. Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier / Father, Son, Holy Spirit interact with each other in harmony, agreement, consonance, integrity, shalom, etc. Humans casually assign characteristic traits to each Person, but in reality they all participate together in every aspect of the life of the world.


Experience and Scripture and Jesus

The discovery of God as trinity first came from everyday human experience, then got talked about, then written down, then organized into books that eventually got further compiled into a book of books we acknowledge as scripture. Our knowledge of God still comes from everyday human encounters with God who always is with us, never leaves us, always loves us, and baptizes us into participation in the life of the triune God in the world, for the world.

How did people begin to realize Jesus of Nazareth was God in a human body?

Backtracking: although God promised the Exodus desert wanderers a place and a space, ultimately their identity as the people of God depended upon keeping Torah. This God of liberation from Egyptian slavery uniquely was a God of commandments (ordinances, laws, statues, precepts) spoken and given – and written down – as grace-filled gift for the well-being of all creation. Unlike other gods in that vicinity, Israel's God was not connected to a particular geographical or physical place, but accompanied the people everywhere they went.

Along came Jesus. Like all Jews of his day, Jesus knew the words of scripture, but more than anything, he lived those words every day in every way. He showed up around strangers and outcasts, reminded everyone of God's call to justice and love, rocked a good party yet provided basic bread before bringing in all the flourishes and fancies. Jesus was a regular guy, but rumor had it his conception and birth had happened in an unusual manner. Besides, when Jesus spoke in synagogue or in the public square, he had authority unlike no other local. Hmmm… "All authority in heaven and on earth?" Jesus was a regular guy who claimed to have fulfilled the Hebrew scriptures; on at least one occasion, he announced anyone who had seen him had seen God. Then there was the third day after Friday when Jesus who had been undeniably dead suddenly was undeniably alive…

People of church, synagogue, or mosque aspire to make the witness of scripture part of everyday family, community, and civic life. For people of the church, Jesus Christ is the ultimate interpreter of scripture because Jesus is God's living word that literally has jumped off the pages of scripture into history, into our lives, promising to be with us always, wherever we go.


Challenge – Backwards and Forwards

The creative, redemptive, inspiring triune God baptizes and calls us as partners in lives that speak grace, love, justice, hospitality, and newness in words and actions.

• Look back to an especially striking two or three times you experienced God's presence in a special way from someone else and/or when you suddenly realized you had been Jesus in that situation in an exceptional way. Maybe even during this past week?

• Peer into the future and claim a particular dream you have for (1) your nearby family, friends, and community—church, neighborhood, workplace; (2) the country and the world at large. Maybe related to this past week, or possibly to yearnings and hopes you'd had so long ago you'd almost forgotten them?

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Day of Pentecost 2020

Acts 2:1-8

1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

COVID-19

This is the 13th Sunday in a row we haven't met on the church campus. Our last time physically together was the Eve of the LA Marathon when we gathered for Holden Evening Prayer with an interactive study of Psalm 121, a savory supper of sandwiches and salads—plus our Second Annual Bakeoff. Psalm 121 assures us "The Lord is your keeper" (verse 5a) and "The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore." (verse 8) What better words could there be to start our months apart from one another? …though we didn't realize it until later in the week.


Prayer

God of creation, God of resurrection, God of pentecost, what a time this is! What a time for your Spirit; what a time for your Spirit-filled people! God of life, God of love, we grieve the murder of George Floyd. Pain and death and tired and violence and stereotypes and tokenism and seeing the law cover the perp again with the victims getting nothing again … will make people do things they never imagined they could do.

Spirit is a-movin' all over the land—this Spirit blows where it will; Spirit burns where it will. The wind of pentecost cleans, refreshes, clears, and renews. The fire of pentecost sears, refines, clarifies, and ignites. The Spirit of Pentecost is the Spirit of Freedom, but none of us is free unless all of us are free. The Spirit of Pentecost is the Spirit of Justice, yet not a single individual knows justice until everyone does.

Earth cannot bear the sorrows of too many deaths, too much loss from COVID-19. God, we know you lead the way into the world's future. You will go ahead of us, your Spirit will lead us to the places that are ready for us.

In Jesus' name,
Amen


Recently

The people who assemble the lectionary that provides our scripture readings don't always do everything in order:

Two weeks ago we heard Jesus' promise in John's gospel to send an advocate, defender, helper, comforter.

On the second Sunday of Easter, we heard the upper room narrative of Jesus' bestowing the Holy Spirit of life on the gathered assembly—and sending them out!

Last week we heard Jesus tell his disciples, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

The church's year of grace features three major festivals that relate to each Person of the Trinity/Godhead:

• Christmas – Nativity –> Creation
• Resurrection – Easter –> Redemption
• Pentecost – Whitsunday [British Isles term, refers to white robes worn by people being baptized on Pentecost] –> Sanctification / Theosis / Holiness / Deification / Divinization


The Day of Pentecost

• Luke 4:18-19 begins Jesus' public ministry with the HS;
• Luke's book of Acts begins our public ministry with the HS.

Easter is 50 Days; today, the Day of Pentecost is the 50th day of Easter. Penta = 50. Similar words includes pentagram, pentagon, pentacle, pentatonic.

Scripture reveals countless ways the Holy Spirit always has been present on earth; the Day of Pentecost celebrates the more spectacular manifestations of the Spirit Jesus' followers experienced after Jesus' resurrection and ascension. In his Acts of the Apostles Luke brings us the only scriptural account of the Day of Pentecost; tradition says it began in the same upper room as Jesus' last supper we remember on Maundy Thursday. The Holy Spirit we sometimes refer to as the Third Person of the Trinity is prominent In Luke's gospel and in his Acts of the Apostles. As theologian J├╝rgen Moltmann explains so well, "…the Holy Spirit is …the creative and life-giving, redeeming and saving God … present in a special way."

• in all of these Day of Pentecost accounts, Spirit is Pneuma rather than the Paraclete Jesus promised in last week's (Easter 7) text from John 16:7. (But in John 16:13 Jesus speaks of the Pneuma=spirit of truth.)
• Luke'a gospel and his Acts of the Apostles use the word Spirit (pneuma in Greek), and not Paraclete/Advocate.
• Pneumatology is the technical word for the branch of theology that's about the person, presence, and activity of the HS.
• The Spirit came to individuals gathered in community, "all together in one place." In the pentecost of our baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit.

In this narrative, everyone from everywhere was in Jerusalem for the Jewish Pentecost. Shavuot, the feast of weeks (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10) is "The day Heaven kissed Earth" as God bestowed the 10 Commandments from Mount Sinai. Like Pentecost, Shavuot refers to seven weeks – "a week of weeks" – after Passover.

• Acts 2:3, 4, 11 "tongues" is glossos – you may know the word glossalalia for speaking in tongues some charismatic churches practice; when we dissect scripture and find a phrase out of line with the rest of the content, we sometimes refer to the added words as a "gloss."

• Acts 2:6, 8 "tongues" is dialect, one of our English words for language.

Everyone heard in their own language. Last year on the Day of Pentecost we discussed the importance of learning other spoken languages, and maybe especially cultural languages. Those "other cultures" sometimes include other sections of the USA. The Spirit of God surrounds and fills all creation. In some senses, the fire and wind of the HS blows away and incinerates differences and barriers of culture, status and religion, gender, age, ethnicity; in a more biblically true sense, the HS rearranges expectations and demands to make room for differences that enrich the entire community.


Considerations

The HS is constantly in action, but to us humans it seems as if sometimes the Spirit nudges us toward greater changes than at other times. The COVID-19 pandemic remains an opportunity for increased scientific research and knowledge. Despite deaths, job losses, and overall economic devastation, this has become a time of phenomenal caring and compassion, one of imaginatively figuring out how to move forward in retail, recreational, and educational venues. Did you notice sales of board games are up? We've learned physical distancing and social distancing are different concepts!

With the sudden(? probably not) eruption of rioting and violence in the wake of an officer sworn to protect peace and justice murdering a civilian …
• Can we learn to understand the language of looting, violence, anger, and torches that are not the fire of pentecost?

None of us approaches human perfection, yet as we claim the righteousness of Jesus Christ…
• How much leeway can we allow for bad behaviors? In what circumstances?

We won't hang red banners from the rafters this year!
• Are you doing anything to make Pentecost 2020 unforgettable?

Specifically related to our life together on Santa Monica Blvd:
• What changes do you imagine the HS nudging – or propelling – us toward between the first Sunday we gather again and (for example) Thanksgiving Day?

• What image(s) of the Holy Spirit particularly resonate(s) with you? Wind? Fire? Dove? Advocate? Peace? Attorney? Comforter? Quilt? Something different?

• Have you especially sensed the Spirit at work in your own life or in your surroundings during the past few months? Or not?


Next Week and Counting

Next Sunday we'll celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity / "tri-unity"; after that we'll spend 6 months in a growing, greening segment of Ordinary Time when we count Sundays after the Day of Pentecost. We can be confident our baptism (immersion and filling) with the Holy Spirit of Pentecost will enable us to live as Jesus's crucified and risen presence everywhere we go.