The First Sunday after Pentecost

ReadingsIsaiah 6: 1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8: 12-17; John 3: 1-17

To fill out the importance of the conversation of Jesus and Nicodemus in today’s Gospel reading, we need to remember that it was Nicodemus on Good Friday, following the crucifixion, who asked Pilot for the body of Jesus for burial in his own tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In today’s passage, Nicodemus was just beginning his journey into faith and the recognition that Jesus was the Son of God.  He had not yet arrived at the place of seeing Jesus as the long-awaited one.  Nicodemus’ vision was blurry, not clear-eyed.  As Jesus said to him, “we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen”.  For us, the passage raises the question, “what do we know” and “what have we seen”? 

On Trinity Sunday the question is a bit sharper, “where do we get our vision of the kingdom of God”?  Is our individual vision more Father-focused, or Son-focused, or Holy Spirit-focused?  Is it more Creator determined, or Incarnation determined, or Spirit determined? 

For the prophet Isaiah, we find him in the temple in Jerusalem, experiencing a truly overwhelming ecstatic vision with incense, and seraphs (mythological six-winged creatures) and with God seated on a throne.  He experiences his own sinful self as unclean, from an unclean people, needing to be purified by a hot ember drawn from the altar of God.  Once purified, once his “sin is blotted out”, he is then able to respond to God’s call to mission.  Isaiah’s experience is rather Star Wars-like, Hollywood produced. 

For me, this passage about Isaiah surfaces an interesting question, do we all need to have our lips singed, and made pure, before we can respond to God, “Here am I, Send me”?  Speaking personally, absolutely not.  I am reminded of a frequently noted quote of the French author Voltaire, “The perfect is the enemy of the good”.  If we wait for the perfect, if we wait for perfection, we will never get there, we will never fully accomplish anything.  If we await the “pure of heart”, all of us will never reach that place, and will never be ready to fully respond, “Here am I, send me”. 

I enjoy glimpses of the Kingdom of God in the following four ways.

First, is the vision of Creation, of the Creator, traditionally called Father.  Especially in the Spring with the flower gardens, at home, around the church, in our community, and in our parks where the genius of God is just overwhelming.  And we can join in as co-creators with God, planting, fertilizing, cultivating our gardens, growing tomatoes, all variety of vegetables in addition to the flowers.  John’s flower bed will soon be full of color on Market Street, and the geraniums from Pentecost now planted in front of the stone wall in the Memorial Garden will bloom all summer.  The new pollinator garden will be fun to watch develop.  God has brilliantly painted for all who have eyes open to see the beauty of nature. 

Second, is the vision of this congregation at worship.  All are facing forward, looking to the east, where Jesus Christ rose from the tomb.  Like oarsmen at sea, we row together as we praise God, and as we give thanks for all the ways God has blessed us.

Third, is the vision of this congregation at Coffee Hour where we bring our diversity, but not our divisiveness; where we share goodies and coffee, as well as our struggles and sorrows, our hopes, and our joys. 

Fourth, is the vision of this congregation hosting opportunities for service, for people to serve side by side.  Every weekday Meals on Wheels drivers arrive for their lunches.  Twice a month our parking lot is busy on Saturdays with families of Selinsgrove students picking up provisions for the weekend.  On the first, third and fifth Wednesdays our kitchen is bustling with activity as Martha’s Table takeout meals are prepared and then distributed.  Frequently our undercroft is buzzing with a group of Daisy and Brownie Scouts.  At least a couple of days a week Chef David is preparing baked goods for the Saturday Farmers’ Market and for mail order shipments.  With the reopening of Selins’ Grove Pub, our parking lot is used for the evening patrons.  We are a valuable resource and serve our community.

All these activities, worship, coffee hour, and service give flesh to and make real the movement of the Spirit among us.  While there still exists a gap between our ministry and that of Jesus, we are following his lead as we seek to emulate his life of loving service. 

With the eyes of the heart open, we do catch glimpses of the Kingdom of God around us here on earth.  God, Creator, Incarnate, and Spirit, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is clearly visible to the eyes of the People of God.  As the railroad crossing signs declare, we only need to “Stop, Look, and Listen”.  God is about Alleluia. Alleluia.

One final note on this Memorial Day Week, we are able to “Stop, Look, and Listen” in these United States of America because of the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, especially those who never returned to their family, their friends, and their homes.  We always owe them our deepest gratitude. 

The Kingdom of God is all around us.  “Stop, Look, and Listen. 


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