Small homily for 1 Corinthians 12 (Pentecost 2020)

Updated: Feb 5

After I published a nearly 4200-word homily about Pentecost 2020, I realized I forgot to make comments about the optional reading from Paul’s first letter to the Christians of Corinth. I didn’t want to leave that out because it certainly fits the theme of Pentecost. It needs to be openly taught, not set aside as if ‘not the pick of the liter.’ For that reason and remembering my youth, when my mother took me to church every Sunday morning AND Sunday evening, we’ll pretend this is the evening service sermon. Lord knows Episcopalians (and members of denominations like them) are near the bottom of the list of God’s favorite religions, because of the misguided belief that a wafer and sip of wine takes the place of Pentecostal preaching that hits the hearts and changes the Minds of followers.  After all, God sees a religion as a school for ministry and not a day care for elderly people. Therefore, three-hour a week ‘believers’ are not expected to read this; and, not feel any less loved by God by not going beyond the minimal requirements set forth by their hired hands.


In my other sermon, I told the story of a man who said he saw Jesus, who told him his terminal illness was cured.  The man said Jesus looked exactly like his pictures.  It was relative to that mystical appearance that I had planned to write about what Paul said to the Corinthian Christians. 


The fact that Jesus appeared as Jesus to his disciples in the upper room, but then disappeared from their view on the forty-ninth day in the Counting of the Omer [a Shabbat], after spending forty days preparing them to “Receive Spirit Holy,” says the appearance of Jesus as Jesus is significant, most especially after his death.  That is because, from the next day (Pentecost Sunday) onward, Jesus has appeared in many, many, many bodies of flesh, none of which “looked like his picture.” 


Keep in mind that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and Cleopas with his wife Mary, neither time looking recognizable; so, for some man to say Jesus looked like Jesus and stood by his bed, saying “You are cured,” demands some explanation to make that story even resemble the truth.  I mean, wouldn’t the man be more believable if he had said, “He looked like my doctor”?  Then we could assume that was Jesus in disguise.


Paul wrote, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Spirit Holy.”  You will notice I reversed the order of words at the end, as the common reading is “Holy Spirit.”  All I will say about that now is, “You should have come for the ‘morning homily’ because I explained that then.”  However, by realizing that Paul said, “No one can say ‘Jesus rules over my body of mortal flesh’ [‘Jesus is Lord of me’] except [unless] by the Spirit [God’s touch of eternal life that makes one be] Holy.”  That is what Paul meant and that is what the Apostles in Corinth understood.

With the “Spirit” within, art likes to project “Holy” as the halo without.


Certainly, the letter written by Paul was sent as a ‘heads up’ to those who Paul had met and personally knew were: a.) filled with God’s Spirit; b.) made truly Holy by that eternal change within their souls; and, c.) had sacrificed their self-ego so God’s Spirit would make them do the deeds of Jesus, possessing the Christ Mind.  Paul wrote to his “brothers in Christ” to let them know what he had been led to discover: There are those out there who are ‘wannabes’ and they will say “I love Jesus so he is my Lord,” just so they can tag along with true Saints, never once attempting to go into ministry like Paul and Silas had.  Paul wrote so the Apostles in Corinth would not likewise becomes ‘churches’ filled with a bunch of ‘do-nothings’ who were always asking, “Hey, are we going to do that wafer and wine ritual again soon?”


Now, knowing that intent and meaning, Paul was writing a letter that would last for perpetuity.  Because Paul was filled with the Spirit and consecrated as a Saint [Holy], who truly said Jesus is my Lord, God dictated to Paul as he wrote.  Thus, Paul let God guide his pen, even while Paul’s ego might have been looking over Paul’s shoulder and thinking, “Everyone knows that!” [about who can say “Jesus is Lord”] when nearly two thousand years later the response from God to Paul was, “Maybe now Son, but wait until the second millennium rolls around.  Then Saints will be like unicorns [which even back then were considered mythical].”


Because Paul listed the talents [“gifts” also known as “charismata“] made possible by the “Spirit” [“Pneuma“], the “Lord” [“Kyrios”], and God [“Theos”], without any mention of “Holy” [“Hagiō“], the natural assumption would be, “Well yeah, nobody could have any of those talents without having been made “Holy.”  Paul wrote of one talent that expressly stated, “charismata iamatōn en tō heni Pneumati” or “gifts of healing (curing, remedy) within the one Spirit.”  That statement of a power of a Saint says anyone meeting that criteria, set by Paul [thus God], would be able to cure a man of terminal illness without looking like Jesus


Hey! That guy doesn’t look anything like Jesus!


That is, unless there were so few Saints like Paul and the Apostles in Corinth that the “Spirit” would have to make ‘house calls’ looking like Jesus raised again from the dead.  That says, if the man being interviewed by NPR [National Public Radio] was telling the truth, then it was a warning greater than Paul’s [“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Spirit (being) Holy”].  The warning is a world without Saints is a world headed to a terrible end.


When Paul wrote, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ,” the same applies to the man who was bedridden and terminally ill.  One member of his body was so rotten to the core [not “Holy”] that it, being one member failing to live up to the promise of keeping the whole body healthy, was causing the man’s whole body to face death.  Without any priests or pastors being able to truly say “Jesus is Lord,” there was nobody to call who could work a miracle. 


The man, probably, was so full of sin and without any knowledge of Christianity or religion that his soul was destined to be recycled back into more dust in the future, so what would be the big deal is God resurrected His Son and said, “Go and make that one member shine with holiness, so the rest of his body will suddenly be whole again.”  I mean, healing an atheist is a bigger miracle than healing someone the world adores.


Perhaps, after he lived to tell the story, that man wrote a new book and sold millions of copies, telling the world about his seeing Jesus and being cured.  Maybe someone read his words and was like one of those nearly three thousand who heard the words of Peter talking about the prophecy of Joel being fulfilled that Pentecost Sunday.  Hopefully, that man is driven to tell his story over and over again to this day, just like Eldad, Medad, and the other sixty-eight elders who were given one touch of God’s Spirit.


I heard his message.  I thought nothing of it at the time; but, I remember it still.  If Jesus is having to do what Apostles should be doing, that man’s story is parallel to the story of Peter fleeing Rome, to avoid crucifixion.  As he was walking away from Rome he saw Jesus walking to Rome.  Peter called out, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus said, “I am going to go die in your place, since you are to afraid to do it yourself.”  We have to feel that story like a cold, hard slap across the face, if we really think we have the right to say “Jesus is Lord,” while doing all the wrong things.

Pentecost is a yearly recognition commanded by God.  The omer of first fruits have been sitting in the temple for fifty days, and Pentecost is when they are then ready to be put to the test: Are they signs of a good crop this year?  Or, are we in for a harvest of bad fruit?


Christians are those who say they follow Jesus Christ.  They are those who say they are the fruit of that most Holy vine.  The body of Jesus Christ is the fruit that grows from that most righteous vine.  It is not a small, circular wafer.  The blood of Christ is the living waters that flow through the veins of that righteous vine, filling the fruit, making them good.  It is not a sip of red wine from an ornate chalice.


Passover is when the fruit is cut from the vine.  The Easter season is when the fruit is prepared for testing.  Pentecost is when the fruit is determined to be good – as new priests of God commissioned into the world with God-given talents; or bad – useless figures that take up pew space, year after year, decade after decade.  Bad fruit, as Paul warned, goes around falsely claiming, “Jesus is Lord.”


This makes Pentecost the test of a church.  An institution is like a fruit tree, whose sole purpose is to produce good fruit for people to consume and find life sustained.  When Jesus found a fig tree that was barren and without fruit, he cursed it. 

What denomination does that one look like?


Earlier today I quoted from John’s Revelation, where Jesus told the ‘church of Laodicea’, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  The church of Laodicea reflects ALL churches that are barren and produce no good fruit.


Pentecost is the graduation day for ordination into God’s priesthood.  It is not a time for pretense, when unprepared boys and girls are sent out to ‘play church’ with the souls of humanity.  Pentecost Sunday is when the test of preparedness comes full cycle. 


Pentecost Sunday is when the Spirit must flow forth as living waters from Apostles in the name of Jesus Christ so lost souls can be found and saved.  Pentecost Sunday is when the truth of Scripture is told so hearts burn to know more … not a time to promote public service announcement, in support of the fact that fears will always exist in the world, when the world does not know God or Christ.


It is time to live up to the claims “Jesus is Lord” or forever be damned. 


I’m sure, if NPR was broadcast to wherever the soul of Mother Teresa was in 2006-2007, she rolled over a few times, hearing that Jesus would go heal one author in the United States, while she never once saw even one true Apostle come heal the sores of the poor in India.  She died in 1997, knowing only prayer, as she was no true Saint.  She certainly had the talent of persistence, but … she confessed there were times she blamed God for not doing more to help the poor. 


The lesson should be known by all: YOU are expected to become the Son of God and save the world, or die trying. Stop protecting Self and expecting a miracle to happen when nobody does anything “Holy”!


So, if you are laying on the deathbed that all mortal flesh is, waiting for Jesus to appear and say, “You are cured, go out and live a good life,” then you have failed God and Christ. 


Amen

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