Updated: Jan 31
I wish we had programmed the organ to play Pomp and Circumstance, because today is graduation day.
The high schools in Marion County ended May 23, and the seniors attended graduation ceremonies then.
The Summer Vacation period for school children is already underway.
However, for us adult Episcopalians, according to our liturgical calendar, today we should honor a different class of graduates; and for them there is no vacation that kicks it off that recognition.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. Tomorrow, although we Episcopalians do not recognize it, is Whit Monday (“Whit” is Old English for “White”). Tomorrow is also known as Pentecost Monday or the Monday of the Holy Spirit.
Whatever you call tomorrow, Monday begins the liturgical period called “Ordinary Time.”
Ordinary Time covers the period from Pentecost Monday until the First Sunday of Advent.
Raise your hands if you understand why we call that Ordinary Time.
If everyone raises your hand, then we will have 5 minutes of silence. Otherwise, I will explain the meaning to those who do not know.
<pause and look for hands raised>
You may have met David Johnson before. He was here when Lyn was ordained, last December. He holds the title of Mississippi Diocese Canon to the Ordinary.
As a Canon to the Ordinary, “David Johnson provides counsel to the Diocesan bishop,” where Bishop Gray is the Ordinary officer of the Church, in our state of Mississippi.
With the bishop, the Canon oversees the ordination process, including the one-year program of “ordinands training.” An “ordinand” is “a candidate for ordination.”
Thus, when we reach the longest liturgical season of the year, Ordinary Time, that denotes a time for the Ordained. It is when those who are Ordained have the power of bishops, to spend the majority of a year ministering to the people.
Because we all have spent the last seven weeks being trained, through the inspiration of the readings in the Easter Weeks … the Christian version of the Counting of the Omer … we have reached the Day of Graduation … Pentecost Sunday. A new class of Ordinands should be presented for all to appreciate.
We should have new Apostles coming forward now, to receive certificates of ordination, before they would be sent out tomorrow … one White Monday, denoting that their sins have been erased and their hearts are pure, ceremoniously dressed in white robes … to go out into the world and spread the Gospel to those not yet filled with the Holy Spirit.
Still, while graduates go forth during Ordinary Time, as Ordained with the Holy Spirit, they begin a life where being filled with the Holy Spirit becomes “ordinary” to them.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit means forever onward facing whatever the world brings as a challenge to one’s faith, as “usual or normal condition or course of events.” (A definition of “ordinary.”) The talents of the Ordained, or their gifts of the Holy Spirit, are classified as, “Of common or established types.” To them, the Holy Spirit is, “Commonplace.” More definitions of the word “ordinary.”
Raise your hand if you graduated from high school so long ago that it feels like you always had that knowledge.
<pause to look at hands>
Raise your hands if you were Ordained on a Pentecost past, or your own personal day with God and Christ, which was so long ago that being filled with the Holy Spirit seems commonplace to you now.
<pause to look at hands>
There is nothing “ordinary” about the Holy Spirit, and while its early spread gave rise to the world’s greatest religion – Christianity – after many centuries less and less Ordinations by the Holy Spirit are taking place, making Christians more and more “ordinary.”
Today, we read again in the Book of Acts, of the Day of Pentecost, when the Apostles first were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The words say it came upon them suddenly, accompanied by a sound that is described as being “like the rush of a violent wind.”
Have you ever watched the news on television, where a reporter asked someone who survived a tornado to explain the ordeal? I know Jeff Foxworthy has a joke about being a redneck, if you have ever been seen on the news saying, “It sounded like a freight train,” before your trailer park was destroyed.
The point is there was a clearly recognizable sound that accompanied that presence in the house of the Apostles.
That says, “If you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, then you don’t have to think about it.” You know immediately, not, “maybe I was or maybe I wasn’t.” It overcomes you so suddenly you are impacted by a difference in you.
Of course when that happened to the Apostles (who were no longer disciples because of their Graduation), all the people who heard them speaking in foreign tongues thought about what they were hearing. They knew with their minds that simple country folk could not know the languages of places those rubes had never been. The brains of the pilgrims told them that the Apostles must just drunk on new wine.
You know how it is when you are drunk, you take chances that you never would, and sometimes you do some amazing things. They thought the Apostles were just babbling, without knowing what they were saying, only to have some freak of chance turn the noises they were making into what seemed to be languages the foreigners understood. Their minds deduced, “It must be that.”
People who have not been filled with the Holy Spirit like to explain away those who are so filled, by not giving credit to those who do amazing things without explanation.
Of course, we sip wine at the altar because Jesus passed around the cup of wine, saying, “This is the blood of the New Covenant. Whenever you drink this, remember me.”
That, of course, does not mean if you drink a whole bottle of wine and remember Jesus, then you will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Drunk from spirits, yes; but not close to holiness.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he made a very important statement, one which might be overlooked or misunderstood.
He said, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.”
That does not mean, “If you say, “Jesus is Lord,” then you are filled with the Holy Spirit.”
It says, “By the power of the Holy Spirit within him, Jesus (the man) was God incarnate.” You must see how Jesus acted in each of the ways Paul then listed, each of which demonstrates the Holy Spirit was in Jesus. You must recognize the Holy Spirit, in order for one to say, “Jesus is Lord.”
Because Jesus displayed those gifts of the Holy Spirit, so too will any and all others who believe in Christ and God, and who enroll into that “school” of thought … becoming disciples … then graduating, as Apostles, knowingly filled with the Holy Spirit, Ordained to spread that to others, just as Jesus spread it to them.
When you realize this, you can see how the ways of the Jews, at the time of Christ, were as followers. They depended on leaders, content that they (for the most part) would never achieve a leadership role of religious importance.
That was the “ordinary” way for them to be. They were conditioned to be sheep, in need of a shepherd to follow.
The Jews followed Pharisees, who were Ordained by Sadducees, and anointed by the Temple’s High Priest. They were disciples of Judaism, and although many recognized they needed to be more, to do more, they just learned how to get by on their wiles, complaining to God and their leaders (under their breath).
Peter stood up before the crown in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks (Shavuot), begun on the 50th day (Pentecost), proclaiming, “People in Jerusalem, we are not drunk!”
Peter said, “We are like those Joel prophesied would come, ‘In the last days.’”
The last days Joel wrote of were not some distant times of our future, thus certainly theirs. Instead, Joel wrote of the end of Judaism as the way to heaven.
Jews believed they were the chosen people of God, and merely by being Jewish disciples of the One God they would be rewarded with Heaven (a birthright). They never imagined they should, could, or would ever graduate to the level of priests or rabbis, without being born into that private clique.
However, that system would come to an end when Galileans spoke in foreign tongues, without being drunk. Those were the last days, when “Sons and daughters would prophesy, old men would have dreams, and young men would have visions.”
A new religion was marked by those who had the Holy Spirit, and could “utter wisdom and knowledge” that was beyond one’s educational level, “show profound levels of faith” stronger than the mere memorization of written text, “heal” those in need, produce “miracles” witnessed by many, “prophesy” and “interpret prophecy,” “understand foreign languages,” and “discern spirits” that were the inner motivations and influences within others.
Jesus Christ marked the end of the old ways, ways of devotion through following, by beginning anew way, a way of devotion by acting from complete faith, FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Each of the Apostles had at least one of these gifts, with some possessing more than one. They became arms of God, just as the physical body of Jesus had been. They became the “members” of the “body of Christ,” through being filled with the same powers of God that Jesus had been given.
Once you graduate as an Ordained Apostle, then you are “renewed by the Spirit,” “so you renew the face of the earth.”
Your hearts grow ten times larger, as did the Grinch’s, so large that “rivers of living water” flow from you, for others who thirst to drink.
Peace overcomes you, so there is no fear of anyone or anything, other than God. “Ye though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death I shall fear no evil.”
Peace be with you, when you are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to his disciples, when they feared for their mortal lives, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
So the Father sent Jesus with the Holy Spirit, so too will Jesus send you with the Holy Spirit.
“Receive the Holy Spirit,” because God forgives the sins of any who accept the breath of Christ into their hearts. For those who hold onto to their material addictions and the sins of sacrifice made for meaningless things in this physical realm, you can retain those things … until death do you part.”
You can choose eternal life, or you can choose death. The last days of being a sheep, led by wolves in sheep’s clothing have come. There are lost sheep to gather, and the world needs some Good Shepherds.
When will you graduate from disciple to Apostle, from sheep to Shepherd? When will you be prepared to be ordained by the Holy Spirit?