Pastor B. Thrall
In the name of the God, whose Holy Spirit fills our days and enlightens our hearts and minds. Amen.
Well, don’t we have a lot to celebrate today? Being together as a congregation, outdoors on a beautiful day, using our new sound equipment provided by a grant from the Episcopal diocese. Seeing one another, being in this sacred, familiar space; sharing the Pentecost blessings and the hope of this season. A blessed Pentecost to each and every one of you, this feast of the Holy Spirit, when we wear red for the flames that rested on the disciples’ heads, or white to commemorate the baptisms that often take place on this day. Today is considered by some the Birthday of the Church, when the first believers were sent out to do the work of spreading the Good News of Jesus and his resurrection. Thankfully, God has brought us together, and will send us out as well, but not before we share some celebrative Buffy’s brownies this morning. Thank you to everyone who is making this morning’s gathering possible. As the baseball players do, ……(cross themselves, send a kiss to the sky).
The week before last my husband, Ed, and I had the opportunity to spend some time in the White Mountains, in Lincoln, NH. The only real thing on the agenda was to get outside and hike, and this we did for five of the seven days. On all those treks, along trails through the woods traversed for generations by thousands of people, going back to our indigenous ancestors, along trails up hills and mountains, beside streams and rivers, you’ll find you can’t take too many steps without encountering rocks. Whether the trails are wide-open old-time railroad beds, or tight squeezes through narrow embankments, whether the path is covered in soft layers of rusty-colored pine duff or it’s a stairway to heaven made by the CCC in the 1930s, a walk in the White Mountains more often than not is a game of rocks and roots, a game we used to play when our son was small. It was meant to keep him going and watching where he stepped, and I have to say, “rocks and roots” still works for adults, too.
And then, as if for fun, you are walking along and you come to a huge boulder, or sometimes two or three, and wonder what they’re doing there, how they got there. They are a bit like that Leviathan, the great sea monster that God made for the sport of it. These boulders, as big as a car, or a motor home, or a house, or two or three houses, are called glacial erratics. The word “erratic” has to do with something that is wandering, irregular or unpredictable and these erratics are just that – rocks that came here with the glaciers during the last ice age and then got dumped in random places when the glacier moved on. Over the years the trails have accommodated them, going around, (almost never over), and you can get close to these erratics and pat them, admire the lichen that is growing its Coke-bottle green coating on them, the moss and trees above that have somehow taken root on them, the cracks that have developed and what might be lurking inside. Glacial erratics are not shy. They make big statements to the hiker in the woods. I suppose in the world of geology, they are the standouts, the overachievers.
It struck me on those hikes that the Holy Spirit is a lot like the rocks of New Hampshire. The Spirit is always present to us, everywhere we go, like rocks settled in the earth, pushed out each spring (you know this if you are a gardener or a farmer in New England at least), peeking out on the trails, piled up here and there, showing their faces. That Holy Spirit makes an appearance each and every day of our lives, often more than once, if we have eyes to see, with nudges and reminders. Whether at work, at school, at home, in our relationships, in our health, in our individual and corporate lives, the Holy Spirit is there, guarding, guiding, directing, protecting, sometimes upsetting, invigorating, intercessing on our behalf, revealing her presence in God’s work all around us.
Some rocks, we know, are bigger than others, and these are the things that have been put in our way, metaphorically, to force us to engage. Be mindful, the Holy Spirit says, be careful lest you trip and hurt yourself. Racism and its humiliations and degradations, the climate emergency and pollution of the environment, economic injustice on many levels, living in the past or in situations where forgiveness is required but not forthcoming, these are the stumbling blocks that are making life less that it can be for our dear mother earth and us and our dear fellow human beings. These are the rocks the Holy Spirit wants us to pay attention to and either move, or smash to smithereens.
Then there are the rocks that pile up in stream beds in the spring and stay throughout the year, as the melting snow and rain drive the streams and rivers to bulge with the clattering, rushing water of new life. Bare, exposed to the sun and sometimes in the water, these millions of rocks are there for throwing, or building cairns, or skipping over the water’s surface. I like to think of them as opportunities for giving thanks, for the thousands of blessings the Holy Spirit bestows on each of us in our simply being alive, in our being able to walk and see, sing and hear. Giving thanks for our food and the air we breathe, in the opportunities we have been given to learn and grow, to help and be helped. Countless blessings for which to be thankful, given by the Holy Spirit, as many as the rocks in a New Hampshire river.
And then, of course, there are the erratics, these enormous blockbusters, if you will, when the Holy Spirit makes herself profoundly present. In these instances, she is here and you’re not going to get away without having to deal with her. From the Spirit’s movement over the waters at the beginning of creation, to the parting of the Red Sea; from Ezekiel’s prophesying to the dry bones to give them life, to the exiles’ return from Babylon; from the Spirit’s overshadowing of a young girl in Nazareth, to his/her miraculous appearance in the upper room with the disciples on that Feast of Pentecost; the Holy Spirit, who is around us and with us always, sometimes makes these Grand Statements for our benefit. On this first Pentecost Sunday the ancient confusion that was felt after the Tower of Babel, was resolved. People found themselves speaking in many languages and understanding one another. The Holy Spirit was poured out not just on the disciples gathered together, but on the entire community. In case we ever wonder, the Spirit wants us to know that God is a living God and we all have a place with that Lord of life and love.
After all, the Spirit showed up when we were baptized, she shows up when we are confirmed or ordained, she shows up when we choose our bishops and when we choose our clergy, she appears every time we celebrate the Eucharist and she has stood with the church from its earliest days. That Spirit sent out the disciples so that this church, this miracle of new life, might be a force for good in a world that knows darkness and evil and yearns for goodness and light.
That same Spirit is walking with us still, as we emerge from this very trying year and begin to live in community again. That same Spirit has been with Christ the King-Epiphany Church as we move closer and closer to calling a new ordained leader and rejoicing in the next chapter of this church’s wonderful life. That same Spirit is with us as we grow in love as a people, working for reconciliation and understanding, justice and equality for all people and all of creation. Spreading the Good News of God in Christ.
So as you make your journey into this next week, into this summer and the months that are to come, you will be walking on some paths that most certainly will have a few rocks along the way. Take them as signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Watch for them, welcome them, be careful with them, and if you come upon an erratic, take it for what it’s worth. A sign that God has a sense of humor, and makes big statements for our benefit, claiming us as Christ’s own and then sending us out the door, in his name. Amen.