Deacon Cornellís Homily

Readings:   

Genesis 11: 1-9
Romans 8:22-27
John 7:37-39

Acts 2:1-11
Romans 8:8-17
John 14:15-16,23b-26

Date:

May 29-30, 2004 Pentecost, Cycle C

Today is Pentecost; we celebrate the birth of the Church. But here in Stow, we are mourning the death of our parish. Holding two opposites in our hearts and hands, living in the tension that comes from hanging between such opposites, is at the core of who we are as Christians. Life and death; Heaven and earth; Holiness and sinfulness. Life is never all one or all the other but is lived in the tension between these opposites.

A group of Christians gather in a room, confused, hurting, saddened, and unsure of what to do next. One moment they were gradually growing together in their faith in Jesus, slowly adding to their numbers as they listened to his words of hope and faith and love. Surely they were finally on the right path towards the Kingdom of God. Then all of their budding hopes were dashed and they found themselves alone, robbed of the foundation on which they had built these hopes. But were they really alone, abandoned? Hadnít Jesus promised that he would always be with them, until the end of time?

The familiar story of the birth of the Church from the Acts of the Apostles tells of the Spirit coming upon the gathered disciples as a rushing wind and tongues of fire. The Spirit so fills their hearts that they rush into the streets, at 9 oíclock in the morning, shouting out the good news that God has come to live among us, has died, is risen from the dead, and has ascended into heaven as the first fruits of the promise Jesus made to all of us. All of a sudden, the power of the Holy Spirit has reversed the confusion and division that took place in the story of the Tower of Babel when no one could understand anyone else. The disciples speak in a way that everyone around them can understand in their own language.

My dear people, this is not just a story from 2000 years ago. We are living out this story right here and now. We are gathered together today confused, hurting, saddened and unsure of what to do next. We need to mourn our loss for it is a loss as real as that of any death. Not everyone will have the same timeline for doing this mourning and we have to honor that. As you know, mourning death has stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Donít let anyone tell you that any of those are wrong or inappropriate. They are how we humans mourn and if we donít process each stage, it will continue to have power over us.

But we have not received a spirit of slavery that causes us to fall back into fear but a spirit of adoption through which we cry out,† ďAbba, poppa!Ē We are all groaning in labor and for many of us, we donít even know how to pray. But the Spirit prays for us. So as we mourn, we must also wait for the spirit to fill our hearts and minds with her gifts. In the midst of our mourning, we baptize little Avery Hallberg. Will the symbolism of the waters of baptism as dying with Christ so we might rise to new life in Christ strike us more vividly in the midst of our mourning. Will the confirmation next week of the young men and women of our confirmation class, with its invocation of the spiritís gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence, and wonder and awe in Godís presence be a more personal celebration in the midst of our mourning?

I am not just your assigned deacon. I am a parishioner and have been for 29 years. I have seen two of my four children baptized here, my daughter married here. I have sung here in joyful times and in times of loss and trouble. I have taught religious ed, served on many different boards and councils. I have had the privilege of baptizing many of you, including my own grandchildren, witnessing our marriages, helping to mourn and bury our dead. †I stand here as unsure as you all are as to how to move forward but I am sure about one thing. All of those experiences are carved in my heart and soul not because they happened in this building or under the patronage of St. Isidore but because they happened in the midst of this community. In this community my wife Betsy and I found family away from home. In this community, we have experienced the love of God made incarnate so that we could see it, and touch it, and hug it, and taste it, and be comforted by it. And I stand here today absolutely sure that none of that has gone away. We are still that community.

I do not buy into the notion that God throws bad things at us to strengthen us or even to punish us. I donít think this closure is God working his plan in mysterious ways. But I am absolutely sure that no matter what happens, God always has the best plan B. We need to mourn but then we need to be open to the spirit filling us with her gifts so that we move forward in love. We are baptized into the body of Christ. Because I know who you are, I am absolutely sure that the body of Christ here in Stow is alive and kicking!

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