Sermon Blog Entry by Rev. Brent Neumann, May 17, 2020

   by Brent Neumann

Day 68

Here we are getting nearer to the end of the Easter Season, and our readings have begun to shift a bit. We have spent a fair amount of time working through the development of the community, and now we are beginning to focus on the holy spirit and how that is manifest in their lives… both within themselves and those around them.

The readings are now talking about Paul being out in the community doing the ministry and, in this case, he is in Athens talking to the Athenians about their worship practices. He is pointing out the things that he has observed while he walked around their community. He spoke to them about a particular altar that he was looking at that was dedicated to “the unknown God”. He points out the difference between an unknown God and Christ. It is through Christ that we are able to get to know God. It is way to receive God and to experience God.

Our second reading continues to be taken out of 1st Peter where we are being told about how our sinfulness is manifest. It is far harder to be sinful when we are coming from a place of faith. When we do something that is based on a faith perspective it does not matter what happens on the outside or how people perceive you. Rather, it is a promise that God will be with us regardless.

Finally, we have this reading from John where Christ is talking to his disciples about the Holy Spirit. He is telling them that he will be gone, but the advocate, the Holy Spirit, is the thing that will remain with them always. It will be there always, informing them, assisting them, providing comfort and knowledge that regardless of what happens, God will be with them through the Holy Spirit.

Here we are continuing to work as a people of God in the world and dealing with the discomforts that have landed on us over these past few weeks. We have people trying to change and evolve; we have people who are trying to make changes as the virus ebbs and flows. We have people upset about the economy; we have people wanting to get back to work; we have people who do not believe that this virus is an issue. The discussion is endless, and we as a people of faith sit in the midst of that. We sit in this, coming from a place where we really do not know and are being asked to respond to the immediate concern.

I had a conversation this morning about how the environment has already begun to repair itself. The ozone layer that has been extremely stressed has already begun to repair itself for the first time in years. We have cut back on the use of fossil fuels to the point where the air is now clear, the birds are singing, and there is a major increase in foot traffic as people are outside, enjoying the fresh air. We have been given the opportunity to reflect and to step back, giving us an opportunity to see where we are as a world. How we function as a world. The decisions that we make now will have a major impact on where we end up in one year, ten years, a hundred years from now. We are actually being given the opportunity to step back and see it. See the impact we have been having on the environment, see the impact we have been having on our country, see the impact we have been having with our neighbours, the poor and those in need. We can actually take the time to see all of it.

This is an opportunity for us to see the world for what it is, and to apply our faith to it. To understand what it is that we need to learn and also to bring forth to our world. We have an opportunity to build new understandings and bring forth new insights for our community, to see if we can take this time to learn what this period in our world means for the world. We can do this in light of what is happening right now. When we hear comments that the economy is more important than people’s lives; When we hear people making statements that “Some of you will die, but there will be more money available because of work,” we are placing profits above humanity. We need to stand in face of this.

We are called to love one another, and yet how are we bringing that to the world when we are willing to let those who are more vulnerable suffer and die simply for some to gain more wealth?

The other questions that we must ask is what are we doing to build the community of God? What are we doing at this juncture to increase God’s visible presence in our community? How are we reaching out to continue that presence? The questions that I am raising right now are the questions that are deeply rooted in the passages we are reading from. These passages tell us what it means to have faith. They explain to us what we have to pay attention to that will build the community of God. We know what scripture calls out to us. We know that we are to respond to these calls, us as individuals, us as a community, us as a society are all called to respond. We are now facing both the task and opportunity to seize this moment and to respond in a positive and affirming manner.

The challenge is here.