Sermon for the 2nd Sunday After Pentecost
Second Sunday After Pentecost June 14th, 2020
We have just come through a fairly important, heavy, and concentrated time in our church year.
As I often say, the structure of the Christian calendar and the way we read scripture Sunday by Sunday matters – the year happens the way it does and the readings are chosen each Sunday to teach us.
From the First Sunday in Advent right through until Pentecost we hear the story of our salvation; the prophecies of the prophets who foretold the birth of Jesus, right through his life and ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit. These months from Advent to Pentecost tell us about Jesus’ saving work and ministry among us – but what about the rest of the year? From Pentecost through again to Advent?
Most of us know that life is not all mountaintop experiences. We have major moments in our lives like birthdays, or anniversaries of loved ones’ deaths, we may get married, have children, get our first job or retire, buy our first house –these markers we have through our lives, moments we remember.
But the majority of our lives outside of these moments is lived out in a kind of relative quietness.
Most days are not remarkable.
Most days are full of the unmemorable things we have to do: grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, taking kids to hockey practice, going to work, and all the frustrations and exhaustions that can come with any of those.
The kind of moments we don’t take a picture of. Nobody has on their mantle a photo of themselves pressure-washing the deck.
I am lucky enough to have a copy of my Grandfather’s first journal that he ever kept.
He’s my Mother’s Father and was born in 1913 on a small farm on the side of Mabou Ridge overlooking the village of Mabou, Cape Breton.
At the age of 13 or 14 he inherited the family farm when his Father died unexpectedly. His two older sisters having already become nuns and his two older brothers having already moved to Michigan for work.
He dropped out of school very early to work on the farm, but he was always very smart and good with numbers and would leave farming to become the manager of the Port Hood Co-Op when he was a little younger than I am now, a post he held for 41 years.
He started his journal on January 1st 1936 when he was just 23 years old, it reads, “Starting my first Diary. Was to Port Hood with Leo to confession. Cold as blazes, first real snowstorm Dec 26th”
As you flip through the five years that are contained in this small book you get a sense of the things that brought joy to Him: walking 5km to the post office to get the mail and listen to the radio; having people visit just about every night; making note of important events both global and local.
Jan 21, 1936: “King George V of England died last night, also Dan Archie MacDonald of SW Port Hood.” Or June 22nd, 1937, commemorating his favourite Athlete, “Joe Louis knocked out Jim Braddock tonight, new world’s champ.”
But as you flip through you see that most days were not so exciting. And his journal reveals the back-breaking labour that went in to making ends-meet. The day after his first entry he says that he was in the woods all day with his friend Neil cutting pit timbers, a few days later he was in the woods on the coldest day of the year yarding out booms.
The Spring and Summer entries are day after day of “spreading manure; discing; seeding; haying; mowing”.
Which is all to say that while there was joy and happiness, fun and excitement in the early part of my grandfather’s life, a lot of it was ordinary difficult but nonetheless important labour.
This is the kind of time we are entering into in our church calendar and in our readings from now to Advent.
We’ve heard the extraordinary story of Jesus’ life and what he has done for us, but now we start the more ordinary work of thinking about how to be Christians and following his blessed life day by day. Work that like farming is not always easy, not always comfortable.
Not only in this season will each Sunday bring us to think about the hard daily work of spiritual growth, but it will bring us to think about the call to be disciples and to make disciples that Jesus places upon each of us as members of his Body; as his disciples.
Though the last three months have been strange and uncertain, the time ahead seems equally so. The long shadows that this pandemic is likely to cast on the economy, on the viability of churches, on people’s well being, cannot yet be seen in their fulness.
Yet this may be a time when we as disciples are being called to step out into the darkness and uncertainty more boldly than we have before to bring light. To bring a message of hope and healing to a world that is deeply wounded and confused; to bring healing and love to places where there are deep chasms of division.
And we always think “yes, but not me.” Surely others are called to proclaim and step out, but not me.
Yet you’ll in the Gospel it was not the most exceptional people that Jesus chose for those 12, but the most ordinary and commonplace; people like you and me, fishermen, tax collectors, labourers.
They weren’t public speakers, they didn’t have university degrees or years of training. They were ordinary, yet entrusted with an extraordinary responsibility to help, heal, and proclaim hope to the broken and lost. And the promise was that they would be given by the Spirit whatever they needed to do this work.
This same call has been placed upon each of us.
It is sometimes a thankless and difficult work for which we may suffer, not unlike my Grandfather’s farming, but as Paul says in the Epistle for today, it is suffering – perhaps especially when we suffer and work as disciples - which produces endurance, “and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
And so in the time to come as we step out into more uncertain territory, and as we enter this Trinity Season, let us pray to be filled with the same spirit that empowered the disciples to speak truth, that in the midst of anxiety and fear, we may proclaim the hope that we have inherited to those who need it, and engage not only in the hard work of spiritual growth but of proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near.