I remember when Bill and I were preparing to get married. One of the things we did as a young couple was go to our favorite department store and complete a bridal registry. We didn’t have a large registry, but I remember how much fun it was to pick out some of the things that our friends and family would purchase to help us get started on our lives. As I was telling one of my best friends about the dishes and pots and pans and things, she looked at me and said, “but Trace, who’s going to use all that stuff?” Obviously, my friend Susan knew me well, and knew that I was not much of a cook.
The wonderful gifts from friends and family were meant to celebrate us as a couple, and they were also meant to help us to succeed, especially in our early life as a couple. And, as wonderful as those gifts are, the successes that they bring are mostly superficial. Over time, our dishes have chipped, our glasses broken, towels fade… all of these bring a joy that is temporary. The true gifts that a couple needs to succeed, are the kinds of things that cannot be measured; they are the kinds of things that help a couple get through things like raising children, job loss, critical illness, autistic children… then a couple needs the kinds of gifts that only God can give; commitment, deep and abiding love that goes beyond the physical, spiritual health and growth, community… these are the deeper gifts that cannot be measured; these are the gifts that help a marriage get through life, not just a dinner party, as fun as those are.
Let’s face it; life has been really difficult lately for many, many people, and we will continue to see some of this difficulty long after COVID 19 is a distant, awful memory. And, it’s not just this virus that is taking up spiritual and emotional real estate for us. Watching the news lately has become one awful story after another. Our black brothers and sisters are being killed by white police and in the case of Aubry Amhad, by white citizens who thought they had the right to shoot someone whom they determined didn’t belong in the neighborhood. Photographs of armed men protesting the directive to wear protective masks were scary enough; then to see videos of an officer of the law kneel on George Floyd’s neck when Floyd was handcuffed and unarmed…. Well, there are no words to describe that. Protests have turned into riots in some cities with massive destruction of property, perhaps because words have not worked; our black brothers and sisters are angry; I cannot even imagine what it feels like to be a parent of a young black man. Black lives matter, beloved, because for so long we have said that they don’t. You don’t have to hate cops to believe that black lives matter; that’s not how community works. We can support good, brave, police officers AND the black members of our community; they aren’t mutually exclusive, as some groups might claim.
So, what might all of this have to do with Pentecost? It has everything to do with Pentecost. As the church, we celebrate the gifts that we have been given that help our community function. Gifts of time, talent and money are incredibly important and I thank God for this community that works so hard to help St. Michael’s be the church God has called it to be. But, time, talent, and money, while important are much like the registry gifts for the young couple. They are necessary; but as the Church, each of us must go deeper to truly understand the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed on each of us. We will shortly renew our baptismal covenant; this covenant helps us to see what we might need to do in order to truly see the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us; THESE gifts, gifts of knowledge, wisdom, discernment, spiritual growth, love…these are the gifts that will help us to bring the Kingdom of God to earth; these are the deep gifts that will help us to get through those difficult parts of life where we must speak out against injustice, and do everything we can so that all of God’s children can be free. Sins such as racism have no place in God’s Kingdom. The baptismal covenant asks us to pray, to follow the apostle’s teaching; it asks us to believe in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; it asks us if we will proclaim by word and example the good news of Jesus Christ… it asks us if we will resist evil, and when we sin, will we repent… will we turn our lives around and turn back to Jesus Christ? We will do all these things with God’s help. Beloved, we must look into the deeper gifts of the Holy Spirit in order for the Kingdom to be realized; we have to use those gifts especially when it’s hard, so that all of God’s beloved children, regardless of the color of their skin, will be able to live in the light of the good news of Christ. So beloved, pray, read your bible, read books that might frighten you because the truth of racism is frightening. The kingdom started with Jesus… it continues with us who have been given the Holy Spirit. May we realize that the gifts of the Spirit are deep and difficult; may we use those gifts, gifts like wisdom, knowledge, faith, and prophecy, to search our own souls to root out sin, and help us to be the light of Christ is a hurting world.