This past Friday morning I drove down to Annapolis to see my
nephew graduate from the Naval Academy. After driving for almost
two and a half hours on what should have been an hour and fifteen
minute trip, I was slightly disappointed at not getting to the
Naval Academy football stadium on time. Although I did get to hear
the cannons ushering in the beginning of the ceremonies as I
parked in a neighborhood adjacent to the stadium and said a quick
prayer that the car would not be towed (I was only blocking half
of somebody's driveway!).
Of course this was an exciting event for our family and all of
the families representing the 900 graduates gathered there. We all
had much to be proud of in these young men and women.
If you know about the Academy's graduation ceremony, then you
know that one of the highlights is when the Elite Navy flying
team, The Blue Angels, does a "fly over" the stadium there.
But since it was a partially cloudy day on that Saturday
morning, the Angels had to cancel their appearance. . . . . I have
to admit, I was just a little disappointed, but then again, that's
not really why I was there.
What was most important was that Justin, my sister's son (my
nephew), had completed his studies and was getting on his way to
flight school in Pensacola, Florida. However, Justin's Uncle
"Davy" (my brother-in-law's younger brother) was more disappointed
than I was about the lack of an appearance by the Blue Angels. Now
I have to explain that, this particular uncle, Uncle Davy, is a
very special guy, as he is slightly disabled . . . . however, he
has the gift of being very joy-filled and he likes to be humorous.
With a gleam in his eye, Davy suggested to Justin that maybe he
should return to the Academy for another four years so that then
the Blue Angels would have another chance to make their appearance
at the graduation!! Davy laughed heartily as he watched Justin's
expression change from a smile to a frown at the suggestion that
he would do another four years! Then, a second or two later, Davy
added, "Nah, Justin, I was just kidding about that, I think the
Blue Angels should do a special fly over just for you! Right now
at this party! And if they won't do that, I'm gonna root for Army
at the next football game!!" Davy laughed heartily at this thought
and everyone joined him!
The sincerity of Uncle Davy's desire to see the Blue Angels Fly
over the graduation ceremony, made me think of our desire to see
and experience the Holy Spirit's Power at work in our lives and in
the life of the Church.
I don't know if you share my curiosity about what it would have
been like to be there in the house when "the sound of the rushing
wind was heard and the "tongues of flame" were observed hovering
over the disciples, and when they went outside and were
supernaturally enabled to speak and understand all kinds of
foreign languages! What a remarkable event this was. And the net
result was that 3000 people from all nations heard the Gospel
message that Peter preached and were baptized . . . . and they too
were given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We can only imagine that when these 3000 returned home to their
families and neighbors, then these many more people also heard
about the Gospel story and the wondrous event that took place on
that PENTECOST day when they had gone to celebrate the giving of
the Law of God, when it was delivered to them by Moses at the base
of Mt. Sinai some 1200 years earlier in Israel's history.
Here is an interesting thought, the Jewish people had come to
Jerusalem from every nation of the world at that time. They came
to celebrate the Festival Day of Pentecost, the fulfillment of
Moses 50 days since he had gone up the Mountain of God, and had
returned with the stone tablets of the Law, which became the
central tenet of the Jewish faith. But on this day, the Church
celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit – that comes to speak
about the NEW LAW, IN CHRIST, through the Disciples.
The Old Law required appeasement of God through the blood
sacrifice, but the New Law proclaims that the Debt has been paid
by God through Jesus Christ. And that Sin and Death no longer have
power over us, because God has provided the Lamb of God, Jesus
Christ, and through his death and resurrection, the debt of sin
and the punishment of death have been overcome. This is the Gospel
by which we have been saved! The Holy Spirit is the present
comforter and guarantor that we are the recipients of this NEW
LAW, the Law of GRACE and PEACE -- the Gospel.
We receive the Spirit's presence into our being at the time of
our Baptism. There is not a human action that brings this about.
It is not as though we can will the Spirit to fill us, it does
fill us of its own accord, the Spirit is the gift of God and is at
work in us, "now correcting, now rebuking" as Paul says. I suppose
that one dimension of the Spirit's work is as an extension of the
So were are the little flames that danced above the disciples
heads?? Where's the sound of the rushing wind?? And when will we
be enabled to speak and understand other people's languages which
are foreign to our ears??
Like my Nephew's Uncle, who really was disappointed at not
seeing and hearing the Blue Angel's flying overhead, we have these
longings and questions. However, we do have a Guarantee of the
Spirit's presence. Just like my nephew and his classmates had
received their full, just deserves when they walked across that
stage, shook the Admiral's hand and received their diploma . . . .
So likewise, we who have been received into Christ's Church
through Holy Baptism have the assurance of the Spirit's Presence.
As Peter stated in the Book Of Acts 2:38, "Repent, and be
baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your
sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all
who are far away, everyone who the Lord our God calls to him."
Today, we bear witness to the ways in which the Holy Spirit has
been at work in our midst. For it is the Spirit who has given us
life. It is the Spirit who inspired our ancestors, who having come
to this land of Emmitsburg some 250 years ago, took it upon
themselves to gather as an assembly of Christ's Church in the
fields there along Tom's Creek Church Road. And it was by the
Spirit, that people sacrificed and gave generously in order to
build this beautiful church building that we are so fond of, and
which stands as a Memorial to God's working in the hearts of His
people . . . . of course we are only one small part of the Church
of Jesus Christ, but the Spirit is at work throughout the world
building the one Church!
Because of the Spirit there are enumerable Christians now in
China and Africa and Russia. The Spirit is alive and well, we need
only to look for the ways in which it is at work in our midst. We
have only to become quiet in our minds and physical attributes in
order to listen and hear what the Spirit wants us to receive. We
need to be careful to discern that our spirit is in tune with the
Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and the Son and is
therefore in harmony with the will of God and the actions of
It is by the Spirit that three of our Young People come this
morning to Confirm the Faith into which they have been Baptized.
The Spirit gives us birth and enables us to grow!!
And it is by the Holy Spirit that we, like the Disciples so
long ago are enabled to share the Love of God with Others:
I have to tell you all about my conversation with Joseph who
visited us a few months ago along with his wife Gloria. Those of
you who met them, know that Joseph and Gloria are from Ghana,
Africa. They had been living here in Emmitsburg as Joseph was a
student at the Mount. In their homeland Joseph and Gloria had been
part of the Pentecostal Church, perhaps you noticed their bright
smiles and laughter that witnessed to the joy they had in their
Christian faith. When I spoke to Joseph about visiting our
congregation, and how I was hoping to visit with them at their
home, Joseph explained that he was so sad that they had moved from
Emmitsburg down to Frederick . . . and that the distance was too
great for them to worship with us.
But most importantly, Joseph went on to explain how wonderful
it felt to them that our Congregation here at Elias had welcomed
them and made them feel that they were part of our fellowship and
family!! This was a fantastic witness to the Spirit's work in our
As on the day of Pentecost so long ago, when the Spirit gave
the people the ability to speak and hear other people speaking –
as in One Language, so the Spirit continues to work through you
and I – by faith we are enabled to welcome and receive as one of
us, people from all different places and walks of life. By the
Spirit we can speak and listen and understand one another. Maybe
this is the rushing wind that we experience each time that the
vestibule doors are opened. When God's people are sharing, caring
and acting on behalf of one another. This is truly the miracle of
God – The Work of God is accomplished, by the Holy Spirit working
more writings of Pastor Jon