Posted by: dacalu | 5 June 2018

Drunk with Love

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of worshiping with the people of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church for the Feast of Pentecost – the celebration of Christ sending the Holy Spirit and founding the Church. Here is the sermon I preached.

Prayer for Pentecost

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings

Acts 2:1-21 (Descent of the Holy Spirit, “other sneered and said ‘They are filled with new wine.’)

Psalm 104:25-36 (You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; and so you renew the face of the earth.”)

Romans 8:22-27 (the “Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”)

John 15:26 – 16:15 (“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”)

Sermon

It’s dangerous being an academic.
	I suppose it’s dangerous being a perfectionist.
	I am.
Every time I say something,
	particularly from the pulpit,
	I want to add caveats, addenda, provisos.
	I want to frame it very carefully, lest you misunderstand what I mean.
Truth is tricky.

But there’s something infectious about genuine zeal.
At the core of Christianity, there is a passion for love,
	real, sacrificial, rush-right-in and do it kind of love.
So, I’m learning to be less cautious,
	less self-conscious about preaching the Gospel.

Did any of you watch the Royal Wedding: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?
I did not stay up until four am to watch it live,
	but I caught the highlights on Saturday,
	and I listened with great interest to Michael Curry’s sermon.
Michael is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church,
	a fitting choice for an American marrying into British Royalty,
	and a Spirit-filled preacher.
I hope you’ve heard him preach before.
And I hope you’ll listen to this sermon,
	because his love of the Good News
	is undeniable.
It’s infectious and emotional,
	and it makes you want to say, “Alleluia! Praise God.”
Even if you’re an Anglican.

Can I get an amen?

Can I get an Alleluia?

I know, I know, we’re Anglicans and we don’t do that sort of thing.
	We don’t get carried away
	and we don’t shout in the pews
	but every once in a while,
	it’s worth it.
Love is worth getting carried away about.

Can I get an Alleluia?
 
Love is a tough subject.
I want to caution you about how sentimental our society has become,
	how much we glorify and fear both sex and romance.
But none of that makes any sense unless you first,
	truly, madly, deeply fall for someone.
If you’re anything like me, you have your own romantic sound track.
	We have within us this ability to love wildly.
	I suspect that’s why we have so many songs about it.
“As Time Goes By” (1931)
“At Last” (1941)
 “All You Need is Love” (1967)
“Glory of Love” (1986)
“Haven’t Met You Yet” (2009)
“Stand by Me” (1961)
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry
No I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

Take a moment and think about your own sound track,
	or your own wedding,
	or your own love.
What was it like, at first, to fall in love?

Christian love is something like that.
It is a romance, that starts by going just a little bit crazy.
	Well, let’s be honest, often more than a little bit crazy.
	It’s passionate, and immediate, and ridiculous.
True love has no proportion.
In the words of the Song of Solomon:
“love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. 
Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. 
Many waters cannot quench love, 
neither can floods drown it. 
If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, 
it would be utterly scorned.”


Frequently, when people first meet,
	they drink to lower their inhibitions.
Often, we are too guarded to show ourselves to one another,
	and so, we need help – friends, activities, even alcohol –
	to be our true selves without filter,
	so see and be seen, 
without all of the careful caveats and defenses.
 
When the people accused the disciples of being drunk,
	I do not think it was just because they were babbling.
	After all, people really did understand them in many different languages.
	They appeared drunk because they were without caution,
		and without fear.
	They spoke their hearts
		in defense of a man who had just been crucified.
	They made themselves vulnerable.
	God lowered their inhibitions so that they might be their full selves,
		and so that God might be fully God in them.

And here, another caution is necessary, because
	we are a little too attached to alcohol in the United States
	and in the Episcopal Church.
I am not speaking in praise of alcohol.  Heaven forbid.
I am speaking in praise of that honesty and openness,
	which we, in our insecurity, so often turn to alcohol to find.
The disciples needed no alcohol to be carried away.
Neither do we.


As love deepens, it becomes more nuanced.
Romance can ripen into marriage.
	Passionate attraction can become passionate commitment.
We celebrate marriage in the church
	because in it we see God’s love echoed,
	real, sacrificial, rush-right-in and do it kind of love.
It is infectious and emotional,
	but it is also wise and humble.
“Love is patient; love is kind; 
love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. 
It does not insist on its own way; 
it is not irritable or resentful; 
it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Cor 13)

And yet, that love should be no less passionate.
It is still one of the primary reasons we make the choices we do.
And we must not be ashamed.
Love moves us.
 
Every kind of love is like this.
What could be purer than the love of a mother for a child?
	Except for those whose relationships with their mother is strained…
		Or with their child.
That always makes Mother’s Day a challenge in the church.
The Bible refers to a Father’s love for his children repeatedly.
	Good for some, rough for others.

Love is tough,
	because, at the end of the day, it cannot really be talked about;
	it can only be demonstrated.
What does “passion” mean 
to someone who has never met a truly passionate person.
What does “love” mean
	to someone who has never been loved
	or has never been in love themselves.

It is not enough to talk about Jesus.
It is never enough to talk about Jesus
	or God or the Spirit.
We must live our love.
It must be audible in our voices, in our gestures, in our very being.
It must be visible in our actions,
	in the choices we make.

We must be ready to break out in song,
	like a teenager in love,
	or a drunkard,
	or a true believer.
We will make fools ourselves – like all of the above.
We will be dangerous, while our love deepens and matures.
That is why it is so important to have a Church.
	The church helps us grow into our love.
But just like marriage, it means nothing without the passion at its heart.
	It need not be romantic; not all love is.
	It need not be selfless at first; love seldom is.
	It needn’t be perfect.
	But it must be a real, sacrificial, rush-right-in and do it kind of love.
 
"Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing"(1757)
Come, Thou font of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love


Seek the passion first.
Open yourself to love
	and look for the kind of relationship with God
	that spills over into song…
	and action.
Look for the kind of love affair that makes you a better person,
	not just with your beloved,
	but with everyone you meet.
Risk being yourself
	in the context of one another.
Nothing is scarier
	and nothing is better.
That’s the love worth sharing.
That’s the love worth being a fool for.
That’s the love worth dying for.
Passion, with commitment and humility,
	always trying to be better for the sake of someone else.


We cannot do this by ourselves.
That is the great lie of Modern ideas about love,
	and, for that matter, community, genius, prosperity, faith, and hope.
These are not things within us.
They are gifts and grace.
You cannot make love happen, no matter how hard you try,
	though sometimes you can deny it.
You cannot force faith or hope,
	but you can let down your guard
	and let them in.
And you can, with very little effort,
	let them out again.
You can sing in the street.
You can be madly, deeply, foolishly in love with God.
 
Pentecost is a gift, but it is also a responsibility.
There are seven and a half billion people outside those doors.
	Each and every one of them speaks a slightly different language.
	Each and every one of them must encounter God in their own way.
	Every love is unique, every faith, every hope.
There are seven and a half billion ways to approach God,
	each with its own time and place and language.
There are billions of fools,
	just waiting to fall in love
	with Jesus Christ,
	the only person grand enough, open enough, and foolish enough to love them all.
I guarantee that at least one person,
	won't have the courage,
	if you don’t show them the way.
I guarantee that at least one person,
	will not have the language,
	unless you speak first.

Find the love within yourself.
You may find it in a friend; remember that friend.
You may find it in a song; sing that song.
You may find it in labor or nature, study or solitude.
Seek that first.
Find the love within you and then let it spill out.

“the Spirit helps us in our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we ought, 
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 
And God, who searches the heart, 
knows what is the mind of the Spirit, 
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints 
according to the will of God.”

Let us be drunk with God
	and drunk with love.
We are all fools,
	but let us show the world what we will be fools for,
	and why we would settle for nothing less.

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