Our second reading is taken from the last part of Acts 2.  Before I read that section, I would like to summarize what happens earlier in the chapter so we understand the context.  The beginning of Acts 2 verses 1-13 tells about Pentecost.  And we learned from Alan, when he preached on these verses a couple months ago, that the apostles receiving of the Holy Spirit coincided with the Jewish Festival of Weeks.  Acts tells us that there were many Jews, from all over, it lists 15 different regions, who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in order to participate in the festivities.   In Acts 2 the Apostles become filled and lit on fire with the Holy Spirit.   The Jewish festival goers hear the Apostles “declaring the wonders of God each in his own native language.”  Most of the crowd is amazed and perplexed by what they hear while others make fun of the Apostles and say they are drunk.    

     Peter stands up, and with the other apostles by his side, raises his voice and addresses the  crowd.  Verses 14-36 is Peter telling them that Jesus is the anointed one that was foretold by the prophets of old. He quotes Joel and David to convince the crowd that, yes, the Jews had Jesus nailed to the cross, but, God raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus is at God’s right hand.  Which brings us to todays reading Acts 2:36-42 

      At the beginning of summer my son and I were practicing with a bat and ball.  I had the ball he had the bat.  After several of my pitches that went too high or too low or way off there somewhere and after an equal number of swings that missed, I was getting frustrated.  I don’t know if my son even cared, but I wanted him to have the pleasure of hitting the ball at least once.  It felt important for both our self-esteems and it just isn’t fun if you don’t get to hit the ball.  So without even mentioning it to my son I decided to use a tool that had helped me a couple times before.  Visualization.  Holding the ball between my hands, I took a moment to picture, in my mind’s eye, in as much detail as I possibly could, myself throwing a perfect pitch and my son hitting that ball smack on.  I took a deep breath and threw the ball.  It went right where I wanted it to and Sparki hit that ball.  Yay!!  Giving your mind a picture of what you want your body to do can be a powerful tool in accomplishing challenging tasks. 

     Like visualization, having vision, seeing where you want to go, seeing where you are headed and what you want it to be like, can be a powerful tool in getting there.   Equally important, if not more important, is having a purpose.  The reason behind why you are having the vision in the first place, the drive behind your vision.

Baptism is one of two sacraments that we practice at this church.  Unlike the Lord’s Supper which we do every week, most of us get baptized once in our lives.   Yet baptism can continue to affect us throughout life and involves an element equally as common as bread and wine: water. 

In Baptism and through the Scriptures God gives us both a vision and a purpose.  In the vision we are taken to a place, a City.  Quite opposite of the tower of Babel where the Gods come down and confuse the people’s language causing them to scatter apart from one another.  No, in this City there is no need for a tower because, you see, there is a River; a River with many streams branching off from it allowing it to flow clean and clear throughout the City.  The River inspires joy and gratitude in and among all the people.  Among the residents many languages are spoken, God’s message is plain; the city is a place of refuge and present help because God himself lives there.  And God himself supplies the river with love and mercy that are always available for the people.   God invites and people come from far and wide to live in the City with the River.

            This vision we see here helps us to also see our God given purpose:  to live in the City.   Through baptism God tells us who we are and who we have always been; residents of his kingdom.  Baptism helps us realize that God is here among us dousing us with his loving , merciful, forgiving waters.  It is a sign that we are God’s people and that God’s waters, God’s Spirit lives in us and through us.   And Where God’s spirit resides God lives also.  As residence we live, breath, and have our being in God.  We are the people of God’s water.  It draws us in and gives us life. With God’s generous Spirit we the church become the City of God flowing with love and mercy, providing refuge and gathering in the scattered.  Sharing  the waters of grace with all those near and those far off whoever God invites into the City…Those to the east and to the west Muslim, Mexican, Gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young whomever God calls.

            There is no time like the present to be living next to the waters.  In our current political climate, in this time of drought some places and excessive rain in others, opioid addiction and gun violence, when the earth is giving way and the mountains are falling into the heart of the sea, when nations are in a uproar and kingdoms fall, when this is the reality facing us and our kids and our grandkids.  We remember God’s promise of the Holy Spirit to us, to our children, and to all who are far off, for all whom the Lord God will call, the promise of God’s Spirit is made.  And “There is a river says the Psalmist whose streams make glad the City of God.  God is within her she will not fall.” God at your service morning and night.

And there is a little church in Mt Vernon and right outside its doors there is a beautiful flowing stream, where God’s spirit and the living water can be found.  And where I have found inspirations to create a vision for a youth program, A way for us to connect with the kids and young people within our community and beyond. 

  Part of that vision is already happening.  Every 2nd and 4th Sundays of the Month we have Sunday school for the kids, where they meet with loving caring teachers who in all kinds of creative ways teach Bible stories and show the kids how to be peaceful and loving.

We began last winter to provide a new way for the kids and adults to bond and get to know one another.  That is on the Sundays when there isn’t Sunday School, the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month, we have created a time and space for intergenerational connection.   I didn’t have a name for it last year but I do now!  We are calling it Bind and Bond Sunday.  Some of you have already participated in this time but I will be asking more of you.  This will be a time for rotating teams of two adults from the congregation to go downstairs with the kids during the sermon time.  It will be a mutual time of sharing where the kids will get to tell you about the joys and concerns of their lives and you will get to share with them your favorite activity, story, song, or craft or something that I have prepared.  This will give the congregation a chance to better know the kids and for the kids to better know you all.   It will strengthen our relationships with the youth and give them people that they can trust and turn to in good times and bad.   There is a rich well of loving caring adults here who can act as mentors in their lives.  This is an intentional opportunity for people of different ages who sometimes speak different languages to gather in and build meaningful relationships.  So they can be mutual channels, along with God’s Spirit, of Grace to each other. 

            The other program that will be coming into full swing this year is Waffle Church.  We did test runs last year but this coming fall will be the real deal.    Waffle church is our once a month informal, evening worship service that includes a lot of fun and marry-making, and a shared meal of waffles that all takes place in fellowship hall.  This is a program that invites people of all ages and backgrounds to feel at home and comfortable participating in.  We need your help to make that happen.  It takes all different kinds of people to welcome in all different kinds of people.  Along with God’s Spirit we need your help to gather in the marginalized and nonmarginalized, Christian and nonchristian, those that are not welcome anywhere else or don’t feel welcome anywhere else, everyone God is calling.   To let them know that God’s spirit of Grace and love dwells in them as well.   And that there is a home and a place for them to reside here.   We are the channels by which people are fed and quenched by God’s spirit.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg for this little church community with the beautiful stream that flows alongside it. 

      Be not afraid, God says, my waters are overflowing with love, mercy, and forgiveness.  I am the water of life.  Be transformed be my people and you will find life.   My spirit dwells in you and among you.  This is a blessing for you and for your children and for all who are far off. 

      Is it any surprise that the human body is 61% water, that 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, or that the Earth is the wettest planet in our solar system?  God’s waters are here.  They are abundant.  Water is life.  Remember your baptism.  Amen.

Sermon - Mary Penninga

August 13, 2017 - Mary Penninga
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