Sermon: The Spirit’s Language

✚ The Artist (PJ McKey) ✚

This piece was published today by Via Lucis Photography: Photography of Religious Architecture. Click the blue link to view P.J. McKey’s lovely post.

✚ The Artist (PJ McKey) ✚.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Pentecost. At Vespers on Pentecost, the monks sang Veni Creator Spiritus in Latin (here translated into English), attributed to Rabanus Maurus (776-856 CE). Click HERE to hear the sounds of prayer.

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heav’nly aid,
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O Finger of the hand divine,
the sevenfold gifts of grace are Thine
….
Thy light to every sense impart,
and shed Thy love in every heart,
….
Praise we the Father and the Son
and Holy Spirit with them One;
and may the Son on us bestow
the gifts that from the Spirit flow.

An Acrostic on Jazz improvisation

Steve Shoemaker sent this today after learning that Ted Godbout, an outstanding jazz pianist, is joining us at Shepherd of the Hill Church in Chaska.

PENTECOST
(TO BE READ ALOUD)
An Acrostic

Perhaps a jazz improvisation says

Exactly what is thinkable about

New life, fresh breath…the Holy Spirit. Has

There ever been a music without doubt

Except jazz? Faith, improvisation cause

Circles of sound to rise and fly throughout

Our cosmos. Tongues of flame are seen on heads

Singing or playing solos. Then without

Time passing–a new language: Jesus! Jazz!

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL

Verse – “What to preach?”

Preliminary notes from “the editor”: 1) “The Lectionary scriptures” to which Steve Shoemaker refers are suggested readings for each Sunday; 2) Douglas John Hall is emeritus Professor of Theology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and a prolific author on God and human suffering.

Verse —  What to Preach?

(With thanks to Douglas John Hall.)

The Lectionary scriptures are a start,

and in the newer testament, the word

of Jesus burns and leaves a scar:  the heart

is moved, the mind is taught.  The acts of God,

the miracles, may be hard to believe,

but are (in fast close-up) no stranger than

from vine to wine,  from seed to bread,  from eve

to dawn,  that I see every day.  And when

the older testament is read,  I hear

the call to love my foes, to greet the new,

the alien with cheer, to feed the poor:

all lessons good and clear–but hard to do…

….

The Preacher may well be afraid to say it,

but don’t blame failure of the Holy Spirit!

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, July 6, 2012.

Steve is a classmate from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, a retired Presbyterian minister, poet, and activist living on the prairie near the University of Illinois. Steve was Pastor and Director of the McKinley Presbyterian Church and  Foundation at the University of Illinois. He concluded his ministry as Executive Director of the University YMCA at the University of Illinois, a vigorous campus student center as big in heart and mind as Steve. His voice is heard every Sunday evening as host of “Keepin’ the Faith” – an interview show on Illinois Public Radio at the University of Illinois, WILL AM.

Terrorism, Jesus, and “the Dove”

The Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) is in the news again. Scroll down to the bottom to click the link to the Huffington Post story. Or, you’ve time, read this piece that was published by MPR following the DWOC’s threat to burn the Quran.

How a  single voice threatened to spark a forest fire

by Gordon C. Stewart

September 28, 2010

Everyone from time to time feels insignificant. As I did, while watching fires burn across the world, lit by the words of one pastor in Florida. I felt like a spectator in the stands watching the game I care about go terribly wrong, a hostage of verbal terrorism uttered in the name of Christ.

I would imagine that the Rev. Terry Jones and his small congregation also had felt insignificant before they announced the 9/11 Quran burning, and that they were stunned when their pastor’s voice, although terribly misguided, lit the forest on fire without ever burning a Quran.  One of their own, one who had felt insignificant, had raised his voice and now had the ear of a commanding general, the secretary of defense and the president of the United States.

The difference between the Rev. Jones and most people is that he has a pulpit.  On any given Sunday he speaks and a few people actually listen.  Most of us do our ranting and raving in the shower, at the water cooler or with like-minded people at the coffee shop, but we don’t much expect anyone to listen.

But as the Jones story developed, those of us with pulpits were feeling no less beside the point.  Then, as I prepared for worship, I was drawn by some old lines about spiritual arson. “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is a fire … a restless evil, full of deadly poison” and “the seeds of righteousness are sown in peace by those who make peace” (Letter of James 3).

The thought crossed my mind: We could invite a Muslim friend to join me in the pulpit, perhaps my neighbor Muhammad or Abdi or one of their children, whom I meet daily while walking the dogs.  I decided to invite Ghafar Lakanwal, a Pashtun Afghan-American cultural diversity trainer, a Muslim and naturalized U.S. citizen, to bring greetings of peace and share some passages about peacemaking from the Quran in our Sunday worship on 9/12.

Our little church in Chaska welcomed Ghafar, and his words about the spiritual “obligation to learn, not burn” still ring in our ears. Our service drew media attention, and Ghafar’s words were heard on the evening news  and noticed by a stranger in Australia, who sent a message through the church website. “I was touched,” he wrote, “when I read about your recent Sunday service in the news. …  I for one can testify that it has certainly comforted a far away Muslim to know that there are neighbors who will stand together in difficult times.  My salaam [to you].  May we all grow together to attain Allah’s pleasure.”

“Ah!” someone will say. How can any Christian rejoice when the author uses the name “Allah” for God?  But the reaction to the “name” is misbegotten.  It is not the name of God; it’s the Arabic word for what we in English call God.   The forest fire lit in defense of “God” in advance of the anniversary of 9/11 reminds us that two kinds of religion potentially exist everywhere people gather to practice their faith. One kind burns. The other kind learns.  One hates; the other loves.

As James, writing to those who would follow Jesus, put it: “With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10).  We can set the forest ablaze with our small spark or we can use it to light a candle of hope and peace. But, after the events of this month, none of us can again think that what we say is insignificant.—-

When will we ever learn?  Click HERE for the whole story and leave your comment.

Pentecost Jazz

Whenever I hear Dave Brubeck, I think of Pentecost. Here’s a video of Brubeck and Al Jarreau that came to mind after reading my friend Steve’s poem (below) on Pentecost and jazz as the music of the Spirit.

PENTECOST (acrostic)

In Memory of Charles Reynolds*

(TO BE READ ALOUD )

Perhaps a jazz improvisation says

Exactly what is thinkable about

New life, fresh breath…the Holy Spirit.  Has

There ever been a music without doubt

Except jazz?  Faith, improvisation cause

Circles of sound to rise and fly throughout

Our cosmos.  Tongues of flame are seen on heads

Singing or playing solos.  Then without

Time passing–a new language:  Jesus!  Jazz!

*Charles Reynolds was Organist at the McKinley Church at the University of Illinois where Steve was the Senior Minister.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL. Steve’s Sunday evening program “Keepin’ the Faith” can be heard anytime @ www.will.illinois.edu/keepinthefaith, including archive programs, “two of  which,” says Steve, “feature Gordon C. Stewart,my ‘publisher'”.