In the name of the Spirit of Truth, Wisdom, and Freedom. Amen.
There’s a website called “Story People”, and once a day they create what they call the “Story of the Day”. It’s usually just a sentence or two, but it’s designed to open the mind in some way, and it becomes one of those things that says more than it says. You can sign up for a daily email of these brief “stories” that come along with an image that helps to bring them to life.
Earlier this week, I saw a similar story to the kind that the Story People create – but this was written to accompany a piece of art that was created to commemorate the retirement of one of my favorite seminary professors. Drew is often lovingly referred to as “The Forest” because of the undeveloped woodlands on the university campus, and my professor loved to share what she called “Life in the forest” updates – places where she had recognized holiness living amongst the ordinary. This artist, inspired by our professor, used the wood of a fallen oak tree to find holy stories in the ordinariness of a tree.
The story that I saw was simply this: “You are destined to fly, said the giant oak, but that cocoon has to go.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful representation of the experience of Pentecost than this. “You are destined to fly… but that cocoon has to go.”
Christ formed us, and made us ready to assume the mantle of the ministry that he started. But now it’s time for us to fly – to ride the wind of the Spirit and to keep the ministry going to places we’d never imagined.
It strikes me, in the Gospel this morning, to hear Jesus call us to continue this ministry. He says, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works that these.”
There’s no denying the greatness of the works that Jesus is said to have done. Giving sight to people who were blind. Giving speech to people who were mute. Giving the freedom of independent movement to people whose bodies limited them. …Giving breath to people through him the breath of life had already passed… Giving wisdom and understanding to all who would listen… And finally, giving an example of humility and sacrifice to all who would follow him.
If the Gospel writers and the tradition of Christians who have followed through these millennia are any kind of right, then these were great things. Among the greatest of things that we could ever imagine.
And now we, the ones who struggle to believe, are told that we can do “greater works than these.” It’s hard to consider.
But, as is so often the case, there’s a bit of unplanned grace in our hearing these words today – a day that’s so full in the life of our congregation. It’s recognition Sunday. A day when we celebrate the ministries of this year’s David Hegg Award winners – two leaders in the church who provide invaluable, ongoing service to the congregation, but often so deeply in the background that many people here might not even know about it. And we celebrate the choir – these dedicated worship leaders who work week after week, showing up early on Sundays, showing up in the middle of the week to prepare, and who deepen our experience of work throughout the year.
It's also the ingathering of one of our outreach projects – a huge, physical representation of the creativity, talent, money, and hours of work that people in this congregation have given so that other people – people they’ll never know – will feel love and support during a trying time in their lives. Because of this generosity there will be smiles we’ll never see, warmth we’ll never feel, and comfort we’ll never understand.
And all of us have the opportunity to share our Time & Talent commitments as we move toward another year of worship, fellowship, and service at St. David’s. These simple pages we bless will represent hundreds of hours of service, hundreds of prayers, nights away from families and spouses, mornings when we can’t sleep in – and most of all, they’ll represent blessings too numerous to count. Blessings we may never even fully know or understand.
Yes, it’s a bit of unplanned grace that all of this should be happening today – the Day of Pentecost, the day when we give thanks to God for endowing us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The day when we give thanks to God for giving us the truth, and the wisdom, and the freedom to do more than we thought we could. More than we could alone.
None of us are capable of being Christ, alone. We have no hope of doing “greater works than these” when we’re alone. But just consider all that we can do together. Consider all that has been done and all that will be done, and give thanks that this Holy Spirit has brought us together.
And we add that with the ministries of our sisters and brothers of faith all around the world. Together we heal. Together we help people to really see for the first time. We help people to hear what they’ve been missing. We inspire people to move in ways that they didn’t know they could. And we bring life to places that have only known death.
We do all this by following Christ. And as Christians we are destined to fly. We fly higher than we could alone, because we are upheld by each other, and by the wind of the Holy Spirit – that greatest gift – that blows through us. Thanks be to God. Amen.