This sermon was preached on Pentecost 2017 at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Comox.
Have you ever had an uncomfortable sleep?
Sometimes its because of bodily aches or heat or humidity. Sometimes because of anxiety or our conscience, sometimes because of what haunts us in our dreams. And sometimes its the bedding’s fault.
I know the least comfortable week of sleep I ever endured was when I moved from St. Saviour’s Barkerville to St. Peter’s Cobourg. Partially this was because of anxiety, the parish I was moving to had offered to arrange housing for me but had not gotten back to me about where I would be sleeping when I arrived. Partially this was because of bedding. Back then I owned a 2002 Ford Windstar van. Along one side of the van all of my worldly possessions were stacked. Along the other side was laid an air mattress, some blankets and a pillow. In five days I drove out to Southern Ontario pulling over in the hinterlands to sleep. My great nomadic adventure.
We meet Jesus this morning in the temple after a week of uncomfortable sleeps. For it was the end of the feast of the tabernacles. What would happen is that Jews and God-fearing Gentiles would travel to the temple. This was the one festival that really welcomed the Gentiles. Once there they would take olive and myrtle branches to build little temporary shelters. They would cover them with roofs of palm branches and bedding of greenery. And for one week camped around the temple of the presence of God they would sleep. This week of discomfort was to remember the season of wandering that Israel had experienced in the wilderness.
That journey was not always comfortable. The people grumbled from the labour. For though the Lord provided them with manna from heaven they grew tired of it. They looked to the past remembering the cabbages and cucumbers and melons they had enjoyed in Egypt. They wondered if God couldn’t mix it up a bit. Maybe, they asked, God could send them some meat instead. Moses found himself frustrated. He had the work of leading the people in to the promised land to consider. Constantly being stopped to hear the complaints of the people brought him to his wit’s end. The solution to their hunger and to their grumbling was beyond his imagination. And so he came to the Lord offering him only the exasperation and emptiness he had. The Lord of course provided meat, so many quail that their nostrils burst. What’s more he provided for Moses 70 elders to help him in the leadership of the community and upon them was out poured a foretaste, a splash, a splinter of what was to come. They experienced for a moment an encounter with the Holy Spirit.
Some whom were in the camp started to prophesy being overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit. “Stop them!” Joshua said. But Moses proclaimed the dream of Pentecost “No! If only all people could be overcome by the Holy Spirit.”
After a week of remembering their time as nomads and wanders, after a week of uncomfortable sleeps in temporary shelters that Jesus makes precisely that promise. “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink; whoever trusts in me as the Scripture has said streams of living water will well up within them.(John 7:37-38),”. Jesus promises that those who believe in him will receive a source of life that the world can not give. They will receive in fact He who is the source of life himself. They will be filled to overflowing with refreshing springs. Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit. But this gift would not come until Jesus was glorified.
And now Easter is over. The King has overcome the grave and made his conquest known. He has established his Church on a firm foundation and ascended into heaven. So what? So before humanity was isolated from the love of God by our unrighteousness. Now He who is righteous has taken our humanity up to the throne of the heaven. Humanity is seated at the right hand of God the Father living in the presence of God. In this way the presence of God is sent to live within us as our life lives in the presence of God. This explodes my heart and my mind and my being. For the Holy Spirit is God, is the source of life, and he is sent to make a home in us. The veil in the temple, the place of God’s presence on Earth has been ripped in two. This is the Church, this is each of our place in the church, each of us is made the place where the presence of God is.
And so I give thanks to him for the outpouring of these gifts before my eyes. The weak are lifted up and given strength. Righteousness is desired, pursued and received. Offerings of dance and song are made in love. And we are broken into ourselves, into the fullness of God’s image in the Eucharistic feast.
There may be uncomfortable sleeps yet to come. But the promise of the Comforter is made and fulfilled in the church. And our sons and daughters will prophecy, and our young men will see visions, and our old men will dream dreams, and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved until we enter our eternal peace.