**Robert Frost’s poem “A Servant to Servants” (1915)
Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church June 4, 2017 – Pentecost Sunday
[sermon begins after three Bible readings – hang in there]
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. 31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works— 32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
35b Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!
John 14:15-17, 25-27 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
Acts 2:1-21 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
In the Bible reading today, Peter’s preaching is nothing short of extraordinary, not because of what he says but because he’s preaching at all. Let’s talk about Peter for a minute. His story is ripe for a made-for-T.V. movie. Or maybe even a Hollywood blockbuster if the casting and writing goes well. A man of simple means, a fisherman, Peter is called into service by the itinerant preacher Jesus who used to be a carpenter. Traveling around Judea together with a few more men and women added to the mix, they preached as they healed, gathered and fed. It doesn’t last. It ends in a mess of scattered betrayal, denial, and death on a cross. Peter is a complicated person. Many of us take great comfort from the way he blurts out wild ideas or tries to boss Jesus around. Some of us even take comfort from the way Peter denies knowing Jesus during his trial. Regardless, Peter is preaching on the rush of the Spirit at Pentecost. His preaching is immediately complicated by people’s perception of what’s happening and how people make sense of it. Some people think he and his other preaching friends are drunk. But, no, simply human.
It’s an interesting time to be a human in the world. It’s also an interesting time to be a preacher. Many of my longer-tenured colleagues of various denominations talk and write regularly about this unprecedented moment in time. There simply is no sweet spot between Jesus’ emphases of loving God, self, neighbor, and enemy and the current political rhetoric. To ignore world and national events puts preaching in an artificial bubble that “separation of church and state” never intended. To incorporate said events into a sermon leads to contradictory feedback that it either didn’t go far enough or it went too far into political conversation. It’s even become so tricky that to simply preach Biblical language is interpreted politically by listeners; think “welcoming the stranger” and current immigration issues.
What is a preacher to do? Keep preaching. The prophet Isaiah writes that the word of the Lord goes out and accomplishes its purpose while the Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts nor the Lord’s ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8-11). I take comfort in the human limitation implied by Isaiah and God’s word succeeding despite a preacher’s well-intentioned bumbling. As Robert Frost wrote in his poem, A Servant to Servants, “I can see no way out but through.”
What’s a congregation to do? Keep being the church lit up and winded by the Holy Spirit. Baptize. Commune. Preach. Pray. Visit the sick and home-centered. Remind each other of God’s promises. And live the gospel freedom to sin boldly on behalf of God and neighbor. Sinning boldly is not a free-for-all but rather a “freedom for” which unleashes Christians to work on behalf of our neighbors knowing that we will bumble through the work. Web-search “Freedom of a Christian pdf” or visit Augustana’s library to read Luther’s no-nonsense take on this one. In it, Luther lays down two propositions:
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is perfectly dutiful servant to all, subject to all.
Frost’s servant poem applies again, “I can see no way out but through.”
What’s Augustana to do specifically? For today, there’s a couple things on my mind. Welcoming new members is one of them. People and families for whom a variety of reasons accompanies the call of the Spirit to connect through this congregation. The other thing on my mind today? Keep moving for hunger. Our congregation has a long history of supporting ELCA World Hunger accompanies people from poverty to self-sufficiency in the U.S. and around the world – from health clinics to microloans, water wells to animal husbandry, community meals to advocacy. ELCA World Hunger is something that has made sense over time to a lot of people in this congregation.
The 500 year anniversary of the Reformation ramps up our partnership as the Rocky Mountain Synod’s (ELCA) Hunger Network is challenging congregations to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation with “500 Years On The Move For Hunger” that each congregation is able to construct from their particular gifts and personalities. Augustana’s goal is to increase movement and raise a congregational total of $15,170 for ELCA World Hunger over 150 days – June 4 – October 29, Pentecost to Reformation Sunday. Individuals or Teams are encouraged to “Move” physically by walking, biking, running, etc., or to “Move” spiritually by spending time volunteering for hunger organizations, praying for others, meditating, etc. (15 minutes = 1 mile). Participating individuals or teams will keep track of their “miles” and either give or raise money, based on their miles, toward ELCA World Hunger.
Naturally, with a serious issue such as hunger, we get so serious, so quickly. Or maybe it’s just me. But in serious times it’s easy to forget to laugh, to enjoy the gift of life, “to sport” in creation like the Leviathan in the psalm. “500 Years On The Move for Hunger” is a fun way to celebrate life while working towards life for all. “I can see no way out but through.”
Most importantly, what’s Jesus to do? Here’s the amazing thing. Jesus keeps doing what Jesus does – forgiving, strengthening, inspiring, leading, connecting, healing and loving. Towards the end of the gospel of John, the risen Christ has a come-to-Jesus meeting with Simon Peter who had denied him three times during the crucifixion trial, the same Peter preaching at Pentecost. Jesus asks Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” …“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” …“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Each time, Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus responds, “Feed my sheep.” First and foremost, Peter experiences grace from Jesus after the pain and disappointment of his denials. Only then does Jesus put him to work.
In today’s gospel of John reading, Jesus is still alive, before the crucifixion. He promises the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to his disciples BEFORE Peter’s bumbling denials and the other disciples’ abandonment during the crucifixion. His promise to them isn’t connected to points for good behavior. First and foremost, they receive grace through a promise from Jesus. …“I can see no way out but through.”…Jesus doesn’t play the game of retributive justice. He isn’t out for revenge. His disciples receive grace through a promise. They receive the Holy Spirit as promised and so do we. Jesus’ promise to the disciples is also his promise to us:
“…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
 Luke 5:1-11 The story of Jesus calling Peter, James, and John to follow him.
 Matthew 16:21-23 (Get behind me satan), Luke 9:28-36 (Transfiguration)
 John 18:15-27
 Matthew 25:43-45, Hebrews 13:2, Exodus 22:21, etc.
 Robert Frost. “A Servant to Servants” in the Complete Poems of Robert Frost. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1949), 83.
 Martin Luther. Freedom of a Christian (1520) in Luther’s Works 31.: Eds. Harold J. Grimm and Helmutt T. Lehmann; online at http://www.spucc.org/sites/default/files/Luther%20Freedom.pdf
 Psalm 104:24-26 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 26There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it
 John 18:15-18, 25-27 – The story of Peter’s denials.
 John 21:15-21
 John 21:17
 John 14:26-27