Spiritually Empowered

On May 22, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Spiritually Empowered Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Pentecost 2018 Come holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen. The author of John’s gospel is writing almost 3 generations after Jesus’ death, almost 70 years have passed. In those seven decades the followers of the Christ way […]

Spiritually Empowered
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Pentecost 2018

Come holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.

The author of John’s gospel is writing almost 3 generations after Jesus’ death, almost 70 years have passed.

In those seven decades the followers of the Christ way have fed the hungry, sheltered the vulnerable, ministered to the sick, challenged the power keepers, shared their stories, shared their resources, and for their efforts, they have faced prison, beatings, even execution.

In those seven decades Jesus has been executed, Paul has been executed, Peter has been executed, Jerusalem has been ravaged and its holy Temple destroyed. Followers of Jesus have suffered setbacks, loss, and they are tired and anxious.

So the author of John’s gospel wants to encourage his own faith community. Luke does something similar in Acts with the familiar story of people being stirred by a wind inside the room and the disciples then going forward to reenergize the Jesus movement.

John, too, tells a story of spiritual empowerment, but instead of a mighty wind he shows an intimate breath…both stories symbolize spiritual empowerment and the renewal of a movement.

John is writing to the hardworking and long-suffering body of believers and seekers who are tempted to whittle down the vision to something safer and easier.

But the writer knows that if they play it safe, if they don’t balance caution with courage, and doubt with daring, and if they don’t counter fear with faith, if they don’t push past their anxieties and take a chance, then they will cease to be effective. The mission is too urgent to let that happen.

The writer knows, as Moses and Aaron and Miriam knew, as Elijah knew, as Jesus knew, as Paul and his friend Lydia knew, as pastors have always known, it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. A faithful attempt is never a failure; it will succeed partially or completely
or it will produce blessings unrelated to the original intent
or it will teach valuable lessons
or open doors for future successes…the leap of faith is always worth the risk.
As Les Brown says: shoot for the moon – even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.

And so the writer encourages his community by imagining Jesus encouraging his frightened friends.

He imagines the disciples hiding in fear, wanting to play it safe after Jesus’ crucifixion. And he imagines Jesus appearing to them, challenging them to keep going.

Peace be with you.
Receive the holy Spirit.

The word for Spirit in ancient languages is the same word that is used for breath and wind. Divine breath in ancient stories is the animating breath of life!

So, John’s Jesus is saying: Receive the healing Breath, breathe in life and be energized. Receive your second Wind, and get back to work.

Later in this same chapter Jesus shows Thomas his wounds, his scars. Risk taking does not leave us unscarred. Jesus’ risks demanded a terrible price: he was terrorized, brutalized, humiliated, and killed; but that didn’t stop his message or his mission. Wounds and all, Jesus is still encouraging the movement. Get your second wind, and keep going.

Locked behind the closed doors felt safe, and maybe it was, but missions aren’t safe. Missions aren’t easy. Missions can experience delays and setbacks, but the mission is worth the necessary risks, as Sunshine Cathedral well knows.

This church went through a few short term pastors between 1972 and 1976. Then they called John Gill to be their pastor and he stayed almost a decade. The parish thrived under his leadership and moved from their home in Sailboat Bend to a new and bigger space off of Hwy 84. It was called Church of the Holy Spirit in those days. What a beautiful memory for Pentecost Sunday.

The church flourished in their new home, and in 1986 called a new pastor, Grant Lynn Ford, and the congregation outgrew its second property. So a third property, this one, was purchased. The church tried to acquire a different property, but the deal fell through. But they got a second wind and they didn’t give up and they took more risks and they bought this property.

But that wasn’t the end of it. They got new windows for the worship space. Eventually a new organ was donated, but to accommodate the organ a new chancel was needed. And all the while salaries had to be paid and mission work helping others had to be done.

And sometimes, the dream was larger than the funds at hand (any dream worthwhile always is), but they didn’t give up on the dream. The church was fueled by faith, even and especially in times of uncertainty. How very biblical.

In 2007, Bishop Ford retired, but before retiring, he recruited me to come and continue the work. I had the joy of working with him for 14 months before being installed as the new senior minister in November 2007.

Since then, we’ve completed the chancel renovation, continued important mission work, added a columbarium, got some new windows, retired the mortgage on the property, installed new flooring, launched a performing arts series that has been going strong for years now, and we got all new seats (100 more than we had before, which has already come in handy at Christmas, Easter, and several performance events).

None of those things would have happened if the pastors of this church had given in to fear or fatigue, our own or the fears others tried to project onto us.

To build this ministry and reach out to people far beyond our walls has taken faith, vision, courage, and a second wind, and a third, and fourth, and fifth, etc. It has taken three generations of enduring, visionary pastoral leadership supported by excellent, invaluable staff members, our generous Cathedral Foundation, a hard working church board of directors, as well as countless volunteers, donors, and prayer partners. We’ve done it together. There is more to do, and we’ll do it together.

Sunshine Cathedral has been at it for almost half a century, and we get tired, and we may get scared as political and economic conditions wax and wane. John’s gospel has a word for us today: Peace be with you (go to peace instead of to pieces).

When we are weary, we can take a healing breath…inhale the holy Breath that revives and renews.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

We’ve got this. There’s more to do and we are going to do it. What God has called us to do God has also equipped us to do.

We have people to encourage, justice to pursue, lives to bless, people to feed, hearts to change, hope to share…and we are going to do it with boldness. We are looking for ways to be more, do more, share more (not less). Always more: that’s the Sunshine Cathedral way, and, that’s the Jesus way.

And so, church, Receive the holy Breath. Be spiritually empowered. And let’s keep moving forward. Amen? Amen! And this is the good news.

Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt and mold me.
Fill and use me.

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