Today we pause to pay attention to several competing actions. First, the liturgical calendar points us to the feast of Pentecost that celebrates the radical transformation of the church’s mission on the fiftieth day after our Lord’s resurrection. Today we light a Paschal candle for the first time. This candle is lit during the Great Fifty Days of Easter, at all baptisms, and at all funerals to remind us of the presence of the Risen Christ in the midst of God’s people.
Second, we stand at the beginning of what I will call A Wesleyan Spiritual Adventure. For the next 26 weeks we will be preaching, teaching, praying, and learning key elements of what it means to walk as a United Methodist. To do this we will pay attention to Bishop Reuben Job’s book A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader at our worship celebrations and in small group gatherings. Copies of this book may be ordered through the church office or the link at the end of the post.
Finally, and I think most importantly, today we pause to remember some folks who have come to mean a lot to each other, to their youth leader Mrs. B., and to this church. We stand today to say a special word to our high school graduates Amy, Justin, Glenn, Jeremy, Jared, and Rob. We come as well to say a word to Elizabeth, Scottie, Mark, Pam and Scott upon their move to another part of the world. In each case, the word I am searching for is Godspeed. Godspeed is "a term used to express respect and good will when addressing someone, typically someone about to go on a
journey or a daring endeavor" (see Wikipedia.com).
So how can we tie Pentecost, Wesley, and Godspeed together? May I suggest we pay attention to a simple phrase: Expectant Prayer. Today’s gospel lesson is from Luke 11:1-13 and it begins with Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer. Raymond Brown, one of our last century’s foremost interpreters of scripture, once quipped that the persons who knew Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer could have their global convention in a telephone booth. Pay attention to those words another time this week, while I invite us to center on the following verses:
Jesus said, "So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened" (Luke 11:9-10, NRSV).
Earlier we read through the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit with the children and we lit the Paschal Candle to remind them that Christ IS with us (see Acts 2:1-12). The fathers and mothers of the early church were gathered in an upper room expecting something to happen in their midst because Jesus had made them a promise – they would receive power while they waited in prayer (see Acts 1:6-9 and my reflections on Zan Holmes’ sermon "Do we look like our picture?").
Today we come as well to pay attention to the words ask, seek, and knock. Jesus invites us to live a life of constant, expectant prayer. We are to ask, we are to seek, and we are to knock knowing that God’s desire is that we are to receive, find, and see doors opening before us. I offer a word of caution here … implied in this is that we are asking for what the Father desires for us. Jeremiah told us those plans were for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), Paul encouraged us to strain forward to reach the prize (Philippians 3:13), and to live in careful understanding of what God desires for us (Ephesians 5:17). And what is that desire? That you live "from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same" within God’s plan for you. Others will offer advice, most of it good and that which is not good was at least meant for good. Listen to that advice sisters and brothers, but listen more importantly to the One who can deliver that for which you ask, seek, and knock. His name is Jesus – the One Who Was, the One Who Is, and the One Who Is to Come, the Way, the Truth, and the Life – live expectantly with him and life will be an adventure.
How do I do that best? I invite you to understand what our youth have lived into over the last three years … they are coming to know that they meet Jesus where two or three are gathered in his Name. Now sometimes that looks like tag football or broom ball on the front lawn. Sometimes its careening around Pinehurst in a RV while we sing Christmas carols to special members of our church. Sometimes it looks like 30 hours without food so that we could know the hunger of sisters and brothers on the other side of the world. And sometimes it was opening a Bible on a chilly afternoon in Rocky Mount to consider what God could say to us in the midst of Krispy Kreme cravings. By nature we tend to find groups, whether it be dorm mates, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, golf foursomes, book clubs, civic organizations or our neighborhood gang. I want you to know that this journey that I bid you Godspeed on is dangerous. I have fallen many times, I strayed from the path at several key junctures, and each time a brother or sister in Christ has beckoned me to stand and follow Jesus. Find a group of fully devoted Christ followers and hold each other accountable on the journey.
Ryan Van Sickle is going to close our time with these words to his new song "Walk On" (check out A Thin Place, his first CD, and his website):
Give us hearts of fire
And the hand to heal
Give me the grace to carry
And the faith to walk on
I bid each of you Godspeed on the journey. For me Godspeed means that I learn to trim my sails to the wind that blows from God in the Holy Spirit. For me Godspeed means that I follow a map where the North Star is Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life. For me Godspeed means that I journey with others who trust in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Whether that journey is physically far or near, come lets walk together with hearts afire, healing hands, and a grace-dependent faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.