This past weekend, I spent four days in Death Valley, homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone. We were celebrating the 80th birthday of a dear friend, who said she wanted to go somewhere where she could gaze at stars. And so I googled, “Where is the best place to stargaze in California?” and Death Valley National Park instantly came up. So, off we went to Death Valley, nine hours each way by car. As we drove into the park at around 5pm on Thursday, with sore backs and hips from so much sitting, we couldn’t see much. It was very windy and the views were obscured by veils of dust. I think we may have all been wondering if it was really worth the drive. Surely there were stargazing spots a bit closer to the Bay Area?
Happy Pentecost! I imagine that most of us are familiar with the Pentecost story as told in Acts. It’s an exciting one, with wind and fire and miracles! The disciples are hiding away and then the Holy Spirit, like a rushing wind, fills the room they are in. The Spirit, like a fire, empowers them to share the good news of the resurrection publicly, and in many different languages and throngs of people join their movement. Christians often talk about Pentecost as the birth of the church.
Last time I preached on Pentecost, two years ago, I learned about the Jewish holiday Shavuot. This holiday, observed seven weeks after Passover, was the reason why people from so many places were in Jerusalem. Shavuot is a celebration of God giving the Torah to the Hebrew people at Mt. Sinai. It is a celebration of Divine revelation.
This sermon was presented along with a slide show, which provided a lot of the “text” for the sermon. I have tried to include as many links to these images as I can; feel free to imagine the rest!
It has been fun to hear people’s reaction to this passage from John this week. That reaction can be summed up in one word: Huh? You may have felt that yourself when you just heard it. I mean, it sort of sounds profound, but it doesn’t really make sense. It reminds me of the opening lyrics from the song “I am the Walrus” by the Beatles:
This sermon, by Geoff Martin, is a follow-up to our Earth Day service of April 25.
Psalm 96:11-13, 1 John 2:15-17
On Christmas Day, 1996, I tore open the wrapping on my first CD player—top-loading with a double cassette deck and detachable speakers. Later that day, from my grandparents, my first CD, called Seltzer, a Christian Rock sampler album containing the era’s biggest acts.
One of my favorite tracks was by a band named Johnny Q. Public. In the images of the group, they wore fur lined jackets and rocked unkempt hair. And always: JESUS. in red block letters across a white T-shirts. I played that one song over and over. And in a fortuitous bit of luck, I found out months later that Johnny Q. was booked for the closing concert at an end-of-summer bible camp my friend and I were heading to in Northern Ontario.
Earth Day Reflections presented Sunday, April 25, 2021, by Elaine Miller, Miriam Menzel, George Lin, Stephanie Stevens and Jim Musselman.
Who are among our great cloud of witnesses? Who are the ancestors in our memories, our spirit and our blood? My cloud of witnesses includes family, those gone before, AND representatives from the six kingdoms of life: Animals, plants, fungi and 3 distinct types of microorganisms. In other words, we were, and we are family with fish, redwoods, mushrooms, algae, and bacteria. We are all intimately connected and mutually reliant. We are all sacred.
Growing up we lived in a freshly minted neighborhood with two little lollipop trees in each brand-new front yard. Every Sunday we drove about 1/2 hour to a small Mennonite Church. I would spend that drive through central Ohio, looking out the window at the endless cornfields, scraped, plucked and tended by giant machines working non-stop except in Winter. The Ohio I knew was city, suburb and farmland with an occasional pocket of older trees.