Rev. Martha Jacobs
The One and Same Spirit
Psalm 104:24-24, 35, 1 Corinthians 12:4-13
June 5, 2022
The other night, Pat asked me what the Church was going to do to celebrate Gay Pride Month. I guess I got a little defensive and said, “Well, I posted on our Facebook page about Gay Pride.” But, then as I thought about it, I added, “You know, I don’t feel like we need to do something special for Gay Pride. We don’t do a special Sunday for Women’s History Month or Black History Month, or any of those months that are set aside for various special groups. I believe we live those out at FCC every day. So, (I said) we don’t need to lift a particular group up for a particular reason on a particular date.” As I thought more about it, I realized that this was not a conscious decision on my part but rather it has just happened over the years.
When I started here almost 9 years ago, I did set aside a Sunday in the month when there was a sermon and service that focused on the group that was being lifted up during that particular month. But, because we are living out our mission statement and our Open and Affirming statement that lifts up not only our LGBTQ+ community, but it also lifts up others, a set-aside-day seems redundant. On any given Sunday, my sermon, depending on what is happening in our world, reflects various concerns in that moment. I might lift up those who are unable to put food on their table. Or, I might talk about the Transgender community, particularly the youth who are committing suicide at an alarming rate. Or, I will talk about the inherent value of all human beings, despite the color of our skin or our culture or our religious beliefs.
The content of my sermons reflects what is happening in our world, no matter who is most affected. I seek to include any gender, race, culture, and socio-economic situation. I do this, in part, because when you called me as your senior minister, one of the things I was charged with was enacting our Open and Affirming Statement.
I don’t know the last time you read our Open and Affirming Statement. Frankly, for me, it has been several years. So, when I went back and read it earlier this week, I was deeply, deeply touched by it because our statement includes: people of every race and mixture of races; people of every ethnic background and nationality; people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight; people in any economic situation; people, regardless of physical or mental prowess or limitation. In other words, just about all of those whom God loves and welcomes to God’s table.
For me, the underlying foundation of our Statement is the reading from 1 Corinthians, because God’s Spirit is in each one of us and has led each one of us to this community of faith. People don’t come here who want a separation between people because of who they are or what they believe. We are here because we have that burning Spirit within us to welcome everyone, to honor everyone, and to love each other as we are and for all that we are. We each have brought gifts and we continue to develop deeper gifts of the Spirit as we work together to continue to be God’s beloved community.
Today is Pentecost, the day when we remember that God sent God’s Advocate, God’s Spirit to live within us. Why do we need to be reminded of that? Well, sometimes we may forget that we are a part of God and that God is a part of us. Jesus walked this earth as a fully-human being, and felt our struggles and our joys. Jesus knew that we could not deal with all that comes at us by ourselves. So, God sent us God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within us to help us in those times when we are not sure of the right thing to do or the right way to treat another human being.
God imbued us with the Spirit’s gifts, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The Spirit was indeed present when this congregation passed, unanimously, our Open and Affirming Statement. There is no doubt about that. The preamble to our ONA statement reads: we acknowledge, accept and affirm that all people are equal children of God and that we welcome all people into the worship, work and fellowship of this congregation. To me, that is the Spirit at work.
Further, the statement ends with these words: Trusting in God’s grace and with the hope of guidance from the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to strive to fulfill this affirmation. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit, as we remember it today, on this Pentecost Sunday, has guided us in fulfilling our ONA Statement. Yes, we still have a ways to go, yes, there is always more we can do to ensure that all people feel welcome here at FCC. And, yes, we are a congregation that welcomes all to God’s table and to our fellowship. That is God’s Holy Spirit at work within and around each one of us.
On Friday, there was an interment service for our oldest member. Charline Tinnon’s family was here as we added her ashes to the place where her husband Jack was interred many years ago. Yesterday, we celebrated the life of Ray Nuytkens. Ray and Carol joined our church in 1959. Charline’s daughters talked about running up and down the hallways here and being in our building for many hours and how it helped them, especially in their awkward years, to have a community of faith that supported them.
Yesterday, Peter Nuytkens stood right here in this pulpit and mentioned that the last time he had stood here was when he was affirming his faith and deciding to join this church. Ray’s daughter, Pam, talked to me about her growing up in this church and how special it was for her and that coming back here was comforting. Several weeks ago, when I was in Israel, a young man came to worship and talked about having grown up here and wanted to come back.
There is something about this place that is special. Something that keeps people coming back, even if they have been away for a very long time. This church has had its ups and downs; its’ disagreements and its coming together for various fellowship events and opportunities to help fund our benevolences. And, yes, that includes being here so that we can honor those who have died. The one and same spirit was blowing through these hallways and this sanctuary then and continues to do so now.
And, while we may have the Christ candle burning to remind us that Christ was and continues among us, we have been filled with God’s Holy Spirit since this Church was founded. The one and same spirit has given us the voice and the courage to continue to stand up for those who have no voice and to remind those who are struggling that they are not going through the struggles of life alone. And, of course, to welcome all to our table, God’s table.
Carol Nuytkens shared with me yesterday that she really misses our church. She said that there is something special about FCC that she has not found in Florida. When asked about her church affiliation now, she says to people that she is a “woman of faith.” She said that this church gave her a great gift. The gift of knowing that God’s spirit is with her wherever she is. And knowing that FCC is still here, fills her with hope. Charline Tinnon basically said that same thing to me – when she talked about being interred here with her husband, who we were watching over. She said that their years at FCC were so special for she and her family and had instilled in them a joy and hope for the future.
We have been given a great legacy that we cannot take for granted. We have also been given many gifts for the common good of this community and all of those whom we reach out and touch. It is up to us to continue that legacy, building on the work that those before us have done, to ensure that this church continues to be one that is filled with the one and same Spirit today, tomorrow and even to the end of the age.