Last Sunday Rabbi Shohama and I led the Memorial Service for Diana Gunzl, a daughter of Violet Smith. As you know, Rabbi Shohama still waits for the Messiah to come, while I as a Methodist believe Jesus Christ as the Messiah already came, died, is risen, and will come again. There is a radical, big, fundamental difference between Judaism and Methodism. But both of us led the memorial service together, standing on each one’s own belief. At the end of the memorial service, many were complimentary, saying, “Beautiful!”
Now let me remind you that last Wednesday, May 24, was the day to commemorate John Wesley’s Conversion Experience by the Holy Spirit he received in 1738, as he wrote in his journal: “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to Romans. About quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.” So I’d like to encourage you to come to church, even if you feel like you are reluctant to come. Even so you may receive the Holy Spirit, who knows?
Last Thursday, May 25 was the Ascension Day and this coming Sunday is Pentecost. Repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto et coeperunt loqui. (They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in their own tongues.)
One of the first fruits of the Holy Spirit’s coming is communication in our native tongues. We have moved from clay tablets to electronic tablets, from papyrus to e-Books. Since Morse code was first tapped in 1844, anyone around the globe can read Trinity United Methodist Church pastor’s sermon text, as long as he or she can access www.trinityofcityisland.org by internet, even anyone in Ethiopia can read it as long as there is Wi-Fi. Nowadays, it is one of the most phenomenal aspects for humanity around the globe.
According to today’s gospel lesson, Jesus prays: “They may be one, as we are one.” Here “We” indicates God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The inner communion of God as triune God communicates with each other in oneness in love. Jesus’ prayer for disciples’ unity was not about solidifying into a monophonic sound, but about properly orchestrating cacophonic sounds that resound in a joyful, great and glorious harmony; not about total agreement but the glorious interplay of many disagreements among disciples; a kind of common dance in Christian love. Of course, there is rejection, anger, pain, depression and despair in all this diversity, but it is ultimately for glory: “They may be one, as we are one.” “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Last Sunday I suggested to divide 12 blank index cards into two piles of six and write the names of six people that you like on one set and then six people that you dislike on the other set. Turning them over write a few words about why you like or dislike the person whose name is on the back, and put them away until Pentecost. On Pentecost take your cards, and looking at them face down, read what you wrote about why you like or dislike someone. You will immediately recognize who you are reading about. You don’t need to look at the cards face up for the names. Those 12 index cards are a mosaic image of your self-portrait in your light and shadow sides. Jesus preached: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
As a publicly announced sex scandal victim Monica Lewinsky reflected her and her family’s nightmare caused by Roger Ailes’s dream at Fox Cable News for years and wrote, since he was driven out by his own sex scandal and died: “The irony of Mr. Ailes’s career at Fox—that he harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own—was not lost on anyone who has been paying attention.”
We are aware that in the real world none of us is perfect. In living life to the fullest we have to accept our neighbors’ light sides as well as their shadow sides; their positives as well as their negatives. Even if it causes rejection, anger, pain, depression, and even despair, it becomes finally more peaceful, when we accept them in love. Otherwise there will be no peace in our soul. “They may be one, as we are one.” Let’s remember it’s around this time when Jesus prayed: Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36). Indeed, it’s a time of painful father and son conflict.
When we gather in front of the altar to ponder and share the conflict of good and evil in the Passion and Death and Rising of Jesus, we await the Holy Spirit he promised, the Spirit that calls us in a love beyond liking and disliking our brothers and sisters, to the final integration of glorious joy, peace, harmony and dancing in love, communication, communion before the triune God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “They may be one, as we are one.” “By this all men will know you are my disciples.” Amen.
1. Monica Lewinsky: ”His Dream Was My Nightmare,” The New York Times, May 23, 2017, Op-Ed page.
Gospel Text: John 17:1-11