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16B  Jeremiah 23:1-6 /Ephesians 2:13-18 /Mark 6:30-34

I walked into the parish offices the other day
with a bright blue shirt on.

I got a few surprised looks. . .

I wondered why people were staring at me.

Finally, Delma said,
“We’ve never seen you in a colored shirt before!!! . . .
You always wear black.”

Well, that bright blue shirt has a story to it.


A few weeks ago,
I drove to Waco, Texas to attend a
scripture conference.

On my way,
just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas,
it hit me. . .

I had forgotten to
pack any shirts,
all I had were black Tees.

So when I got to Little Rock,
I looked up a big man’s clothing store
on my phone.

I walked in and
there was a rather large woman herself
who helped me.

I said, “I am looking for some shirts.”

She looked at me in my black shoes. . .
and black socks. . .
and black pants. . .
and black t-shirt and said. . .

“Honey, you need to lighten that up some.”

I said, “well ma’am,
I’m kind of big fella,
and I think black slims me up
just a little bit.”

She looked at me. . .
shook her head and said,
“Well . . . not really”

And as her eyes moved over my big body. . .
she said,
“Honey, you just need to claim it.”

Well, I walked out of that Big Man’s store
with several shirts. . .
including that bright blue one!!!

That woman could have sold me anything.


Well, the rest of the trip,
I couldn’t get the lady in Little Rock
out of my mind. . .

“Honey, you just need to claim it!”
“You just need to claim it!”

Now I don’t want to claim my unhealthy habits. . .

But as I drove those long hours
along the lonely back roads of Texas. . .

and as I talked to talk to God. . .
and let God talk back me. . .

I knew there was one thing I had to claim!!!
I had to claim my story!!!

It’s your story too. . .
It’s our Christian story.

And what is our story?

We are Messiah people. . Jesus people. . .

and we are Holy Spirit people!!!


First,
we are Messiah people. . .
Jesus people!!!

You know all the ultimate enemies of humanity. . .
enemies like death. . .
had to be dealt with.

So Jesus raised people from the dead. . .

And Jesus rose from the dead in a glorified. . .
resurrected body. . .
our ultimate destiny.


And the human enemy of sin had to be dealt with. . .

So Jesus forgives us of our sins.

God is a God of justice. . .
God is a God of victory over sin. . .

That’s where the Cross and Resurrection come in.


And all the evil spiritual powers
working against humanity had to be dealt with. . .

That’s why Jesus exorcized demons.

They’re still around. . .
but now defeated. . .

They only have power over us,
if we get in cahoots with them.


And Jesus the Messiah ushered in a new age. . .
the age of the Kingdom of God. . .

And in this Kingdom
Jesus the Shepherd Messiah
shows us and teaches us
in the Gospels
what it looks like to be Messiah people.

Messiah people act a certain way. . .
Serve a certain way. . .
Love a certain way. . .
and Forgive a certain way!!!

It’s all in The BOOK!!

We are not sheep without a shepherd. . .

We have a shepherd who protects. . .

a shepherd who gathers. . .

a shepherd who leads.


I was talking one day
to an old and wise priest at the seminary. . .

I rather proudly said,
“I would love to spend just a
few of weeks with Jesus.”

He shook his head,
just like that lady in the big man’s store shook her head at me. . .

He shook his head and said:

“If you spent a few weeks with Jesus,

He’d take you to places you wouldn’t want to go. . .

He’d have you talking
to people you wouldn’t want to talk to you. . .

He’d have you sell things you wouldn’t want to sell.”

The wise, old priest was right.


Jesus is the Good Shepherd!!!

So all of that. . .

All of that showing and teaching and leading . . .
Even to places I don’t want to go. . .

that’s all the “Good News.”


What’s our story?

We are Messiah people!!!
Jesus people!!!
Kingdom people!!!

Claim it!!!

Claim it!!!


And we are Spirit people too. . .
Holy Spirit people.

Jesus ascends into heaven. . .
and sends us the Holy Spirit.

We are not orphans. . .
we are not alone.

And the Holy Spirit. . .
if invited. . .
will enter into us. . .

We were created to be Temples of the Holy Spirit. . .

Enters into us. . .
and the first thing the Spirit does is to sanctify us. . .

Sin must be dealt with. . .

And then the Holy Spirit empowers us. . .
gifts us. . .
transforms us. . .

To live like Messiah people. . .
Jesus people. . .
Kingdom people.


In last week’s readings,
St. Paul says that the sending of
the Holy Spirit is a down payment. . .

a down payment on our ultimate destiny
of being born again. . .

of becoming a new creation. . .

of becoming another Jesus.


It’s easy to know if we’re really claiming our story!!!

Are our words and deeds
getting closer to the words and deeds of Jesus.

You see, we are Messiah people. . .
Jesus people. . .

We are Holy Spirit people.

Claim it!!!

Claim it!!!


I’m reading a fascinating book
called Dominion
by English historian Tom Holland.

He’s not a Christian. . .
at least not yet. . .
he’s an agnostic.

His specialty is ancient cultures.

And as he studied the ancient cultures. . .
the Assyrians. . .
the Babylonians. . .
the Persians. . .
the Greeks. . .
and the Romans. . .

he realized that the culture he was living in. . .
Western culture. . .
wasn’t anything like the ancient cultures he was studying.
He was living in a culture where
every human being. . .
conceptually at least. . .
had infinite value. . .

a culture where it is more noble to suffer
than to inflict suffering. . .

a culture where science flourished. . .

a culture where there were movements to
make sure everyone was fed and clothed and housed. . .

a culture where there were movements to
ensure everyone had health care. . .

And Tom Holland deduced from
his historical studies
that the West was saturated. . .
saturated. . .

with Christian assumptions. . .

He concluded that our morals are not universal.

Instead, they are the fruits of a very distinctive civilization. . .

a civilization that began
when one particular victim of crucifixion. . .
a man by the name of Jesus. . .

came to be worshipped as a God.

If we don’t claim our story. . .
Someone else will. . .
And then they’ll call it something different!!!


We are Messiah people. . . Jesus people. . .

We are Spirit people!!!

We just need to claim it!!!


Holy Spirit 07/17-18/2021