Friday, May 20, 2016


By Deacon Jerry Franzen  5/15/16     Cathedral
Acts 2:1-11        Romans 8:8-17           John 20:19-23

Praised Be Jesus Christ – Good Morning”
Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday
- the culmination of the fifty days of the Easter Season.
Fifty days is just one more that 49, 7 times 7,
just a bit beyond a perfect number, 7,
times that same perfect number,
a bit beyond a perfect number squared.
Pentecost is sometimes called the "birthday of the Church."
So, let us all say, “Happy Birthday Church.”
The cake for this birthday, since Jesus would have been
33 years old at the time, would now have 1983 candles.
That would be a lot of heat and light, a lot of power.


* To illustrate the importance of this day,
 I would like to begin with an anecdote.
An American took a visitor from England to Niagara Falls
to show him one of our natural wonders.
From above the falls they could appreciate the expanse of the falls,
as they looked from the U.S. side to the Canadian side.
When they went to near the base of the falls on a tour boat
the water made a deafening noise.
The American explained about the enormous quantity of water
and its great force.
He had to practically shout into his friend’s ear as he concluded,
"This is a great source of unused power."
This was before the harnessing
of a large part of the power of Niagara Falls.
The visitor was duly impressed;
but then, like a good Englishman, he started to think a little deeper.
"Yes," he said to his American host,
"the power here is great, but there is something much greater.
The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit."
The man has a point.
Today we are also celebrating the Feast of the Holy Spirit.
This feast day reminds us of a power we have barely tapped into.
The Holy Spirit came to the apostles as tongues of fire.
I wonder if there is any connection between candles
on a birthday cake and the tongues of fire of Pentecost.
Hmm….  But I digress.


To illustrate what can happen when we tap into that power,
let me tell you about a different Englishman
who many years ago opened himself
to the power of the Holy Spirit, Stephen Langton.
He was a priest in England two centuries before the Reformation.
He wanted to help the poor.
Pope Innocent recognized Father Langton's talent
and appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury.
King John, however, feared Langton and exiled him to France.
While in France, he composed a wonderful hymn to the Holy Spirit:
It begins,     "Come Holy Spirit Come…
It identifies the Holy Spirit as “Father of the poor,”
"the best of comforters," "the soul’s most welcome guest."
This hymn is called the "Sequence"
and we just listened to it before today's Gospel.
But Langton did something more.
Up until the thirteenth century,
no one had divided the books of the Bible into chapters and verses.
To enable more exact references to the Scripture,
Archbishop Langton undertook that project.
Anytime someone mentions a Bible verse such as "John 3:16"
or "First Corinthians 12:4" they are taking advantage
of Langton’s great labor of love.
But there is still more.
When Stephen Langton returned from exile,
he saw that the King was ruling in an arbitrary manner.
To counteract the king's injustice,
Archbishop Langton gathered the English barons
at a place called Runnymede in June of 1215.
He helped them write a document which lays out basic rights         regarding taxation, due process and certain legal protections
for the Church.
They called their document the Great Charter,
although we are more familiar with its Latin name - the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta was the embryo
from which English democracy developed.
In America – and many other countries
we owe Archbishop Stephen Langton a huge debt.

A beautiful hymn to the Holy Spirit,
an important tool for studying the Bible
and a document which launched
the modern democratic experiment:
Stephen Langton shows what mighty deeds a person can accomplish
when imbued with the Christian tradition
and open to power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is truly the greatest,
largely untapped, power in the world.

In our readings today,
we see some of things the Holy Spirit makes possible:

®The Good News was understood by people
   who did not normally understand the language of the apostles.
   Do we spread the Good News of God’s infinite love for us
   by our actions and not just our words?

 ®Those led by the Spirit experience the inner peace
    of being adopted sons and daughters of God and call Him,                       “ Abba, Father.”
   Do all of our families, friends and associates know that we, too,
   are part of that same adoption plan?

®Through the gift of the Holy Spirit,
   God made the apostles and their successors
   agents of his bountiful mercy by the forgiveness of sins.
   What part have we played in transmitting God’s forgiveness?

®On the occasion of Pentecost,
   peoples who were enemies of the Jews and pagans
   were brought together in hearing of the mighty acts of God.
   What have we done to settle differences
   with those with whom we do not agree?

How have we relied on the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
With that power each of us can do “mighty deeds.”


This Sunday God wants you and me
to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit.
How our world would change if we allowed him to enter our hearts! Bishop Foys speaks of how, when he was newly ordained,
he was really excited about preaching the Good News
of God’s love for us, and
how, for him, that excitement has grown over the years to this day.
He is more excited about preaching the Gospel
now than he was then.
I can identify with that.
Before I was ordained,
I was asked to investigate becoming a deacon.
My pat answer was, “Why would I want to do that?
I can do everything I want to do in the Church now as a lay person.
Why would I want to preach, baptize, witness marriages and
God only knew what else was in the plan?”
I was missing out on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Somehow the third person of the Blessed Trinity
had been left behind in my life.
Then I got involved in the charismatic movement
which emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives,
if we are open to it.
I was transformed by that involvement
from a person who was satisfied with little things I was doing
to a person who was looking for more to do,
more ways for the Holy Spirit to inspire me.
I am more excited about God’s love for us
in sending us the Holy Spirit now than I have ever been.

So,  if you wish that your life could be different,
if you would like to have more energy, more enthusiasm,
if you want interior tranquility and a sense of purpose,
these things come from the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit can energize us, give us a new life.

I will conclude with parts of Stephen Langton's hymn
to the Holy Spirit:

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill!

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia!

*Based on a homily at