Commitment Sunday…The Feast of Pentecost
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (May19th & 20th, 2018)
Text: John 17:6-19
Title: The THIRD Conversion!!
I want to begin my homily on this Commitment weekend/Sunday by sharing a quote from Martin Luther (one of my heroes of the faith). But, before I do that, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported this ministry thru your tithes and offerings this past year…I want to thank the 72 families and individuals who made a pledge of financial support last spring…but I also want to thank those who chose not to pledge but who contributed on a regular basis. I know I speak for the Wardens and the Vestry when I express my sincere gratitude. And, speaking of your Wardens and Vestry, I am so pleased to report that everyone (9 Vestry persons and 2 Wardens) have already made a pledge of financial support for 2019! And I pray that you will follow their example this evening/morning!
The title of my homily is “The THIRD CONVERSION”. Martin Luther (the monk and priest who was the catalyst for the Reformation of the 16thcentury which altered the course of human history) once said that in order to become a Christian…a disciple of Jesus Christ, there are three conversions that need to be experienced. Now a conversion is a transformation a radical change in the life of a human being. There needs to be a conversion of the HEART and a conversion of the MIND and a conversion of the PURSE (we might say, the checkbook or bank account), and until all three conversions took place, the person was not truly (or completely) Christian. So let’s briefly consider these three conversions.
First, Luther said there needs to be a conversion of the HEART. The Greek word translated HEART in the NT is the word KARDIA (this is where we get the English words cardiac and cardiovascular and cardiologist). But the Greek word does not refer to the organ…the heart muscle. In Greek thought (and in the NT) the HEART was the epi-center of the human person and the seat of all life (including spiritual life). And Luther says the process of becoming a Christian must begin with a conversion of the human heart…but it certainly doesn’t end there.
The second conversion that needs to take place is the conversion of the MIND…the seat of all rational thought…all intellectual life. Luther said the mind also needs to be converted to the way of Christian discipleship! I am reminded of the most important things the Apostle Paul ever wrote…in the letter to the Church @ Phillipi, chapter two where he writes:Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…LET THE SAME MIND BE IN YOU THAT WAS IN CHRIST JESUS, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equalitywith God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.My friends, we must put on the “Mind of Christ”…we must make His way, our way…His priorities, our priorities…His commitments, our commitments. Luther said that is what it means to experience the second conversion…the conversion of the MIND!.
But Luther says there is a third conversion that needs to take place and that is a conversion of the PURSE (a conversion of your checkbook or bank account…a conversion of your financial life) and, for most people, this 3rdconversion is, by far, the most difficult…this is the change which is resisted most strenuously…for most people this takes longer to understand and embrace than conversions one and two…but, Luther insists, until we have a conversion of the PURSE, our discipleship is incomplete…immature…not fully developed. But, what does it mean to experience this 3rd conversion? Friends, I’m convinced that It means to understand and embrace the first principle of Transformational Stewardship…the truth that everything you have comes from and belongs to God…it means that you understand the truth that you are not an owner…you are a steward and a steward is a person who manages not his own but someone else’s assets…someone else’s assets! And my friends, you will know (in your bones) that you have experienced this 3rdConversion when your giving is inspired by a deep and a profound sense of gratitude to God the Giver…when you give, not sparingly…not grudgingly or reluctantly…but joyfully!
And friends, it is at this point where Luther’s insight about the Three Conversions intersects with what we are celebrating this weekend/morning…the Feast of Pentecost; the 50thday after Easter, when Jesus’ wonderful promise to the Apostles (a promise we heard so clearly in today’s Gospel) was finally fulfilled and the Holy Spirit…the Advocate; the Comforter; the Paraclete; the third person of the Blessed Holy Trinity arrived and drove the frightened and half believing Apostles out of the Upper Room and into the streets of Jerusalem, where, for the first time, they proclaimed the Gospel of Grace and the mission and ministry of the church of Jesus Christ was launched.
And, friends, what we must remember is that it is the gift of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism that makes conversion possible…without the Advocate there can be no conversion of the HEART…without the Paraclete, there can be no conversion of the MIND…without the Comforter…there can be no conversion of the PURSE! Friends, it is God, the Holy Spirit who sets us free from the fear of scarcity…the fear that, if we give, there won’t be enough leftover for us..it is God the Holy Spirit who sets us free from the tyranny of our material possessions and the impulse to hoard rather than share what we have…it is God the Holy Spirit who liberates us to give joyfully/generously…even recklessly and, in our giving, to experience real/substantial spiritual growth and the abundant life that God intends for all of His beloved children to enjoy…SO…Come…Come Holy Spirit…fill the hearts of your faithful people and set them on fire once again with your love!! Amen…