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Holy Spirit, Rain Down

Holy Spirit, Rain Down

Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt

June 12, 2011

Trinity MCC


 Not wanting to disappoint those of us who have heard this every Pentecost Sunday of our live, Happy Birthday.  I say that because the traditional view in some realms of Christendom has been that Pentecost Sunday was and is the birthday or the start up day for the Christian church. We’ll look at that in a little more detail. This is, by whatever means you see it, a day of celebration. It is another day when we experience the fulfillment of another of God’s promises, that God would never leave us or forsake us. We experience once again that God will comfort us and guide us. God will strengthen us and embolden us to fulfill the callings God places on our live. God will provide for us a helper and an advocate. God gives us today a way-maker when there is no way in sight and a joy-maker when all we see is sorrow. And so, my sisters and brothers, let us experience this time, even these few minutes of preaching, as a day of celebration all over again for the wonderful ways God provides for us; God’s people, God’s children. Would you pray with me.

 God, we thank you for this time that we have to share in a few moments of your glory. We thank you that you make a way for us when there seems to be no way. We ask you, Holy Spirit, to rain down on us. We need you. We want you. We invite you to be powerfully present in this place. So, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing and acceptable to you, O Holy Spirit, God. AMEN.



 The word ‘Pentecost’ means 50th day. It was originally a Jewish Harvest festival which Christians later adopted and changed to meet their liturgical needs. Some churches have called Pentecost Sunday Whitsunday, referring to the Anglo-Saxon word “wit” (meaning wisdom), referring to the outpouring of the spirit of Wisdom which we see in Ephesians 1: 17 and 18, where the writer says, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.”

 All of these observances; Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost are there to remind us of the life and teaching of Jesus, and of the formation of the early Jesus movements. Following Pentecost is a long season of “Ordinary Time” where the focus is on the Church continuing to reach out, thrive, grow, and be relevant to and in the world. So Pentecost ends the first half of the liturgical year and begins the second half.

 In the Book of Acts, Pentecost is the day when worshippers had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit and were then empowered to be the outreaching, life-giving, world changing Body of Christ. Some theologians have equated Pentecost with the parousia or “second-coming”, suggesting that the mission and ministry of Christ continues as the spirit-filled church acts as the continuing presence of Christ in the world.

 In Acts, Luke (remember those books are from the same writer or writers) has Jesus Ascending to everlasting significance, and the spirit of God descending to enliven and equip the disciples and thereby the church, which then reaches out to make a difference in the world. Pentecost then, for Christians, has become a time to focus on spiritual power, gifts, and mission.

 Is Pentecost actually the birthday of the church? Maybe. I want to suggest to you that by the day of Pentecost the church was already alive and well. Jesus’ ministry is what gave birth to the church. Experiencing Jesus was, and by the way can be for us, so mesmerizing that people left everything behind to follow him. Knowing Jesus emboldened those who experienced him to go out and tell their friends and family members, and their co-worker, and government officials about a better way of living. They went two by two and their numbers grew. Some of them experienced a loss of faith at the time of the Jesus unfortunate assassination, and then he rose again on the third day. He appeared to them and at first they did not recognize him, but then he spoke their names….Barbara, John, Linda, David, Dottie, Mary, James, and immediately they knew that this was Jesus, the Son of the living God, their Messiah. So, I believe the church already existed and that the day of Pentecost was the day when the church received Divine power and Divine wisdom, and Divine courage which would empower them for the mission to which they had been called. 

 Why do I believe that? I believe it because we read from the prophet Joel, that 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, not just some flesh, but all flesh, insiders and outsiders, men, women and children, Americans and Asians and Iraqis and Iranians, Muslims, Jews, Hare Krishna’s and many others. And ALL your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. I hear a word of prophesy for us this very morning saying “Dream your dreams, see your visions, God is showing us what God can do. Dream big! Visualize BIG, in Jesus name, knowing that we are empowered to live into God’s dreams and visions for us. Joel continues, “The Spirit will be poured out even upon slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Glory, hallelujah, what an amazing word of prophesy. What an amazing dream. What an amazing visualization and I want to let you know something. 

 I stand here in agreement with Joel this very day. I know God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on us; on you and on me. I know God has plans for us and I’m here to tell you again, I expect great things from you. I do not accept spiritual lethargy. I do not accept Spiritual complacency. I do not accept thinking that often says, “Let somebody else do it.” I accept the call of Jesus for each and every one of us to be plugged in, for each and every one of us to share all three aspects of our time and our talent and yes, our money, too. Not because I set it up that way, but because that is the mission to which God has called us so that all of us can personally be involved in the mission to Spread the message of God’s inclusive love with Gainesville and even in parts yet unknown to us. 

 Are you dreaming the dream? Are you seeing the vision? Are you experiencing the call of God today to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who will empower you for anything and everything that God has called you to do?

 You know how much I love the work of Buddhist Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. He will surprise you today. He writes, “The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, penetrated him deeply, and he revealed the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus healed whatever he touched. With the Holy Spirit in him, his power as a healer transformed many people…I [feel] that all of us also have the seed of the Holy Spirit in us, the capacity of healing, transforming, and loving. When we touch that seed, we are able to touch God…”

 I agree with him because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that with the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we too have the capacity for healing and for transformation, and for equality and justice and for loving.

 Again I say, “Holy Spirit, Rain Down, let your power flow, let your voice be heard, come and change our hearts as we stand on your word. Holy Spirit, rain down, rain down….”

God bless you. AMEN

(c) James Edward Merritt, 2011.












Numbers 11:24-30

24So Moses went out and told the people the words of God; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Y Then Yahweh came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all God’s people were prophets, and that God would put the spirit on them!” 30And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Acts 2:1-21

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o”clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Jul 12, 2011 1669
Messages from the Heart

Messages from the Heart

Rev. Jim Merritt

Trinity MCC

February 14, 2010

Transfiguration and Valentines Day



 Good morning, again. This is another day packed with opportunities for us. It is Transfiguration Sunday. It is also Valentines Day. So, before I go any further, let me wish each of you a very Happy Valentines Day. I LOVE you and I’m so pleased to be here serving among you. And I do want us to really celebrate love during our meal together right after church.


 What is Transfiguration? What does it mean? Does any one of us really know? The Anchor Bible Dictionary summarizes that “Transfiguration is the name give to events that transpired in one of the passages common to the Synoptic Gospels – Matt. 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain, etc. etc. etc. and Jesus is transformed in front of the disciples; his clothes shone bright and both Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and Peter offers to build three booths (memorials) and then a cloud overshadows them and God announces that Jesus is God’s son and commands those present to “Listen to Him” or “Hear Him.”[1] Whew, that is a mouthful and now as the late news commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “You know the rest of the story.” And so what does that mean to us. Several things

 First, those who are really close to Jesus get to see who Jesus really is. Does that appeal to you? Like me, do you have a deep desire in your own heart to know who Jesus really is? You see, we can come to church and read scripture and fellowship and pray together and get some idea about who Jesus is. And not until we really experience Jesus in the deepest parts of our hearts and minds and spirits will we really know who he is. Not until then will be find ways to assimilate the lifestyle of Jesus into our own live. And when we do put in the time necessary to do all of that, God will honor us and lift us up and bless us over and over again by showing us exactly who Jesus is and what the impact is that Jesus can have on our lives. That’s what I want to experience in my spiritual journey. I want to know Jesus as fully as I can and I want to model my life after his life.

 Second this Transfiguration is important because right in the middle of it we see the witness of the holy ones coming to endorse Jesus. They come to agree that YES, this really is the child of God, the one we spoke about, the one about whose coming we prophesied. And not only that, but Luke Timothy Johnson, to whose work on Luke I frequently refer, reminds us that both Moses and Elijah had their own experiences of God on top of mountains. They come to endorse who Jesus is and they come to verify that this IS God, the one true God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Elijah. They are saying, “This is the Real God, This is the Real child of God, Listen to them.” Isn’t that wonderful? Even God raises up God’s own witnesses from the dead to vouch for who God says God is. And my sisters and brothers, I’m here to tell you this morning that when we experience transfigurations like that in our own hearts and minds and in our daily lives, we will glow with light, too. We will glow with the love of Jesus. We will glow with the endorsement of all our spiritual ancestors and we will draw all people to the name of Jesus that stands above all names to the point that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the child of God and the child of humankind alive and well and living in the hearts of God’s people. Can I get a witness? Glory hallelujah how can we keep silent in the face of a message like this? A message from the heart, A message of Transfigurations of our hearts. A message that says again how much God loves us and all of creation. It’s Transfiguration Day and it is Valentines Day so let’s celebrate the love of God together this morning!


 So what about love? First Corinthians 13, known as the love chapter tells us, beginning in verse 4, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. Sisters and brothers, when will we learn patience with each other? When will we learn kindness in all our affairs? When will be give up on being full of ourselves; arrogant and rude? When will we learn to let others have things their way at least some of the time? When will we simply learn how to be nice to each other; giving up on irritability and resentfulness? When will we really learn to rejoice in the truth? When will we learn how to put up with each other in the name of Jesus when we are at our worst? Will we learn the kind of love that endures ALL things, hopes All things? Will we develop Love that never ends? 

 Those are characteristics of hearts Transformed and Transfigured by God. Those are Messages from the Heart. “I love you even when you drive me crazy!” I may not like you very much AND there is nothing you can ever do to stop me from loving you with this love that comes from God.”

 I’m going to ask you to do something about this message. In your bulletin you’ve noticed by now a pink post-it note. The season of Lent begins this coming Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. I’m going to ask you right now to write down one thing on that piece of paper that you will give up in order to allow God to work a transfiguration of your heart. Maybe it’s an old hurt that’s held you back, maybe an old behavior that you just cannot stop on your own, or maybe a resentment that eats away at you every day. You know what you need to do. Just right it down on that paper and hold onto it for a little while. At the end of today’s service I’m going to lead you outside to the same spot where we gathered on Christmas Eve. I have a feeling that space is going to come especially holy for us at times like this. After service I’m going to lead you out there and our deacons are going to help me make a fire so we can burn these notes. Burning is our way of letting go and letting God do what God desires to do in our hearts. To take that one step further, we’re going to gather the ashes up and they will be the ashes we impose on those who come for Ash Wednesday night’s service. We’ll be saying, “God we commit to walking with you, to letting you work in the deepest part of our hearts throughout this season of Lent as we prepare for the blessing of Easter.” Go ahead now and write them down. There are pens in your seat pockets. No one will look at them, we’ll just burn them. And for the rest of the service I encourage you to answer this question, “What am I willing to do to allow God to make a Transfiguration in my heart and life?” What am I willing to do?

 I love you and I bless you and I pray every day that God will hold us all in the palm of God’s hand during this upcoming Lenten Season and way beyond. That, my friends, is today’s Message from the Heart. Amen.


[1] The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 6, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday 1992) 640

Feb 14, 2010 1056
It’s Independence Day

It’s Independence Day
Rev. Jim Merritt
Trinity Gainesville MCC
July 5, 2009 
Mark 6: 1 - 13 


 Good morning, Trinity MCC in Gainesville. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to finally be here. Since I saw you last I completed the coursework for my Doctor of Ministry degree, I packed up my apartment in Cambridge, I leased an apartment here, I drove my 1979 Cadillac from Cambridge to Virginia where we boarded the Auto Train for Florida. I attended the MCC Region 7 Conference in Pensacola. I packed a whole lot more in Orlando, brought it over here, set it up. And then on Friday, Finally the moving van arrived with the contents of the Cambridge apartment and we are ALMOST settled in. Whew. I have to confess; I’m a little bit tired.

 And there’s already a lot going on around here. Meetings being scheduled, members read to be received into the church, lots of email going both ways. And so I want to remind you that I’ve started today the practice that you’ve probably already heard about. In the Narthex there is a list of available meeting times with me for this coming week. If those times don’t work for you or if you need me to meet you someplace other than here at church, please see me and I’ll be happy to work it out. We have a lot of getting to know each other ahead and for now we have some readings with which to deal, so let’s thing together for a few minutes about what God has in store for us together this morning.

    1. Independence Day
    1. Happy Independence Day! Happy Independence Day! This long weekend we celebrate an important day in the history of our country. Independence Day. It’s a celebration of freedom, of equal rights, of justice for all. And it’s a celebration of a work in progress. We know that Independence, freedom and equality for all is not a completed work. Many of us still struggle for the same basic rights that others have. The right to marry, the right to share property, the right to make basic healthcare decisions for our loved ones when they are unable to do so themselves, the right to visit our loved ones in hospitals and other institutions, basic inheritance rights, and even the right to make decisions for each other in the final moments of life. We do want to celebrate Independence Day with the rest of our American brothers and sisters, and yet we will not be able to completely celebrate this day until we share the same rights they do.
    1. It’s sometimes comforting to know that Jesus has experienced, lived through and survived every thing that occurs in our own lives. Do you see in the gospel this morning that Jesus is teaching in his own home town and the religious leaders are just not buying it.
      1. Have you even had an experience like that? One where perhaps you were called on to speak before a group of your friends or your peers or your family? And could you just hear the voices either quietly or loudly questioning, “Who does that little Jim Merritt or (your name) think he is?” He went off to college and now he thinks he knows it all.” He went to those fancy seminaries and he forgot everything we taught him. Who does he think he’s fooling with this inclusive stuff? You know people like that I’m sure.
      2. Jesus, even though it was very difficult for him there, kept on trying and did not give up.
        1. He taught what he had been sent to talk.
        2. He preached what he had been sent to preach
        3. He did the work that he had been sent to do
        4. He healed “a few” sick people
        5. And he went on his way, still committed to the calling he heard from God.
        6. Even with limited success, the child of God, the child of Humankind kept at it and refused to give up
        7. And he reminded us that even a prophet, even people like you and me, can have a very difficult time finding honor, finding equality and Justice, finding a welcoming and affirming place in her or his home town, county, state, or country.
        8. And I’m reminded once again of the words inscribed at the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.”
        9. And sometimes we’ve said give them to us but don’t expect us to honor them, to treat them fairly, to love them, but send them anyway
        10. And many of them have been treated in similar and worse ways to the way we’ve been treated and we know how that feels and Jesus knows how that feels.
        11. And I want to remind all of us, my dear sisters and brothers that being invited to the White House for a little cookie and punch like some of our LGBT friends were this week does NOT mean progress unless true freedom and equality stretches from the big white house all the way to the little pink house right here in Gainesville and all through the land.
        12. I like the bumper sticker that says, “Discrimination against one of us is discrimination against all of us.”
        13. We must continue in the struggle, the way Jesus continued in his.
    1. Independent from the past
    1. Jesus took the disciples on out into the villages and towns and they began to work miracles and heal people and help people make real changes in their lives.
    1. They did not let past experiences stop them from following through on their callings either.
    2. Are we willing to do that too?
      1. You see I know many of us have suffered deep trauma, deep hurt, and difficult setbacks.
      2. I know that you’ve had some of that together here as a church.
      3. I know some of us have lived through horrific abuse at the hands of those we loved and at the hands of those who were supposed to love us back.
      4. I know we have felt the lack of honor in our own towns.
      5. And I want to share some really good news with you this morning.
        1. We can follow the instruction that Jesus gave the disciples and shake that old dust off of our feet and move forward.
        2. There is independence from trauma, in the name of Jesus.
        3. There is independence from old physical, sexual, emotional abuse, in the name of Jesus.
        4. There is independence from being used up and beat up in the name of Jesus.
        5. I love the song that Sandy Patty sang years ago, that says, “Are there burdens in your heart, is your past a memory that binds you? Then strengthen your hearts with this Good News; there is a Savior who’s forgiven you.” I the name of Jesus
        6. And yes in hurtful times there is a tendency to blame ourselves and I speak to all of us independence from that kind of thinking this morning, in the name of Jesus.
        7. And I call us out, in Jesus name
        8. Out to be ALL that God created us to be, in Jesus name.
        9. Out to fulfill our own personal potential, In Jesus name.
        10. Out to fulfill our potential together, in Jesus name
        11. Out lives filled with Joy unspeakable and Happiness Divine, in Jesus name.
        12. We can sing with the Psalmist, “Great is our God and greatly to be praised.
        13. Let us make this our Independence Day.
        14. Happy Independence Day, my sisters and brothers.
    1. Prayer
    1. God we give you honor and glory and praise for this Independence Day. Help us walk in freedom. Freedom from all those things that have held us back. Great is your faithfulness, Oh God. We give you thanks, in Jesus name.
        1. God bless you this morning.
        2. Amen.


Psalm 48

A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites. 
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised 
 in the city of our God. 
God’s holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, 
 is the joy of all the earth, 
Mount Zion, in the far north, 
 the city of the great ruler. 
Within its citadels God 
 has shown a sure defence. 
Then the rulers assembled, 
 they came on together. 
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; 
 they were in panic, they took to flight; 
trembling took hold of them there, 
 pains as of a woman in labour, 
as when an east wind shatters 
 the ships of Tarshish. 
As we have heard, so have we seen 
 in the city of the God of hosts, 
in the city of our God, 
 which God establishes for ever. 
We ponder your steadfast love, O God, 
 in the midst of your temple. 
Your name, O God, like your praise, 
 reaches to the ends of the earth. 
Your right hand is filled with victory. 
 Let Mount Zion be glad, 
let the towns
of Judah rejoice 
 because of your judgments. 
Walk about Zion, go all around it, 
 count its towers, 
consider well its ramparts; 
 go through its citadels, 
that you may tell the next generation 
 that this is God, 
our God for ever and ever. 
 Yahweh will be our guide for ever.

Mark 6: 1-13

Jesus left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Jul 5, 2009 1569
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