Sermon Text: Red-Letter Day
Red is the color of magic.
William Butler Yeats wrote that, and who am I to argue with a great poet?
Red is the color of magic. And I gotta say, you look good in red, St. Mark's! Sports fans wear their team colors on game day, right? Well, today the team color is red.
In liturgical churches like ours, the seasons are color-coded. Today, it's all about the red.
It's Pentecost Sunday. The word means "fifty," and today is the last of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. It's the day commemorating the risen Christ sending his Spirit to his followers. He breathes his own life into his friends. He now lives in them...and in us. He lights the fire in our hearts that always burns in his. The color of the day is red.
Red is at the top of the rainbow. Red is primary and intense. Red is the color of fire and sunsets. It gets our attention on stop signs and fire trucks and warning labels. A "red letter day" is a big day worth remembering.
If you go to a traditional Chinese wedding, you'll see that the bride does not wear white. She wears red. Red is the color of passion...the passion of lovers for each other. We give each other red Valentines and red roses.
Red is the color of the Passion of Christ, a reminder of the blood shed on the cross. Red is the color of giving. I give blood at the Red Cross. The Red Cross gives help around the world. So on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the coming of the Spirit of Christ, red is our color.
Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, led his team to championship again and again in the 1960s. They say he was one of the great football coaches of all time. He was not the first coach to say this, but he is well-known for saying, "Winning isn't everything....it's the only thing."
Well, with all due respect for football fans everywhere, I disagree.
Let's talk about another legendary leader, John. They say he was the one who wrote the Gospel with his name. They say he wrote three letters in the New Testament.
In the letters, again and again, we read these words: "Little children, love one another."
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, again and again, "Love one another."
There is a legend about this John as a very old man. The legend says John lived to a great age, which was unusual in the first century, of course. John was so elderly and frail that they actually carried him to church. Now, this was a time when sermons were very long...maybe more than two hours long. (So count your blessings, St. Mark's!)
John was too old and frail to go on for hours. So this is how John preached. At all the gatherings of the young Christian community, he simply repeated these words: "Little children, love one another. Little children, love one another."
Now, supposedly, John had been a firebrand in his young days. The Gospels tell us he was one of the two brothers who got a nickname from Jesus: "the sons of thunder." They had some anger issues. Those issues show up when they wanted Jesus to call down fire from heaven to destroy some people who rejected Jesus.
But now many years have passed. John has meditated on the teaching of Jesus decade after decade. John has become quieter, more gentle, more compassionate. So he gave these mini-sermons: "Little children, love one another. Little children, love one another."
The Christian community loved old John, and no one questioned these tiny little sermons at first. Maybe they liked how he kept things short, especially compared with the apostle Paul and some other preachers. But finally someone asked him. "Father John, why do you always say the same thing? Why do you never say anything except 'Little children, love one another'?"
And old John answered, "Do this alone, and it is enough."
Do this alone, and this is enough.
Sorry, Coach Lombardi, I disagree with you. Winning is not central in life. Love is.
Love isn't everything. It's the only thing.
Be compassionate as God is compassionate.
That's the Spirit.
That's the Spirit of Jesus.
That's the Spirit of love.
So hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
And if we do, it will be a red letter day.