Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
We live in a time of sharp divisions. People seem to be on edge, even at each other throats. There are those who want to wear a mask verses those who refuse to mask. Clerks and guards have been attacked by people who won’t mask, there has been name calling from both sides of the issue. There are armed protests clamoring for states to open up against those who support stay-at-home orders. There are deepening divides along
political and economic lines. There are deep-rooted racial and ethnic tensions highlighted this past week by the murder of an African American man, George Floyd, by the police in Minnesota, a tragedy that has sparked protests, looting, fires and additional injury to protesters. Closer to home is the confrontation between a Caucasian woman and an African American man in the Central Park Bramble which has gone viral.
It all reminds me of a following story:
“I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So, I ran over and said "Stop! Don’t do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"
He said, "Like what?"
I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"
He said, "Religious."
I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"
He said, "Christian."
I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
He said, "Baptist!"
I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
He said, "Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
I said, "You, heretic!" and walked away from him”
This reminder, that for all we have in common, we tend to focus on differences, has its roots in the fallen nature of humankind. From the sin of Adam and Eve, the fighting between Cain and Abel, the brutality of human beings leading to Noah and the flood. The fighting continues between brothers Esau and Jacob, among Joseph and his siblings. The bible is a record, the human record is a sad tale of broken families, broken societies, broken nations, unable to get along with one another unless the grace of God intervenes.
Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on God’s people, is the antidote to these conflicts we find ourselves struggling with. Pentecost calls us to live out boldly faith that embodies what Paul teaches; “a variety of gifts, a variety of services, and a variety of activities, but one Spirit.” The basic experience of Pentecost is that through the power of the Holy Spirit, all peoples are healed and called forth to unity in our diversity, held together in perfect harmony by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The hallmark of Pentecost is the coming together of the human community through the Spirit’s connection. The death and resurrection of Jesus, followed by his ascension into heaven and then the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, speaks to a re-forging of a covenant people as one in Christ. Grace is given to peoples from many lands to hear one another. Grace is given to ordinary people to speak an extraordinary message to strangers: about the love of God poured out in Christ.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is consistent with the very life of God modeled by Jesus. A life of loving sacrifice, meant for the healing and up building of the whole, the forgiveness of sinners, the lifting up of the outcast, and reclaiming what is marginalized the restoration of loving connection.
How we need the Holy Spirit to become whole! The Holy Spirit is the very life of God, the very essence of Jesus poured out in our hearts. Our Advocate, Our Comforter, the Great Disturber of spiritual complacency. It is what keeps us alive, keeps us renewing, keeps us involved in the world and with each other. The Holy Spirit breaks us out of self-imposed constraints and ideas and ways of relating that no longer work. We need Pentecost in order to heal our world, to build a new community in Christ’s name. Pentecost is about every one, young and old, men and women, no matter the economic, social political, racial-ethnic or religious or sexual orientation: everyone, has a dream, everyone has a vision, everyone has a prophetic word, everyone has a gift that is important for the good of all.
Our challenge is to stop limiting the power of the Holy Spirit. If our church is to survive, the message of Pentecost must be reclaimed. We live in a world that has seen unprecedented change over the last 150 years. 90 percent of what has been created and been created in the past 150 years. Never before has the world held so many people, so many cultures. Never before has communication been so all comprehensive. Never before has the possibility of connections and travel been so great. If a little virus like COVID19 can affect the world the way it has, think what the outpouring of the Holy Spirit can do. We are called to release the power of the Holy Spirit so that through us, So we can realize Paul’s declaration to the Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Here is my Pentecost dream: That your voice and my voice will be such a channel of the Holy Spirit that people with no faith persuasion, people raised in the church but who have left the church, all will say, ”hey, you’re speaking my language. You are speaking to my spiritual hunger.”
Here is my Pentecost dream: that you and I can hear the voice of Jesus, that our hearts burn with the fire of the Spirit, and the barriers that separate us will come tumbling down.
Here is my Pentecost dream: that people of different racial and ethnic differences, people of all nationalities, people who speak Russian, Indonesian, German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, English, Chinese, Korean, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, Yoruba, Zulu, or any of the 6,912 known living languages of the world, can say, we feel heard by you.
Here is my Pentecost dream people of varying political and economic views can see all that binds us together rather than what tears us apart.
This is my Pentecost dream: That two people meeting on a bridge, whatever religious backgrounds can meet on a bridge and embrace. That two people, meeting on a bridge, rich and poor, young and old, gay or straight, of different ethnic or national backgrounds, can embrace each other, knowing that neither has to be rejected – because of Pentecost, because there is so much to live for; we are one spirit, one body in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.