May 31, 2020
For those of you that have been on Facebook for some time and post pictures, you have most likely had memories of years past pop up. During this time of staying home, that can be both delightful to celebrate past events as well as discouraging, wondering when we will be able to gather as a community under one roof. I have been reminded of my daughter’s graduation from high school last year, as well as my graduation from seminary eight years ago through such Facebook memories. When I see pictures of my daughter’s graduation, I grieve for those seniors this year that were not able to have the same experience and even wonder what it will look like next year for my son’s graduation. At this point, there is a lot of uncertainty.
The early church experiences much of the same uncertainty, wondering “what do we do now?” What are we supposed to do now that Jesus has left? For fifty days the disciples have been asking these questions and keeping pretty silent. Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus ascends. Ten days past that, we find ourselves here on the Day of Pentecost. It was on that first Pentecost after Jesus ascended that the disciples and all 120 gathered together were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent out to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit empowered those first followers to go out and share the Good News where they were called. There was an openness in the early church as they listened to the Holy Spirit. They operated in a dynamic and fluid way which led to reaching out to everyone in ways in which the Holy Spirit guided. It would be later in the church that structure became of greater importance. Since then there has been an ongoing struggle in the church as we listen to the freedom of the Spirit, which sometimes speaks counter to the established structure.
The Holy Spirit is a powerful mystery, which takes center stage on Pentecost, by echoing through the city with the sound of rushing wind. The draw of the Holy Spirit was powerful to compel 120 people to gather with bated breath, waiting for what was next. The Holy Spirit empowered each person present to speak in a language not their own and allowed for one another to understand.
Perhaps the most powerful part of this story is that Peter is given the courage to preach. Yes, that Peter. The same Peter that was so eager to follow Jesus that he continually kept sticking his foot in his mouth when he should have just listened. The same Peter that Jesus, while responding to his second guessing, told him, “Get behind me Satan.” That same Peter that fell into the lake when he attempted to walk on water, following Jesus. That same Peter that denied Jesus three times prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.
It is that same Peter that is emboldened and drawn in by the Holy Spirit to then preach the Good News to the masses that were drawn together. Following Peter’s first sermon, we are told that those who welcomed his message were baptized and became followers of Christ. They numbered nearly three-thousand people. Imagine what Peter would have posted on his Facebook page from that day!
We long for similar gatherings today. Yet, we are like the disciples waiting for that first day of Pentecost. We are uncertain of when we will gather. However, that does not stop the Holy Spirit from calling us to action today. There is a unity of drawing everyone together on that day of Pentecost. The Spirit is calling us to the same unity.
A unity that could bring us together and heal the brokenness of the world. In the brokenness of how we care for our neighbor, sin runs rampant. The most visible signs of this in the recent months has been racism in our country. We still live in a divided country where people of color are treated differently. It is hard to overcome hundreds of years of such racism when it has been embedded in the fabric of our country. The senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, as well as countless others, have magnified this sin that runs rampant.
It is the Holy Spirit that calls us to action on this Day of Pentecost to reach out in love and encourages us to walk with our siblings, not against them. It is the Holy Spirit that calls us to action to embrace our siblings and tell them that we see and hear them. It is the Holy Spirit that reaches beyond all time and space to raise up collective voices to speak with love and not hate. It is the same Holy Spirit that comes to our siblings in Minneapolis, Detroit and Brunswick, Georgia. It is the same Holy Spirit that reaches out to the other side of the globe. It is the Holy Spirit that draws us together. This is the Good News. How is the Holy Spirit drawing you in, in this time and space we find ourselves?