Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We plan to continue to post these weekly until we are able to meet again in person for worship. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
We start by listening to the story of Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish festival 50 days after Passover. It was a celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was also a harvest festival associated with the first harvest of the planting season. Many people from many different communities and countries came to Jerusalem for this festival. In the Pentecost story in Acts, we are told of about 3,000 people becoming part of the Jesus community, joining the church, if you will, that day. It was seen as a harvest of souls.
We listen to Acts 2:1-21:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they all met in one room. Suddenly they heard what sounded like a violent, rushing wind from heaven; the noise filled the entire house in which they were sitting. Something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each one. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as she enabled them.
Now there were devout people living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled. But they were bewildered to hear their native languages being spoken. They were amazed and astonished: “Surely all of these people speaking are Galileans! How does it happen that each of us hears these words in our native tongue? We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene, as well as visitors from Rome – all Jews, or converts to Judaism – Cretans and Arabs, too; we hear them preaching, each in our own language, about the marvels of God!”
All were amazed and disturbed. They asked each other, “What does this mean?” But others said mockingly, “They’ve drunk too much new wine.”
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd: “Women and men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! These people are not drunk as you think – it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! No, it ’s what Joel the prophet spoke of:
‘In the days to come –
it is our God who speaks –
I will pour out my Spirit
on all humankind.
Your daughters and sons will prophesy,
your young people will see visions,
and your elders will dream dreams.
Even on the most insignificant of my people,
both women and men,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
And I will display wonders
in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below:
blood, fire, and billowing smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
and the moon will become blood
before the coming of the
great and sublime day of our God.
And all who call upon the name
of our God will be saved.’
Today we celebrate the birthday of the church. The festival of Pentecost is remembered as the starting point when the remnant of followers of Jesus found themselves drawn together and receiving the energizing presence of Divine Love which compelled them to boldly take up the ministry of Jesus where it was left off in the aftermath of the crucifixion. We trace the existence of our church and every church back to this story.
I am a PK. My father was a pastor and our family was immersed in the church, though we weren’t baptist! My life growing up was shaped by the church – activities, values, world view, relationships, lifestyle – it was all oriented around the church. And I have wonderful memories of childhood, family life, and growing up.
In my second year of college, I felt the call to ministry. This happened as I was walking back to my dorm after the Sunday morning service at the Wellesley Congregational United Church of Christ which I attended each week. So, even in college, I was still very much in the church. And I did go into the ministry. So, more church. I really can say that the church has shaped my entire life. And I am not sorry. I don’t regret it. I am grateful.
Because of the way the church has shaped my life, I find myself profoundly disturbed by the senseless killing of George Floyd who was suffocated by police while handcuffed earlier this week in Minneapolis. My feelings are also probably influenced by the fact that I grew up in Minneapolis in the 70’s when the schools were being desegregated. Frankly, I cannot imagine that something like this would have happened then. Those salt of the earth, supremely decent Minnesotans simply would not have carried out such a heinous killing. Things have changed. And it is disturbing.
So, I am thinking of breath. The word for wind in Hebrew is the same word for breath and spirit. When the wind broods over the face of the waters in Genesis, it is wind/breath/spirit. When God breathes into the human creature, it is wind/breath/spirit. When Jesus breathes peace on the disciples, it is wind/breath/spirit.
Wind/breath/spirit is the sacred life force. The presence of God. And in the killing of George Floyd, this wind/breath/spirit was stopped, ended. It is a horrifying desecration. A defilement of the holy. It is a deplorable act against God, against Love, and against Life.
So, we must pray that we will allow the wind/breath/spirit to rise up in us, to enliven us, to enspirit us, to boldly call forth and create a society that honors the sacredness, the holiness, of EVERY SINGLE LIFE. We must bring about an anti racist community, and country, and world. The wind/breath/spirit in us has the power to do this. We can do it. And we must. Do it.
That is why the church exists. To be a powerful, life-changing expression of the presence of Divine Love in the world. That’s what the Pentecost story is all about. If the church isn’t doing this, then does it matter if the church declines and dies? There will be a remnant. It will be where the wind/breath/spirit is pure and strong. And life giving. May we be that church!
You are invited to say with me the name of the person killed by the police in Minneapolis this week – George Floyd. Amen.
As you listen to the music from Hilton which follows, you are invited to notice the thoughts and feelings and that arise for you.
(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)