May 31, 2020

Pentecost Sunday Online Worship 2020

Passage: Acts 2:1-21

I think that as I have struggled this week to find the right words and the right message, not just for Pentecost, but for what we have been experiencing as a country this week.  I’m struck by the words of those who heard the disciples “what does this all mean?”  Indeed, what does this all mean?

I’m struck, as you were looking at these pictures of the different depictions and art of Pentecost you see so many from around the world.  There is so much diversity.  What does this all mean?  Have you ever thought about that?  Have you thought about the diversity that was there, that was present, on the day of Pentecost.

We go through that list of all the people from all the different nations in this scripture and so many of our ears and eyes are so used to reciting and reading this passage, that we glaze over it.  We see that there are pilgrims from all over the civilized world at that time in Jerusalem.  Some pilgrims had come from as far away as Rome, perhaps even further, because it was a Jewish festival as well celebrating at this time.  And they came and were part of this and were witnesses to the falling of the spirit and they could hear it in these languages, in their own languages.

And I thought, these men are Galileans, how can I understand their tongue and how can I understand what they are saying?  I can hear it in my own language!  I can hear it!

Those things that stop our ears when we are around those who speak a language other than our own, because we can’t understand we tune out the spirit.  They broke those barriers out , those earplugs, and made able those to hear what was going on.

There’s another stained glass window that is in a church in South Africa that depicts Pentecost. . . shows picture.  This passage this week, living through watching on television what is transpiring in so many cities across our country leaves me with more questions than answers.  It makes me wonder what I have not heard, what I have not seen clearly through Christ’s eyes.

I must acknowledge for myself as a white male that the structures of our culture and society has built in in me that it is hard to see my own privilege and advantage that I have for just being who I am.  And I acknowledge that it’s even harder to let go of these privileges, yet, I feel compelled this morning to speak to that, not for you, but for me.

What is it that the Holy Spirit is calling for us to hear this day, this Pentecost Day?  Cries for help?  You know, as we see these depictions we see and we hear for those that are part of the crowd.  Those who are asking, what does this all mean?  Others sneered and said, oh, there’re just drunk, discounting them.

They were different than what they were hearing.  I don’t want to be indifferent.  And I’m not indifferent.  When I watch the news and I see a man die before my very eyes.  I cannot be indifferent about that.  I think the spirit is speaking to me.  I cannot be indifferent.  That is wrong, it is sin.

Lord help us hear those cries of help.  “I can’t breathe.”  And Lord I wonder for myself whether I can breathe knowing that I’m part of that.  What is the Holy Spirit calling for me to hear?  I cannot be ambivalent going back and forth.  Even how people have reacted to this, I’m not ambivalent to it.

I don’t believe violence is an answer to anything.  But, voices need to be heard.  The cries need to be heard.  People are crying out.  What is it that the Holy Spirit is calling for me to hear?  How should I respond?  With fear?  With anger?  Maybe righteous anger.

At Pentecost, on that Day of Pentecost, they talked about repentance.  Repentance is something where you are turning from one place and turning to another.  Before I can repent, and this is a lifelong journey that I have been on, with my sense of privilege, I didn’t even in myself or the luxuries, or the opportunities that it afforded me.  When I started to hear it I believe that the spirit began to open my ears and my eyes to that so that I could begin to understand it.  So that I might begin to turn from that and repent of it.

You see, though, I don’t think that we can begin to turn until something, until we begin to hear.  You know how that is when you’re at a crosswalk and you’re talking to your friend and not paying attention and you hear a horn blaring and you step back onto the curb.  You turn to see a car coming and you step back, you turned.  Sometimes we have to hear and see something to get our attention.  To acknowledge that so that we can turn.

How is the Holy Spirit calling me to respond when I hear and see racism in myself or in others?  I believe the Spirit is calling me to confront it, to name it, to expose it, to help others hear and see it, so that the voices of Pentecost may fully ring and that we can hear and breathe in the Spirit of Christ.  That we might grow in the Spirit and that I might be a better person for that.

My friend Reverend Gary Nelson always likes to conclude his things with “how about you?”  And another one who I follow, retired Bishop Ernest Light, likes to conclude his essays with “think about it.”  Think about it, pray about it, meditate on it.  And then, through the Spirit, allow the Spirit to help us make this place a better place, starting with me, starting with you.  In the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may we say, Amen.