As I continue to prepare my sermon for tomorrow’s worship – it’s Pentecost Sunday! – I seem to have a lot of different ideas swirling through my head. So I thought I would share them with you. Welcome to the chaos that is my brain function!
1. First of all there’s the scripture for the week: Acts 2:1-21. At the Festival of Pentecost God’s Holy Spirit births the church in the followers of Jesus. The Spirit is made known and she is awesome & powerful!
2. Turning as I often do to The Hardest Question, finds the Rev. Russell Rathbun musing: “The church is born fifty days after the resurrection, (pentecost means “fifty”), which is also the gestation period of crocodiles, goats and green beans. I don’t think too much significance should be drawn from that, but there might be something there.”
Ok, I don’t really know what that means or has to do with Pentecost, but it sure is intriguing, no?
3. This comes, of all places, from an email ad from Paraclete Press (and really, could there be a better source for the coming of God’s Holy Spirit than Paraclete Press?!?)
“What if humanity came together in the light & spirit poured out at Pentecost? …In such a society all people would find their place, neither lost in the collective, nor alienated and alone outside of it. This ideal requires urgency in the age of globalization. Can we live together and touch the Divine?” – Fr. Seraphim Sigrist, A Life Together: Wisdom of Community from the Christian East
I shone a red spotlight on a rotating mirror ball.
So not only is the rock on fire, but red light reflects off the mirror ball. And so as the mirror ball rotates, little red lights move all over the church, all over people.
And at the end of the OT, a prophet named Joel has a dream. That one day every person, old and young, men and woman, can have the Spirit.
And at Pentecost, the dream of Joel becomes real. The spirit falls on everyone in the church.
No longer do just special people get to lit the pumice rock. Now the red light of the mirrorball falls on everyone. Everyone has the Spirit.
(Read more here Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial)
My first thought was, “We own a vehicle that’s named after spiritual apathy? How the hell did I let that happen?!?” But then I realized that’s Acadia. Whew! Clawson writes:
It’s not that I don’t see tremendous value in contemplation or think that we all need to practice self-care, but that perhaps we need to alter the most basic ways we view ourselves in the world. We are not rugged individuals dependant on getting our own relationship with God right; we are members of the body of Christ, existing in relationship with God and others at all times. Our gifts are meant to be shared eucharistically in community. It is a way of living that the philosophy of Ubuntu that Desmond Tutu writes about refers to. It is living, not for oneself, but as a member of a community where one is “open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
The last thing the American church needs are more messages telling us to focus on ourselves. Guilt trips and shoulds don’t help much either, for our “it’s all about me” mentality knows how to resist anything that makes demands on our self. It will take a drastic change in mindset to move us past our “I think, therefore I don’t give a crap about anyone but myself” operating system. I think for the church to not only get over this plague of acedia, but to survive it, we must start thinking communally. As Ubuntu thought states, “I am because we are.” We belong to God which means we belong to each other. Embracing that relational identity may perhaps be our only hope.
If you want to change yourself, your community, or the world, you must first understand the power of story. And the most powerful stories aren’t on television or at the movies, rather, they are the stories we tell to each other in the way we live our lives. If you understand what makes a good story, you understand what makes a good life.
Your story flows out of who you are, not who you ought to be. If you don’t know your own story, you are lost.
7. And just what is our story? On the United Methodist Worship blog, Dr. Heather Josselyn Cranson reminds us that God is saving and redeeming the whole creation, not just human beings! Thus we must consider our story in the midst of the whole of God’s story:
N.T. Wright, with much of historical Christianity, is clear about this: God’s goal for all things will be accomplished not by removing what is salvageable from “this present darkness” into some ethereal state, but rather by a new, physical creation in which sin and death are no more.
Resurrection of individuals leaves us hoping for a solely human future. What of the rest of the created order? Indeed, how can humans even be humans apart from our connections with the environment and the other creatures with whom we live and move and have our being? If bodily resurrection is proclaimed in our services without sufficient attention to new creation, can we be said to be proclaiming bodily resurrection at all?
It can help Christians see our calling to work for God’s kingdom both in the here-and-now as well as in the age to come. And it gives a much-needed correction to our habit of seeing religion, faith, and death in terms of the individual rather than in terms of God’s entire cosmos.
8. and of course, playing behind everything…the soundtrack to my life.
So, who’s ready for an hour-long sermon? Yeah, neither am I, actually. Guess I’ve got some trimming/sorting/discerning to do!
What jumps out at you from these resources? What other Pentecost thoughts have you?