May 19, 2013  — Day of Pentecost

Rev. David Boyd

 

This wonderfully graphic story from Acts is the story of the beginning of the Church. It is the Church's birth day. We need to remember, however, that it is not the end of the story. For Luke, in some ways, it is just the beginning. For Luke, the Church is the Spirited vessel of the gospel that Jesus lived, that is, to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of God's favour.

We hear this prophetic speech at the beginning of Luke's gospel when Jesus, possessed by the Spirit after his baptism and trial in the desert, stands up in his synagogue and proclaims the words of Isaiah about the good news being shared. Luke, in both his own Gospel and in Acts, speaks of the Spirit's presence that takes us in new directions. Jesus' ministry began with the Spirit and the Church's ministry began with the Spirit; our ministry continues with the Spirit.

The miracle of Pentecost and the birth of the Church is that the Spirit facilitates understanding between people of diverse backgrounds and cultural experience. The long list of people that were visiting Jerusalem during the Festival of Weeks is great (and difficult to pronounce). And yet they all understood each other. Those cultural differences still exist, but there is a more fundamental unity that is exposed, that of being human. The miracle of Pentecost is that people were able to commune with each other, they were able to enter into each other's hearts in a new way, and they were able to move beyond language and to deeply communicate with one another.

We stand in that legacy of Pentecost. The Spirit is present to us giving us energy to connect to one another at a deep level. In Israel and Palestine, there is a movement of person to person peace-making. It's not just in Israel Palestine, and is around the world. This is the idea that peace happens when one heart meets another heart and there is a willingness to engage the other. This isn't one peace group reaching out to another peace group, although that is part of it. It is one person deciding that enough bloodshed has occurred and "I need to meet that which I call stranger. I need to engage them heart to heart." Remember the movie with Samuel Jackson and Matthew McConaughey in A Time to Kill. It's a movie about an African American man who kills the two rapists of his 10-year old daughter. Carl is charged with their murder and Jake defends him. At one point, Jake tells Carl that they are going to lose the trial and Carl then tells Jake that the reason he hired him was because he was white and part of the racist system. Jake protests, but Carl says that their children will never play together; they'll never have a picnic together; they'll never be friends. Well, as the movie progresses, the very last seen is Jake and his family arriving at Carl's celebration picnic, the only white folks at an African-American feast. That's Pentecost.

As we finish up our stewardship campaign, we do so surrounded by the words that you shared about what you appreciate about this church. We want to do more of that. The Spirit calls us, indeed has anointed us: to care for each other and the world, to work with others in living a justice society, to work with creation in cleaning up the environment, to speak justice to oppression and hope to despair. This coming year is about living out our Pentecost—not Pentecostal, mind you!—origins. We are Pentecost people, given the Spirit to proclaim the good news of love, hope and new life. That Pentecost long was ago was just the beginning.

Today, it continues. And tomorrow and the day after that. Come, O Holy Spirit, set your Church on fire! And the people say with a loud voice... "AMEN!"