Today’s sermon is a dramatic reading:
Mary of Magdala
A Pentecost Story by Ralph Milton
Adapted by David Boyd
John: John Pengelly. Peter: David. Mary: Robyn. Narrator: Robin.
Peter: Close the window, will you, John. (Irritated) All that singing out there is getting on my nerves.
Mary: Peter. (Gently) It is, after all, the feast of Pentecost. This is a happy festival. And they don’t share our sorrow, Peter.
Peter: Right! But I don’t have to listen to it. (Angrily) Any new business? (Silence) Ok, then!
John: So, what do we do now? Should we put up a monument or something? People are already starting to forget that Jesus even existed.
Narrator: Others said, unenthusiastically, that they could maybe collect some money and then put up a monument. A statue of Jesus. Or something… The gloom hung like a damp cloud over the disciples the group of people who had known Jesus, who have loved him, who had heard his voice, who had felt and seen the hope for a new way of living together in love. And then they had watched him die. Some had seen a resurrected Jesus, but the others didn’t really believe their story. Now they were huddled together, a kind of memorial society for Jesus of Nazareth. Somehow it seemed important to stay together, but nobody really knew why.
Mary: It’s stifling in here. I’m going to open a window!
Peter: Mary, don’t!
Mary: Peter, we need some fresh air in here!
Peter: Whatever! You always did do what you wanted to anyway. (Muttering)
Mary: Ahhh, feel that breeze. That feels good.
Narrator: And then Mary began to sing. It was an old song she had known since her childhood, a song she had often sung with Mary the mother of Jesus.
Mary: My soul magnifies our God, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour… (Quietly and then growing in intensity) God has helped the servant Israel, God remembers all the promises that were made to Abraham and Sarah, and to all their descendents, for ever, and ever, and ever…
John: Sarah’s not in the song. You’ve changed the words. You can’t do that!
Mary: She’s in the song, now.
Narrator: Mary sang the song over and over, with the new words. Some of the other women joined in. And then—will wonders never cease—they started dancing. They danced their pent-up anger and grief and frustration and confusion. They danced out the hope, the tiny, fragile hope they still had in spite of all that had happened. They danced and they sang. At first, the men disapproved, then they, too, began to smile, then some of them joined in the singing and dancing. Even Peter couldn’t sustain his grump. The wind picked up and blew hard through the room. They opened other windows and sang louder and danced harder. Something was happening to them. Something electric. Something crackling with energy. Something had taken hold of their spirits and was moving them, motivating them. Faces soon appeared at the windows. The door opened. Curious neighbours looked in—neighbours and their guests who had gathered from everywhere for the feast of Pentecost. As they looked, curious at first, they realized that the people were all drunk. “They’re drunk,” one person said disgustedly.
John: We’re not drunk. At least not with wine. Maybe something else…
Peter: Sit down and I’ll tell you what’s going on: Do you remember the prophet Joel? Joel prophesied that the Spirit of God would be poured out on all people. ‘Your sons and daughter shall prophesy,” Joel said. And that’s what you saw.
Mary: Jesus of Nazareth? Do you remember him? He was killed. He was crucified. But he promised he would send the Spirit again in a new way. Well, this it. This is IT!
Narrator: They all began to dance and sing again. Peter danced with a slow, awkward, passionate grace, with intensity and power and with a brightness in his eyes that literally sent shivers through the folks standing by. They tried many times to describe what happened that Pentecost day. Some said they saw tongues of fire dancing over their heads. Others remembered speaking in strange tongues or singing in strange tongues, which everyone seemed to understand. Sometimes they would argue about what happened that day.
Mary: Stop arguing. Does it matter? We know the Spirit came to us that day and filled us with excitement and love and passion. That’s the part that’s important. The Spirit can come in a hundred different ways to many different people. It doesn’t matter how. It only matters that we’re open to the Spirit and that we respond with our lives!
David: That Pentecost Spirit is still alive in the Church and in the World. It’s just different this year. We are still people of the Church whether we gather in a building or watch a worship service on the computer. We are still the Church because the Spirit is alive in us and all life, filling us with breath and the hope that life will find a new expression of joy, hope and gratitude.
The Spirit is at work in people who are protesting against the deaths of Black people around the world because of systemic racism. The Spirit is at work in the quest for human rights in Hong Kong or in Brazil, or 1st Nations rights in Canada and around the world. The Spirit is at work in Flint, Michigan, and other places where police and protestors created a parade together. The Spirit is at work in healing communities broken by COVID-19 and in the recovery of the earth.
So, take a deep breath! Take several. And as you do, remember that the Spirit of God is closer to you than even your breath. You breathe in the Spirit’s love and you breathe out your blessing for the whole world. Who knows, maybe fire yet in the breath that you breathe in and out!