Today's Lectionary Text
Then the Lord became jealous for his land,
I will remove the northern army far from you,
Do not fear, O soil;
O children of Zion, be glad
I will repay you for the years
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
So this Pentecost felt surreal in a dozen ways. There were no church crowds flocked in red. The celebration was through “likes”, text messages, and isolated collegial enjoyment. The Church celebrated her birthday behind closed doors. But maybe this makes this passage from Joel even more profound. We are a people waiting for harvest, longing for a gathering around a table of feast, gratitude, and renewal.
And, in this stark time, it also reminds of this: God is always on the side of the oppressed, the poor, and the struck down. Always. And while I don’t think it’s in God’s nature to have a favorite kid, sometimes we force a decision. When we are silent in the face of radical injustice, when we normalize or justify marginalizing behavior or prop up systems that create inequality – we have to be reminded again about God’s giant heart for “the least of these.” So it’s no secret that the more comfortable I am, the more self-righteous and justified I feel, the more superior in my intellect and reason, the less likely I am to inhabit the space of vigilant looking for “God at work” that those in the margins tend to desperately live in on the regular.
There are so many beautiful things that turn up when we start talking about the Holy Spirit and the experiences people have recorded throughout our human history. The very etymology of the word is viscerally moving. Pnuema in the Greek writings. Ruach in the Hebrew. Wind, breath. The life force that animates, creates, and inspires – like oxygen in the lungs and air in the nostrils.
So maybe it’s less about snake handlers, healings, and demons cast out. Those are amazing and I don’t pretend to understand, but we’re chasing the wind here. If we want to see and experience the Holy Spirit – the pnuema and ruach – we are called to look for signs of life.
This week my news alerts and social media feeds were filled with an image frozen in time: a black man face down on the concrete, hands behind his back, while a white police officer pinned him down with a knee to his throat. All of the world watched George Floyd die. As the life was stolen from his body, he begged: I can’t breathe.
I think, for the 2 minutes and 53 seconds George Floyd lay unresponsive and without life beneath an oppressor’s knee, the Holy Spirit lost her breath too.
If we want to see miracles of healing, people speaking in tongues to cross language barriers, great revivals of love, then we need to go where the winds of inspiration blow. It’s lazy faith and cheap hope to believe the Holy Spirit is only ecstasy and joy, people dancing in aisles and men with arms outstretched on mountain tops. There is power in the wind. It can overturn, disturb, unseat structures from their foundations. The Spirit is present in the breathless last words of George Floyd, in the final exhale of Ahmaud Arbery, the terrified gasp of Breonna Taylor. Our attention is commanded by systems that are shaking from an invisible force bearing down from the outside – a wind blowing while our sons and daughters speak truth to power, our elders dream with us, and those who have a vision for the future will lead us. This, my friends – my Church – is our Pentecost.
Lincoln Trinity UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Creator God - Spirit, Sustainer, Inspiration: bear with us in this time to provoke us when too comfortable with injustice, warm us when love is needed and desired, and inspire us to be the builders of a true, just, and beautiful world. We are a people in need of your hope and your courage. May the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven through us. In the name of Jesus our Redeemer, Amen.
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