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Visions from The Catacombs, Week before June 4, 2017

Acts 2:1-21

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

What I Am Learning:

Today I enjoyed a conversation about this reading with a group of pastors. It was a great conversation.

We realized how often we reduce this reading to an event, believable or not, that happened to a bunch of people a long time ago. We also reduce it to the "birthday of the church" which can function to bless the church as it is.

After a lot of wrestling, we came to this:

Pentecost happens every time people are led by Spirit to hopeful and risking love with and for others.

Notice I did not say, "every time Christians are led by God."

I believe that too, but I would not want to claim to limit the movement of Spirit, which blows where it will.

For Christians, the character of this hopeful and risky love is embodied in the life, ministry, death, resurrection and empowerment of his followers of Jesus Christ. When Christians are led by Spirit to such activity, we do so as a part of the ongoing life of Christ in the world. We take up our cross, that is our hopeful and risking love, each day as we walk with Jesus in his way of healing and new creation in the world.

In this reading we see that this hopeful and risking love spread out to and back from the wide earth – that the waves of healing and new creation God initiates in and through us  are felt in places we cannot imagine.

In this reading we see that each person, young and old, men and women and people of every culture and time are motivated by the Spirit to join in.

Pentecost is a text about the Spirit's power to move even unlikely people from their isolation into public ministry: these were Galileans and some of them were women, speaking in public against the culture of the time.

One of the things that changed for me today, was the idea that it was not the language of the Galileans that changed, but rather the Spirit made people with many languages hear one another.

In a time when we are stuck in isolation and despair, when we don't seem to hear one another well, the Spirit is moving us again into the streets to listen and speak, but mostly to listen.

On a train in Portland last weekend, three men with very different political views stood between a man who was yelling at and threatening two Muslim women. All three were stabbed, two died.

As one of them died he said, "Tell all the people on the train I love them."

Is this not the Spirit of Jesus, who said, "Father forgive them as they don't know what they are doing"?

Is this not an action of Spirit in a world of hate and indifference?

The Holy-Wind continues to blow, sisters and brothers.

While it calls all of us to hopeful and risking love we should be careful not rank such love. The Spirit is calling each person and community to their own risking, hopeful love. I believe that this calling is not to make us something more or different from who we are, but to invite us to be who God is making us to be.

It is sufficient for a meaningful life to be moved by the Spirit in such hopeful and risking love as we are called to.

May it blow us, and all of God's children, into hopeful and risking love for and with others, that in this fractured time we might again see each other as human, and not just hear one another, but listen as if it matters – because it does.