The readings for Sunday, May 20, 2018, Pentecost:
First Reading: Acts 2:1-21
First Reading (Alt.): Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm: Psalm 104:25-35, 37 (Psalm 104:24-34, 35b NRSV)
Second Reading: Romans 8:22-27
Second Reading (Alt.): Acts 2:1-21
Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the event that sets into motion the events that will form the church as we know it. In mainline churches, Pentecost often gets overlooked. It doesn't have the gift giving potential of other holidays; it doesn't have any special candies or foods (although I see lots of potential here--flame shaped chocolates, anyone?). But I think the real reason that Pentecost has gotten the short shrift is that the events of Pentecost make many of us nervous.
Speaking in languages we don't ourselves understand? Evangelizing to strangers? No wonder we don't spend much time contemplating the meanings of Pentecost for modern life.
But maybe we should. Many North Americans are members of a church that is in clear crisis. Some of these crises explode on the national stage. Almost every expression of mainstream Protestant churches has come close to schism over a variety of issues in the last 10 years, and the Catholic church still have a variety of problems that loom over it.
And even if we put the schism-causing issues aside, it's hard to deny that many congregations are institutions in trouble. We face declining membership, declining donations. It's unclear how long many individual churches can keep limping along.
We celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church, but we often fail to mention that this birthing, with all its pain and messiness, is an ongoing process. We tend to look back at the early days of the Church with idealistic vision, but if we carefully reread the letters of Paul, we see that those churches had just as many problems as our current churches. We tend to see ourselves as deficient, but we don't have the longer view.
If we let the Holy Spirit loose in our home churches, what might happen? If we trusted in the transforming power of God, what changes might we see, both in our individual lives and in the lives of our church bodies?
On this festival day, revel in the promise of renewal that God offers. Be alert for new visions and different directions. Trust that desiccated ruins--whether that be our lives, our Church, our neighborhoods, our planet--can be reinvigorated.
feeling the feelings…
1 year ago