This week we celebrate the mighty wind, spirit, breath that rushed in on the day of Pentecost and filled not just the disciples, but everyone gathered from many nations, and they were given a new understanding of the Gospel. Each person heard, or understood, the good news in a way that was personal, and relatable. Because of the breath of the spirit many voices were raised in praise and prophecy; and their hearts burned within them as the spirit revealed a tongue so universal that went beyond intellect and language and explanation. It was a spiritual awakening so dramatic and so powerful it reminded Peter of the prophetic words of Joel- "In the last days, says God, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh- and there will be prophesy, and visions, and dreams, and the spirit will be everywhere- on everyone, even slaves, all people- in the heavens above and the earth below and nothing will seem the same- everything we knew to be true or knew to expect gets turned on it's head- the sun will be dark and the moon red... and all who call on God- shall be saved... eternal life... knowing God.
That's pentecost... the day when our separateness was both revealed and reversed- by a mighty wind, by spirit- by breath.
'Breath' has been an Important word this week. We speak about It at our church as the Ruach Spirit, Breath of life... what God, YHWH, breathed into creation- The very name YHWH, though we moderns have added vowels, was in Hebrew, unpronounceable- Y H W H- Say it in the rhythm of your own breathing- in and out- and this very sacred and unpronounceable name emerges from the sound of our own breath... Y H W H...Y H W H...Y H W H... it is our personal and constant reminder that God's spirit is present in our every breath... and moves through us, entering in to fill us with what we need and flowing out again to fill the world with God's intention and grace...
This Is the purpose of the church... to breathe in God’s spirit and breathe out the creative gracious healing life giving spirit into the community that has so long been denied breath... into the lives of the least of these... on the sick, and the homeless and the hopeless... with our breath free the captives, liberate the oppressed, breathe out equity and fairness… and to breathe with strength enough to bring wholeness... to right wrongs... with enough force to push past the crushed throat trapped on a curb under the knee of power; and fill collapsed lungs constricted by white supremacy and racism, and respond with compassion to the pleas and prayers of those begging for breath...
300 seconds... it's been with me all week... 300 seconds... that's how long George Floyd cried and begged and prayed for breath... 300 seconds.... you can't watch the video without getting sick to your stomach...
And each time we hear of another "incident" ... where breath has been denied... it breaks our heart- and brings our attention back to the pervasive cry for breath that mostly falls on deaf ears… because we, well, the privileged, have a tendency to forget, or ignore, or deny- and yes, we hope, we pray, it will be the last... that someone, some thing, will finally free the legs immobilized by systems of power and injustice...and for God's sake, help this man to his feet.
So this week, Minneapolis and cities across the country are burning; the lines of separation more defined as anger rises- 'HE' need to stop', 'they need to be heard', 'we' feel enraged... us vs. them...
We pray... for strength, for understanding, for guidance, for protection, we pray for God to do something- "fix it... please... God... Jesus... Spirit... come like a mighty wind, fall like tongues of fire, where are you God, where are you YHWH? YHWH... Y H W H... Y H W H"
Please breathe with me... Y H W H... Y H W H... Y H W H...
That is the most beautiful sound in the universe... The church together, as one, calling out and calling on the name of God with every breath... Church, we don't have to look for where God is... that Y H W H is in our every breath... Do you realize the implications of this? The enormity of the realization that we hold within us and the power of the Holy Spirit- called and able to bring healing- to bring wholeness- to bring breath? A big calling? You bet it is! In the words of Paul- This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant… God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who God is, and we know who we are. Romans 8:15-16
We know who we are- we know what we are called to- We sang It last week- we are called to act in justice, to love tenderly, to serve one another, to walk humbly with God... and yes, it’s a huge calling! When most of us have all to do to make it through the day, called to also fight racism and white supremacy? Dismantle systems of injustice and greed and corruption? My God!
It's more than any of us can even think about doing on our own- more even than just one community of faith could tackle on their own. It's going to take all of us, every one of us who just dared take a Sacred breath, and those yet to call God's name, to stand up and realize that together, we have the power within us to heal, to restore, and fix, and create... and until we do, none of us will be able to breathe fully.
This Is Pentecost church... our birthday celebration... when we take stock of who we are and whose we are and how we got to here... we wonder what’s happening to the church and how we ended up so divided- we look for that dramatic movement of the Spirit for such a time as this- but my friends, our calling for such a time as this is the same as it has been since the day of Pentecost...
On that day of Pentecost, for that one moment, before they all went back home with their individual tribes and denominations and associations, the people of God glimpsed what it looked like to be one people- each heard the same message in their own language- a gift beyond measure- they were one people.
2000 years later, when we are in a time in our history when we are "gathered" all in the same place- before we go back to our own churches and buildings and tribes... can we take this opportunity to glimpse the same jaw dropping sight! This Pentecost, the day when our separateness is both revealed and reversed, when we've been forced for recognize and rely on our spirit connection more than ever, can we answer a collective call, as the church of Jesus Christ, for such a time as this- and allow the Spirit to reverse our separateness? We need each other… only with many voices raised in prophesy and praise and protest and petition and peace will we be able to live out our calling as the church of Jesus Christ- only as one people can we breathe with force enough to fill the lungs of a world crying out for breath… One people… for such a time as this!