Imagining Something New

From Acts 2:1-21

There are people sitting in prisons—hoping for guidance and a kind word, desperate for redemption—aching for some good news. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are people languishing in hospital beds—lonely and afraid—uncertain about the future and yearning to see a friendly face. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are people living in cars and garages, on park benches, and under overpasses—suffering with the elements, bodies twisted with lack of comfort—longing for some hope…. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are people struggling to feed their families—some forced into the excruciating decision of who will get to eat tonight?—wishing there was sufficient community support for everyone. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are people sheltering-in-place who are wrestling with mental health issues and experiencing abuse aching for a life-line and a meaningful, life-giving connection with a friend. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are people stigmatized by the expression of their gender identity—who are shunned and criminalized—and who just want to know that they are seen and loved for who they are. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are immigrants and refugees fleeing from dangerous situations in their homelands—seeking a place of safety where their children might learn and grow and thrive—where they might be reassured that goodness and generosity are still alive. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are people of many different faiths who call this country home—who believe that God is big enough to be called by many names—trying to live out their spiritualties in life-giving and gracious ways—sharing the abundant resources of God’s creation. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
There are black people and brown people, and every race and mix in between—who are created in the image of God, and yet who are systemically made to feel less-than, inferior, insignificant, unimportant. They cry out to know if their lives matter. . . . Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
Now, I guarantee you that Peter and the other disciples gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate that first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection did not know how to meet all of the needs of all of the people who gathered as the earliest followers of Christ. This was a group of immigrants with distinct struggles and concerns, longings and hopes from all over the known world (“known” to the writer Luke in the 1st century, that is). They gathered to try to understand who they were, to feel connected to one another, to recall their histories—as well as to envision their future. They gathered—as we do—to try to find a sense of hope. And while Peter and the disciples did not come with all the answers, they slowed themselves down enough to listen. And they listened, and they heard in ways they could each understand. …
They heard the cries, the needs, the hopes, the fears, the uncertainties, the lamentations, the passions, the sufferings, the experiences of love and oppression and grace and injustice and healing.
But in order to hear this, fire had to burn away their resistance to the sounds and experiences of difference. A powerful African proverb says, “The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down just to feel its warmth.” They all wanted to be seen and heard—embraced and valued. And the Holy Spirit came to make that happen—to scorch them all—and to leave its mark that would bring them to life. Fire, after all, can be an agent of creation and renewal, purification and revelation. Think of Moses and the Burning Bush—or the heat from a forest fire triggering dormant seeds to pop open in the char and ash that is mysteriously rich soil ready to nurture forth new life. Or even the fires of protest, that we are currently experiencing, which push communities to the teetering precipice of crisis.
There may not be many gifts to be found in the fires of crisis—especially when it feels like the crisis ushers in so much destruction—but one gift crisis can offer—at both an individual and social level—is the opportunity for self-examination and communal-examination. And these examinations can lead to transformation and the imagining and creating of something entirely new. Fire can also be a sign of this transformation. The fires of crisis can bring us to the edge where profound change is possible—and necessary. It burns away the chaff until what is beautiful and precious and essential is revealed—delving into the depths of our hearts. But this does not mean that no pain is involved. 

Often times, reaching those deepest truths can sting and burn. They can cause great discomfort—but ultimately their work is grounded in love and offers hope for widening our circle and extending opportunities for greater flourishing for all those around us.
So when the Holy Spirit comes, it essentially uses its fiery breath to call us into crisis. (Can a fire of crisis be a Comforter/Helper?) It asks us if we are willing to heed the cries of our world, of our neighbors, of those experiencing injustice and desperate need. …
It asks us if we are willing to work to overcome our biases, our prejudices, our misgivings, our suspicions, our fears. It asks us if we are willing to stop deciding how we are going to try to control the situation, to correct the other, and come up with talking points. It asks us if we are willing to make ourselves vulnerable to all the human needs that meet us and surround us—and to sit in our discomfort of not knowing what to do and how to fix it. It asks us if we are willing to listen and be and respond in love. It asks us if we are willing to be the Church. And if we are, what is that church going to look like? What do we imagine the church should look like today?
The General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Rev. Terri Hord Owens recently said, “I want a church that loves so courageously that we will stand up and insist that the killing of black and brown people must stop, and will work to remove those in office who fail to enact laws and policy accordingly.
“I want a church that loves so radically that we are always putting up chairs to make room for more, always leaving empty chairs at the table, expecting that many more will come, turning no one away.
“I want a church that loves so generously that our priority will be the elimination of poverty, to ensure that everyone has enough to eat, safe and decent housing, healthcare, a living wage and quality education that is not based on your zip code.
“I want a church that loves so creatively that we are willing to dismantle structures, traditions, and processes that dishonor humanity and marginalize any among us. I want a church that loves so completely that we are not satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. I want a church that follows Jesus, and is therefore committed to work for all of this….”
I believe the Holy Spirit is calling each of us today to dig around in the ash and embers surrounding us and take part in the holy work of God in this time and place. To open up doors of new life that have been jammed closed. To commit ourselves to creating cracks of liberation for others to find. And to stand boldly in solidarity alongside all God’s beloved community. This is the church I hope for and imagine. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!


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