Day of Pentecost

Jun 1, 2020

Acts 2:1-21

Today is our day to remember
how God the Holy Spirit fell like fire on the disciples of Jesus–
these divided tongues of fire rested on them
and, suddenly, they were able to speak good news in the languages
of people gathered in Jerusalem from across the empire.

We mark this day, with all its symbolism of red, of fire,
as Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Richmond, Los Angeles are smoldering and ablaze.
As citizens protest the murder of George Floyd,
a black man made in God’s image and our brother in Christ,
and the systems; the windowless, doorless corridor of structures;
the history that led to that asphalt and that knee.

The Pentecost story is about communion.
God chooses that the Spirit touches the disciples, rests on them,
and there is union between God and human creatures.
And, moving around and in them, what happens in them by the Spirit
is the possibility of connection with people they do not know,
and do not understand. It’s a miracle of communion,
a miracle of community; it is the whole story of God with us.

When we tell the Pentecost story, on the day of Pentecost especially,
we tend to celebrate with these suddenly aflame,
suddenly multi-lingual apostles overflowing with words and testimony,
and who are about to begin wondrous, and adventurous lives.

But sometimes we’re the Phrygians in the story.
We’re the Parthians. We’re the ones perplexed.
We’re the unnerved ones saying, ‘What does this mean?’
Sometimes we’re the ones sneering.

We who are white,
who are followers of Jesus,
and who’s identity as Christians
is shaped by a denomination that is largely white,
do not, and can not, speak with authority about American racism,
or about dismantling the white supremacy that poisons us.

The Spirit that inspires that truth,
the Spirit that can liberate us from that,
is, and has always been, in the voices
of those who are under the knee,
and who live in fear of it,
and always have. Who cannot breathe.

Some of the crowd on the day of Pentecost
heard the words with perfect clarity, but without meaning,
and still decided the messengers were drunk.

If the man who killed George Floyd had believed him,
he would be alive. But he didn’t. You’re talking fine,
says one of the officers in the video.
He didn’t even believe the testimony of his unconscious body.

It is heard by God.

What language will we understand it in?

Come, Holy Spirit, and make us hear
in a way that changes us.
Undo our instinct to step to the front and to explain,
and help us to surrender more and more deeply,
our confidence that white experiences of life in this country define reality.
Weaken us to listen, and not speak or correct or calm or smooth or justify ourselves,
until we have learned what to do with our power
for love’s sake.

 

** Note: There are many places to begin the work of learning about systemic racism that leads to concrete individual and collective action, which is the only learning that matters. One place is Responding to Racist Violence, a collection of resources to support prayer, understanding, and action compiled by the Episcopal Church.