May 31, 2020

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 3
1 Corinthians 12:3-13
John 20:19-23

As we rolled into week 11 of doing all we can to help stop the spread of COVID19 it was impossible to imagine the world could get any heavier.  But it did. The death of George Floyd at the hand of a police officer, as well as the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked a powder keg that’s long been building pressure. 

The anger being expressed in our world feels like defeat from the church’s perspective, and I found myself asking, “What good has coming to this building week after week done us?” 

Bishop Stephen Charleston, retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska and former dean of Episcopal Divinity School, said this, “One man dies in the street, pleading for his life, and overnight those streets erupt in anger at the injustice, not only for that dreadful moment, but for a lifetime of oppression. One hundred thousand die from a virus, all innocent victims of a heartless disease, but a balance of color sows more die from one community than others. Racism breads death, either visibly for all the world to see, or silently, hidden beneath the statistics and the excuses.  May the Spirit empower us to face this reality and not turn away: racisms is as virulent as Covid-19, infecting people who seem to have no outward symptoms, until behavior reveals their disease. The vaccine for racism is injustice, the cure is equality, and the prevention is love.”

Today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate our commission as The Church – God’s chosen way of being visible in this world, the body of all who follow Jesus in the Way of Love.  Today we are celebrating the culmination of all that Jesus teaches us.  And I don’t much feel like celebrating.  Do you?  

And yet, God reminds me that it is more important now than ever.  The world needs us to show who God calls us to be – 

a people of love and compassion, 

a people of equality and justice, 

a people of forgiveness and grace.  

Because Jesus didn’t come from God to give us a get out of eternal jail free card for when we die.  

He came to teach us a better way to live right now where we are in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  

He came to show us how to live relationally rather than transactionally.  

He came to show us how to walk with God in the way of Love.

Pentecost is the day we celebrate our invitation to participate with God in the redemption of this world – 

to work with Jesus to re-set us on the course that God intends by showing the world how to find God in all things and in every circumstance and in every human being, by showing the world God’s love. 

We participate in this redemption of the world by speaking love into situations of hate, seeking justice in unjust systems.

And by acknowledging our own complicity in the systems of this world that seek to reduce the value of some lives by inflating the value of others.  

God came to us as Jesus and breathed into us the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to bring the justice and peace and love of the Heavenly Kingdom to earth. 

We don’t fight hate by taking sides.  

We fight hate by loving.  

We fight hate by speaking against hateful acts and refusing to hate back.  

We fight hate with compassion, not ignoring harmful and damaging behavior but by holding everyone accountable to the same degree as we would hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior, no more no less.  

We fight hate by seeing everyone as God sees and loves us all.

We fight hate with the knowledge that every single human life is more valuable than any thing.

We fight hate by realizing that the way the world has done things for thousands of years hasn’t stopped people from hating each other and deciding to try Jesus’ way of love instead.  

We fight hate by letting go of our individualized way of living and living for the greater good of all.  Re-membering ourselves as the body of Christ, interconnected and interdependent from the very core of our being.  

The Church isn’t in competition with the systems of the world and The Church wasn’t commissioned to hide out from the world.  WE as the church are to live in and among the systems of this world to show a better way, to show THE WAY of love is more powerful than every other way of being.  

In his book “Thank you for being Late” Thomas Friedman asks his rabbi a question about the presence of God. 

The rabbi answers, “unless we bear witness to God’s presence by our own good deeds, God is not present. Unless we behave as though God were running things, God isn’t running things. 

We are responsible for making God’s presence manifest by what we do, by the choices we make. 

The rabbi continues: God celebrates a universe with such human freedom because [God] knows that the only way [God] is truly manifest in the world is not if [God] intervenes but if we all choose sanctity and morality in an environment where we are free to choose anything. (Pg339)

The world feels heavy, and with God’s help, we can all work to make it better – to make it the dream that God intends rather than the nightmare it often is (Bp Michael Curry).  

From the midst of our pain and anguish, we can see things from a different perspective.  God is with us and we must reveal the God of love to the hurting world, because that will ease our pain, too.  

So, on this birthday of the church, I am so very grateful for the opportunity for all of us to see who we are as The Church, not from within our buildings but from without – a church dispersed in this world to show and share God’s love because that is the whole point and purpose of our gathering – to be equipped and empowered to GO and BE The Church in all that we think, do, and say.  This challenging time isn’t defeat, it’s a gift of the greatest opportunity possible to spread God’s love.  

It’s a time to live into our baptism covenant.  

In your book of common prayer, turn with me to page 304, to the Baptism Covenant. If you don’t have it, your response to each of the following questions is “I will, with God’s help.”  

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? 

I will, with God’s help. 

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? 

I will, with God’s help.

So let’s Celebrate our birth as the church – one body of people, unified by the power of the Holy Spirit, Created by the God of Love, following the one who redeems us all as we walk the Way of Love.  Hear Jesus say, “peace be with you.  As the Father sends me, so I send you.”  May the Spirit empower us all to face the reality of our world and do our work to make it better.  Amen.  

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