"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “… what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Today is Pentecost. It is the day that we wear red, red shirts, red hats, and red stoles. It's the day when we celebrate the blessing of the Holy Spirit on the city of Jerusalem. It is the day we celebrate the first official gospel sermon by the apostle Peter, the spoken and heard word in different languages, and the baptism and the conversion of the 3,000.
Now, when I started planning for this day, we were in a very different place. A different place than we had been 4 months ago and a very different place then we are today. When I started to plan for this sermon, we were consumed by living in “stay at home” mode, working with what a “new normal” looks like and dealing with how to get place to place safely. We were singularly focused on how to navigate through the mess and discern true medical and scientific facts from those we hold in question. On top of that it seems that we were riveted by the news and the extra healthy portion of political reporting.
|Photo Credit ABC News|
Also…when I started planning for this Sunday, the USA had not launched a rocket filled with astronauts into space in almost a decade, we had not yet watched a video in which one of our African American brothers, George Floyd, died at the hands of four public servants who were entrusted with his safety, and we were not struggling with the set of emotions that comes with all of that.
Yesterday, from the safety of my couch, I watched the rocket launch on one screen of my computer. And on another screen, I watched as people from all age, race, color and religious groups gathered into crowds and marched the streets of our cities protesting racism.
|Photo Credit CNN|
The dichotomy was strange. My emotions were high. I was excited about the rocket launch. An American achievement to be proud of. I counted the hours, the minutes and the seconds until I heard the word IGNITION. And I cheered. But my emotions were also very low because racism is alive and well, all across the nation. I watched people with signs chant Black Lives Matter. And I watched others scream if you don’t like it here then leave. I watched the two screens, and I cried.
During the Pentecost of Acts, in Jerusalem there were crowds of people gathered for a united purpose; the celebration of the feast of weeks. The sound from the mass of people gathered there was likely so loud that you could not hear individual voices but instead just one loud sound.
Today people are also gathering in crowds for a united purpose; to speak the truth about racism and the treatment of people of color. In the streets of America today, there are thousands of voices uniting as one voice. And the sound is loud.
In the Acts Pentecost story, the disciples were in Jerusalem. For fear of their lives, they were hiding out. They didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, lest they be recognized as a member of that Jesus group and be singled out only to end up dead just like their friend Jesus. It was very dangerous for them to be out and about in the midst of the chaos of current events.
There they were sitting in that house, eating, resting and praying. Sitting in relative comfort, just like I was sitting on my couch in my own house yesterday. Safe inside my own four walls.
Now I won’t be too hard on the disciples. They were waiting there because Jesus had told them to. And when Jesus tells us to do something, we are supposed to do it…Right?
So, there they were, safe from the crowds that were gathering just outside. When suddenly the sound like the rushing of wind blew through the house and lights as of tongues of fire rested upon each of their heads. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
And having been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, they left the house. They went out into the streets where the crowds were gathered. They began speaking the message of Jesus to everyone who could hear and, now, understand in their own language.
Accusers came along heckling them saying that they must be drunk. But Peter, having been filled with the spirit, stood up in the center of the crowd and spoke truth in the midst of danger Peter could have kept quiet. He could have stayed in that house and not taken the risk. The moment could have passed by while went to grab a scone and a coffee at the local Starbucks with his friends. But he didn't. He preached the truth of the gospel of Jesus and thousands were baptized.
At that moment Peter stood up in the middle of that crowd and did what God called him to do and change happened. The same Holy Spirit that lived in Peter and the disciples is the same Holy Spirit that lives in each one of us.
|Photo Credit Dale Weir|
And the Holy Spirit does not come like a spring breeze but rather like the sound of a violent wind. It serves to knock down the protective walls that we hide behind. The Holy Spirit enters as if to say, Here I am. I cannot a will not be ignored. You will hear me like the wind, and you will see like the fire, me and you will be transformed.
We know the gospel message that Peter preached that day. That Jesus’ arrival in the world changed everything. His resurrection from the grave gave hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and everlasting life to the lifeless.
When he ascended to heaven to be with God, he sent the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us, correct us and to transform us.
The question I have been asking myself is “Right now, in the midst of all that is happening in our country, How am I being asked to be transformed?”
Jesus taught the disciples saying, “You are my witnesses. Go out and proclaim the truth to all nations. Love one another as I have loved you. Take care of your brothers and sisters because as you have taken care of the least of my brothers and sisters you have taken care of me. And as you have not taken care of the least of these; you have not taken care of me.
Following Jesus means more. More than going to church. More than trying to live a good life. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us, to correct us and to transform us.
So, here is your homework. This week I want us all to take some time, on purpose, to get in front of God, pray and meditate on these three questions.
Holy Spirit what are you calling me and our church to hear?
What is it that you are asking me and our church to see?
How is it that we are to be transformed by you?
Rev. Marilyn Panco
May 31, 2020
St. Mark Presbyterian Church