May 31, 2020
It is Pentecost today. Usually one of my favorite Sundays in the church calendar. I love wearing and seeing all the red colors we wear as we gather as a church on Pentecost. I love lighting the red candles, remembering the story of the coming of the Spirit in those strange tongues of fire on the disciples’ heads. I love the celebration of the beginning of the movement of the church.
And this year. This year, I am finding that the necessity of the church in the world is so profound that I can only hope that we embrace all that we can be.
So that we can truly see the fruits of the Spirit which we celebrate at Pentecost.
Love, Joy, Peace, Long suffering, Goodness, Gentleness, Self Control, Kindness…This is what the Holy Spirit brings to us each and every day of our lives. And the world needs this right now.
Two racially motivated incidents this week brought that home so clearly. The Central Park incident was bad enough. How many times do I wander around with binoculars strung around my neck, looking at birds, encountering people who are rude and indifferent to their surroundings? If I asked a woman, nicely, to leash her dog that was threatening me, would the police be called? Words might be exchanged, but I don’t think the police would be called. I don’t think someone would assume I was a threat to their person. That was bad enough. Then, a day later, we saw with our own eyes, the horror of a man held down in a brutally horrid murder on the streets of Minneapolis by those who are supposed to protect him. I didn’t want to watch it the video of the arrest, but I forced myself to see it. And what I saw, it defies understanding: A man in a police uniform, a uniform that I trust, with his hands in his pants pocket with his knee on the neck of another man, nonchalantly extinguishing a life, deaf to the pleas of another human being who finally with his last breath spoke words over and over again that will be etched in our memory: I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. and then finally calling out to his mother: ‘mama’. While a 9 year old little girl watched and reported to her mother, They are out there killing a man.
And three other adults with power and authority did nothing to stop the murder.
I have watched this video again, to remind me of why Minneapolis is burning. My old neighborhood, where I used to shop and gather with friends…it is destroyed.
And the question always in my mind is: as a person who has faith in God, what do I say? As a person who believes deeply that sin should not and cannot have the final word, what do I do?
As a person who knows deep within me that for 400 years this country and the world has not heard the cries of brothers and sisters of color, how do I grieve appropriately. Because that is the only emotion that seems authentic right now. Grief. For where we have been, where we are and where we might go if we don’t open our hearts.
In a few moments I will invite you to a table called the love feast. Like the Communion table this table is to be open and welcoming to all who desire to join us at the table that is hosted by God.
But we must be fully honest with ourselves. Is our table truly open.
Would we, like the host in our lesson today, go out to the highways and byways of our world and expectantly invite those whom the rest of society deems unworthy. Would we pull out a chair and set up an extra place setting? Would we get out the fine china and bring out the best food?
And more importantly, are we willing to reset the table and rearrange the chairs so that people who would not ever feel welcome would come willingly, trustingly, as equals?
You see one of the miracles of this story from the gospel isn’t that the owner called on his servants to go get the blind and lame, poor and the outcast. It wasn’t that the servants went to the back roads and byways. The miracle is that they came. The outcasts, the poor, the ones living on the edges of society came, willingly, to the table.
Expecting a welcome. Expecting to be treated like equal and honored guests.
Somehow they knew the host and knew that he wanted his house filled with all who would come.
The host wanted his house filled. With all who would come.
God wants a full house. And God expects us to extend the invitation in such a way that Everyone feels welcome. Everyone knows that when they come, only the best will be set out. Everyone knows that when they come, they will be included as equal whole human beings with every right and responsibility as anyone else.
God wants a full house And God expects us to extend the invitation.
Rev. Terri Hord Owens wrote this which I think is a powerful way to say what it is God expects of us:
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. Let’s get to work, church!
We need the Holy Spirit to come down again with mighty power. And we need to claim in some mighty ways the presence of the Spirit in our lives. So that we don’t become immune to the horror and rage and injustice of acts of violence continually perpetuated on people of color. On children of God.
We need the Holy Spirit to direct and guide our actions and reactions so that we can become the human beings God created us to be. The kind that will want God’s household to be filled to overflowing with anyone and everyone who says ‘yes’ to God’s invitation.