Pentecost, Year C
Readings: Acts 2:1–21; Psalm 104:24–34, 35b; (Romans 8:14–17); John 14:8–17, 25–27
Three questions for us today: First, who are we? You may have heard, people think we’re impaired somehow, under the influence. They wonder what’s gotten into us, and people are talking. “After all they’ve been through, they’re still going?” There’s a spirit here that... it’s hard to put your finger on it, isn’t it? A spirit that brings out the best in people. After all we’ve been through, you’d think we’d be flattened, dispersed, done. But here we are, expecting new visions, new dreams. That’s a pretty loose description of who we are, but we’re only at the first question.
Second question: what is God calling us to do? Such a beautiful question. It tells us we have a role in the way the universe unfolds. We are partners in creation. We have a calling that matters. The details of the call might change from time to time, so it’s important to remember the calling, the grace that includes us in the big picture. The call is likely to involve...what? What gets the attention of the Holy? What is Love up to these days? We know from the bible and our history. God is very interested in relationships among people, neighbourliness, real peace.
That brings us to our third question: who are our neighbours? Because we can’t have faith or a calling in isolation. It doesn’t work, and it’s not faith if it’s just for us. Many of our neighbours are up against it for one reason or another. The stories and history of faithful people is about looking after the lost and the least. The people, who get pushed aside, left behind, ignored. Some of our neighbours are doing OK, but they are bothered by the inequality, but they don’t know what to do. They’re not organized.
Who are we, what is God calling us to do, and who are our neighbours? When we delve into answers to those questions, we end up blown away by Holy Live. Love for God, love for others, love for self. A challenge to those hoarding wealth and power.
Am I talking about the original followers of Jesus, or a twenty-first century congregation of the faithful? Both, of course. Much has changed in two thousand years, but much has not. The strong still needed to be challenged about their use of money and power. The weak still need to be supported and empowered. The vision of a world of peace still needs champions and our rituals still call out the very best in each of us by making us into a community.
In the weeks ahead in worship, we hear more stories of the early church, when people were on fire with Jesus’ radical ministry in the world. They didn’t have buildings, they didn’t have rules, they didn’t have structure. Not at first. They only had their powerful experiences of Jesus eating and laughing and exuding love in their midst, the scriptures of their day and each other. The Spirit picked them up like kites and pushed them toward ministry like wind on sails, ignited a passion for an alternative vision of the world. It wasn’t clear at first what they were supposed to do or be. But it was electric, vital, exciting.
This congregation is at an interesting time in its life, and the life of the planet. Things we used to be able to take for granted we can’t anymore. We need to review and rehearse who we are, what is our call from God and who are our neighbours over again, going deeply into what inspires us, our passion for the faith, our loyalty to Jesus Christ. The process is called mission redevelopment, and we get to start on it together next week after church. It will be an intense and wonderful process. It will evoke strong feelings from time to time, and we won’t always agree about how to be agents of transformation, lovers of the world, dreamers. That’s good. Out of our individual dreams and visions will come something shared.
We are not the custodians of the Spirit around here. As scripture says, it blows where it wills. We can lift up our wet fingers, though, put up a wind sock to find out where the energy is coming from these days, and where it might be going. And that’s sometimes called mission redevelopment. What will church look like in ten years, twenty, fifty? The recent issue of Mandate explores the church of the future. It may be quite different than we are used to. That’s alright. The Jesus movement has looked very different through the ages, and it will continue to morph. One new trend appears to be intentional communities of young people living together to live out their faith. Intentional communities are not new, of course. We used to call those monasteries or convents.
What about us? What about this community of faith? How can we be midwives of change? We want the Spirit to activate our inner prophets in the weeks and months ahead. It is a delicate thing to prophesy. You have to honour the voice within you, speak your truth. Yet at the same time, we have to test the Spirits as a community. Meaning we have to listen to others creatively, discern when someone else’s vision may be more faithful. The Spirit is likely to send out many, many sparks as we talk and listen. Not all of them will turn into fires that we can tend. How to decide what is our calling? We could ask the neighbours, and that is part of the plan, too. We’re not the only ones who can wet a finger and hold it up. We’re going to go out and talk to people. What are they seeing and hearing? Who is up against it? Who is being pushed aside, left behind, ignore these days.
Because we’re not happy until everyone is happy. We don’t feel satisfied until everyone as something to eat. Let people say we’re intoxicated. It’s true. We have breathed in the powerful vision of Jesus of Nazareth, and we can’t let it go. We imagine this table as a metaphor of everything. Here we share what we have. Here people get fed. Here is a challenge to the winner take all ethic. Here is joy, here is peace, here is love. We’re good at setting tables around here. It’s what we do. The feast of love and justice has been set for us. Let’s eat. And let’s talk around the table about how to make it bigger, with room for all.