Sunday is Pentecost, a holiday we Christians inherited from the Jews. They celebrate the giving of the Law, and we give our attention to the coming of the Spirit.
Actually, few churches I have attended during my life gave much attention to Pentecost at all; almost as many ignored the Spirit and here’s why:
The Spirit is uncontrollable; religion likes to control things. The Spirit is unpredictable; religion likes to predict things. The Spirit is indiscriminate: religion likes to discriminate between good and bad, male and female, black and white, true and false, gay and straight, and you and me.
The Spirit is like the Coronavirus. Unseen and powerful. Transmitted in ways mysterious and unmanageable. Striking here and not there. Resistant to the knowledge and skills of the most learned but equally available to the rich and the poor.
That is precisely the Spirit we need today.
A Presence and a Power that nobody can control—Not the theologians or the prophets. Not the elites or the outcasts. Not the Democrats or the Republicans. Not the Baptists or the Catholics, not the Jews or the Muslims.
The Spirit we need is the One who will do its own thing, in its own way, on its own schedule.
Like on that day of Pentecost, whose story is told in The Acts of the Apostle, chapter two. “Suddenly there came a sound…tongues as of fire appeared…all of them began to speak….”
Not an earthquake that shook the ground when Jesus died. Not a flood filling the world as in the days of Noah. Not a star showing the way to a gaggle of magi. Not even four horsemen bringing the judgments of war, famine, plague, and death.
None of these. Just a voice. A human voice. Your voice. My voice. Our voice.
“This man Jesus” the Voice announced on that long-ago Pentecost “… you crucified and killed …”
That is what the Voice said on that day. It sounded very much like the voice of Simon Peter the apostle of Jesus. But the people who heard it took it for the Voice of God. The Voice spoke again, “This Jesus God raised up …”
Then the people spoke, “What shall we do?” and the Voice answered: “Repent … and save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
They did repent, sold their possessions to help those in need, ate together with glad and generous hearts, and enjoyed the goodwill of all the people.”
That is the kind of Pentecost we need today.
Not one filled with flowers and robes and majestic choirs. Not even one that fills lonely pews and long-empty sanctuaries.
We need a Voice that draws inspiration from the death of an innocent man. Not an innocent man in a faraway place a long time ago. But the death of the innocents in Minneapolis, and Louisville, and right here in Brunswick.
We need a Voice that moans the loss of one hundred thousand souls, cut down by a cruel and creeping virus.
We need a Voice that signals the Presence of God in the world, calling us to forego our excess, our luxury, our privilege and invest in the lives and fortunes of any who have need.
We need a Voice that speaks on behalf of all the people, as it was that day when, the Word tells us, people “from every nation under heaven” came under the spell of that Spirit-filled sound.
We need a Voice of courage, speaking the stern truth to those in power and a sweet truth to those in prison. To the one, a demand for justice that rolls down like water; to the other, a promise of relief that springs up into a river of life.
We need a Voice in every pulpit, speaking courage into the minds and imaginations of people. We need a Voice in every pew, pushing back against the religious pablum served up by feckless preachers to congregations of selfish people.
We need a Voice from heaven, a Voice from God, a Voice of the Spirit.
We need your Voice. And my Voice. And the voices of those crying out for help, for healing, for hope, for a sign from heaven that God is here, in you, in me, in the stranger in the park, in the child at the wall, in the person at the gate.
Somebody needs to hear your Voice today.
Lift your Voice and be the Pentecost somebody needs today.