Spirit on the Loose!
May 31, 2017
By Matthew Crebbin.
Scripture: Acts 2: 17-20 (NRSV)
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Author, Teacher and Episcopal Priest Barbara Brown Taylor wonders why this great festival of the Christian year seems lost to most congregations. Pentecost is, after all, one of the three big days of the Christian calendar: Christmas, Easter and… Pentecost - which comes in a distant third. “Why don’t we celebrate it?” Taylor wonders. We should celebrate the day a wind “blew through the back streets of Jerusalem and gave the church everything necessary to turn the world upside down.”
Why no Pentecost parades? She wonders. No Pentecost pageants in the churches either. No Hallmark cards for Pentecost and no one inviting people over for Pentecost Dinner. Taylor suspects Pentecost is a distant third Christian celebration because people get nervous about talk of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy “Ghost” as the Spirit used to be called. Pentecost is the story of holiness that will not be domesticated despite all our intentions to the otherwise.
Over the last few hundred years, much of the Christian community has often worked very hard to worship and proclaim a God that is very predictable and orderly. Or Christians have put forth a God who just happens to be in synch with almost all of their own preconceived opinions about life as well as affirming every personal political, social or moral agenda. And when faced with a challenge or difficulty, the faithful have been tempted far too often to designate our personal human preferences as a “leading of the Spirit.”
But the Pentecost story reminds us that the “Holiest of Holies” is on the loose! Old divisions will fall to the wayside and the Spirit will draw us out from our all too familiar ways of talking and thinking. From flames of challenge come a life filled with awe and wonder. The great challenge of the church in this moment is that often we worship a God who is easy enough to take and even easier to dismiss. The Spirit of Pentecost reminds us that the life of faith is anything but tame. Some fifty days after the worst day of their lives, a tiny band of Jesus’ followers became so infused with a fiery and transforming reality that the world around them would never be the same. Our calling is not to tame that reality but to embrace it when it shows up - even at the risk that we might end up being scorched to the very core of our beings.
Holy One of wind and flame, pour out your Spirit upon us. Dare us to dream Your dreams - and grant us vision to risk all that we have been for what we might become by Your grace. You, who breathed life into creation, breathe life into your world. Set our hearts ablaze with a passion for all that You love and cherish in this moment - and in every moment of our lives. Amen
Rev. Matthew Crebbin is senior pastor of Newtown Congregational Church in Newtown, CT.
May 31, 2017