The Adventurous Lectionary – Pentecost Sunday – May 15, 2016
Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b Romans 8:14-17 John 14:8-17, (25-27)
Like Easter and Christmas, the Pentecost preacher is presented with a scripture that is so familiar that he or she wonders if anything new can be said. Moreover, Pentecost is an anachronistic festival in many mainstream and progressive congregations. While we may dress in red, we don’t expect a mighty wind to blow through our congregations – unless we live in tornado alley – nor do we anticipate tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. Pentecost is for Pentecostals, after all, not for us with our more restrained programmed liturgies, so say many of our congregants. Yet, there is a deep spiritual yearning among mainline and progressive Christians that is often not being addressed in worship and adult faith formation. Pastors often act as if their congregants are not interested in mysticism, healing, near death experiences, angels, and self-transcendence when these phenomena often energize their spiritual lives or raise profound theological questions.
There is a mystic within each of us. God addresses all of us in sighs too deep for words. Even if we don’t need to wear crash helmets and strap ourselves to the pews as Annie Dillard opines, God’s Spirit is always beckoning us toward more than we can ask or imagine. The omnipresence of God insures a Godward movement in all of our lives, even when we are unaware of it.
Pentecost is a day for mystics and spiritual adventurers. The Day of Pentecost announces God’s mighty and transformative presence in the emerging Christian movement and in our lives. God’s Spirit can move quietly; it can also be bold and awesome. However God’s Spirit comes, it breaks down barriers, welcomes outsiders, reconciles the separated, and energizes our own spirits. God offers inspiration and salvation to all, and always in the way we can understand. The Spirit is global and universal; it is equally intimate and personal. The Spirit motivates us to action: Jesus’ Pentecostal followers head to the streets to share good news. Peter’s speech reflects the reality that God can speak within and through any of us.
Psalm 104 portrays a global Pentecost and invites us to a singing faith. Like Psalm 148, this Psalm celebrates a world of praise. All creatures great and small praise God. God’s Spirit is sent to all creation. All creation matters to God and is precious in God’s eyes. Divine creative wisdom guides and blesses all creation. This same wisdom guides and blesses us!
The few verses from Romans 8 encourage a spirit-filled creativity and courage. God’s Spirit liberates us from fear, and invites to create along with God. God is imaginative and we are to embody divine imagination in our daily lives. Don’t be afraid. Be bold. You are God’s beloved and God is at work in your lives.
This same bold spirit is articulated in Jesus’ words, recorded in John’s Gospel. The Spirit in Jesus, the Divinity that Jesus shares with the Divine Parent, enlivens us as well. God wants us to be creative and active, to be agents of transformation, able to do greater works than Jesus himself. While I am not sure what these “greater works” are, invitation is clear. “Don’t think small. Be bold. Pray for great things.” Ask God prayerfully for your deepest desires (not the word “deepest,” that is, desires that undergird our wants and needs), and open to what God is giving you. Awakened to divine possibility and companionship, we can flourish, achieve our dreams and support the dreams of others. We can be God’s companions in bringing beauty, healing, and justice to the world.
Pentecost is the longest season of the year, even if we break up the Pentecost season with “Kingdomtide” or “the season of Creation,” this elongated season reminds us that God’s Spirit unfolds on day to day and long term basis. God’s Spirit enlivens and enlightens on Pentecost Sunday, but this illumination is part of God’s ongoing presence in creation and history, congregational life and personal spirituality.