may 23, 2010

Anna Blaedel
May 23, 2010
First UMC, Osage
Acts 2:1-21

Last Tuesday, I glimpsed the glory of Pentecost. Prayer flags waved in the wind as hundreds, thousands of people curved in a snaking line, waiting to get into the stadium. The anticipation was palpable. The Spirit, moving. Once inside, a hush fell, and spread, throughout the crowd. Choirs sang, orchestral swells swept across the space, and French Horns called me into worship.

The Dalai Lama stepped onto the stage, ushering in a Spirit of peace, of connection, that cannot be described, only felt. When he spoke, I heard him share the central truth of Pentecost. He didn’t read from the book of Acts, obviously. He didn’t use the language of Christian scriptures, of the Holy Spirit, of the Triune God, of the birth of the Christian church, but it was still the story he told.

He spoke of the two different levels that shape humanity, that connect us with one another, and help us know how to live with and love each other. The second tier, he said, were the parts of us that are important…sometimes very important…but that can also create false divisions among us…the pieces that shape our lives…the language we speak, the nation we claim and call home, the color of our skin, our race, our religious tradition, our gender, our sexuality…whether we are rich or poor, young or old. This is the second tier.

But more fundamental than that, more real, more true, more important, more holy, than these pieces, is our common humanity. Being sisters and brothers. A human family, sharing one Earth.

Because I am a Christian pastor, I call this the Body of Christ. Buddhists call it the sangah. Muslims name it as the ummah—community of believers. Different names, pointing to the same truth.

It is, in the words of scripture, amazing…perplexing. Some respond, saying, “What does this mean?” Others simply sneer as the Spirit is poured out on all flesh. Not some flesh. All flesh. Invoking new visions. Calling for new dreams. Until the many are made one…Saved…Whole again.

I love Pentecost. I am not Pentecostal, but I do seek to be Spirit-filled. I do not speak in tongues, but I do seek to speak words of God’s powerful love and grace, to a world and people in deep need of powerful love, and grace. I do not claim to understand all languages, all native tongues, all expressions of faith, but I do seek to listen for the words of truth spoken by people very different from me.

I love Pentecost because it is wrapped in mystery…sighs too deep for words…movements that are unpredictable…new visions…new dreams…new prophesies…the fire of love in our flesh and our bones…

No matter how stuck we are. No matter how closed off we have become. No matter how entrenched we might be in false certainty. No matter how sure we are we know it all.

The Spirit moves. And we cannot help but be changed. Renewed. Revived. Reborn, of water and Spirit.

Ruach. Hebrew for breath. Wind. Spirit.

Pneuma. Greek for breath. Wind. Spirit.

One in the same. Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Breathe on me breath of God. Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Sweep across the face of the earth. Move us, and shake us up. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

Hear these five testimonies, five different people, five different voices bearing witness to how the Holy Spirit Moves Today, in 100 words or less:

(Carl Gregg)
The Spirit is at work wherever there is community. The Spirit is at work wherever there is gratitude. The Spirit is at work wherever there are "sighs too deep for words." The Spirit is at work wherever there is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control," for these are the fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit is at work as the "whole creation groans in labor pains" birthing new life. The Spirit is at work wherever "young people prophesy" against injustice and "see visions" of hope and wherever elders still "dream dreams" of a better world.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

(Byron Wade)
Many people question if the Holy Spirit is at work in the world today. Put on some different eyes and see --
The claiming of an infant in baptism
The faith of a spouse in the loss of a loved one
The building of a Habitat for Humanity home
Strangers assisting in areas of a natural disaster
The grace exhibited to one another after a difficult discussion
And the ability to awaken to see a new day . . .
Then you can say the Holy Spirit is at work.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

(Monica Coleman)
when we put the gospel
to hip hop
and host u2charists,
when we share the church building
with the Korean congregation,
when we preach against homophobia
when we break bread
with jews and muslims,
when the teenagers lead worship
on a regular Sunday (not just youth day)
when we invoke the ancestors
and learn from their lives,
when we live at the borders
offering water to those in the desert
harbor to those in danger
and community when we don't fit in. . .
it is then that we speak in tongues

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

(Sam Hamilton-Poore)
Closer to us than our own breath and breathing, the Risen Christ fills us with his own Spirit -- quietly, intimately. With this breath, this power, we then go about the everyday, unspectacular, grubby work of forgiveness. Breathe, forgive; breathe, forgive; breathe, forgive. Although we often long for the dazzling or spectacular, we live in a time, a world, in need of people who breathe in, regularly, the quiet power and grace of Christ's Spirit -- and people who, likewise, breathe out, regularly, the power and grace of forgiveness. Our world -- so spectacularly broken and burning -- needs people for whom reconciliation is as normal and natural as breathing.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.
(Bruce Epperly)
The Spirit is found in "sighs too deep for words" that move through creation, giving us life, energy, imagination, and courage to face the challenges of today. Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." With every breath, we can receive that same life-giving power that breaks down barriers of ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, age, and faith tradition. With every breath, we can experience Spirit, enabling us to receive and give the divine inspiration that transforms all things, mind, body, spirit, relationships, and the planet.
Breathe deeply God's Spirit; be transformed and inspired.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

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