One Remarkable Birthday Gift
As I sit here on the week of Pentecost, the birthday of Christ’s Universal Church, I think of the great gifts that God gave us that day. When we read the text, it can be easy to get caught up in the outer trappings of the event…which themselves are remarkable, such as some of the beautifully wrapped gifts I have seen in my years living especially in the deep South where so many have made it a beautiful work of art. The gift of Pentecost comes wrapped in sounds like a mighty rushing wind, view like tongues of fire over the disciples heads and the proclamation of God’s good news in the tongues of a dozen peoples. Yet perhaps the greatest gift of Pentecost comes not in these new experiences, but in the allocation of ancient scripture to ALL in the crowd as Peter reads the ancient text from the book of Joel:
Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 – In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.
18 – Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
21 – And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.- Acts 2:17-18, 21
This text addresses one of the most common struggles people share with me in their walk of faith…a belief that somehow God’s Spirit does not reach out to all people, love all people, or cannot work within some people due to an aspect of their identity. I cannot tell you how many have said to me over the years that God does not reach out to them because of their gender, race, orientation, incarceration status, relationship status, socioeconomic status, employment status, housing status, political affiliation, age or insert other human classification…nor can I tell you how many look at others and think the same thing…nor can I tell you that I have this all worked out. But, let us ask ourselves, are we afraid to envision a future filled with God’s love for all people? Are we afraid to dream about who God has called us to be? Let us hear this good news in our language….I will pour out my Spirit on ALL PEOPLE.
This text, which was read before thousands, in a dozen different languages to people affirms that God’s Spirit is as ever present as the air we breathe, surrounding us whether we know it or not. That word “spirit” throughout the scripture is the word for breath, air or wind, all of which are constantly with us. We do not get to decide whom God’s spirit will reaches out to or whom God loves. We do not get to disqualify ourselves or others from God working around and within us. Does this mean “everything goes?” No, but it means no one goes without God’s love and we are not abandoned by God. That is it…the greatest birthday gift ever…God’s love, God’s light, God’s presence, God’s Spirit is extended to us even before our birth and after we die.
One thing I love about our church, is the way in which we are able to share God’s love with so many…the young and the old, the poor, the affluent and those inbetween, the single, the coupled, the “it’s complicated,” the people of different shades and orientations and political leanings. I love that we aspire to share God’s love with all and may we grow in that vision.
This month…will you take a deep breath and ask God’s Spirit to give you a glimpse, a taste, a feeling of that love for you, for me, for friends, enemies and strangers…a gift for us all. May we call upon the Lord and continue to grow in understanding and the grace of God’s salvation.
Thanks be to God.
Happy Birthday church!