Mediation for Pentecost (Year A)
8 June 2014
The Scriptures for this Sunday are Acts 2: 1 – 21, 1 Corinthians 12: 3 – 13, and John 7: 37 – 39 (note in the text I that used John 20: 19 – 23 in preparing these notes).
I have noted on a couple of occasions in the past that June 6th is an important date in my life because it is the birth date of my youngest daughter, Meara Lee. As I wrote on my Facebook page, “There are no words that I can write or say that express the joy she and her sister have brought to my life.”
But June 6th has another meaning to me, one that I seldom thought about since I was more interested in the completion of the process that started on that date. Still, any process that is finished has a beginning and it was on June 6, 1966 that I began my college career by enrolling as a first quarter freshman in the High School Honors Program at Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now known as Truman State University).
For the record, I was only 15 when this happened and just completed my sophomore year in high school. After the summer session was over, I would go to Memphis, Tennessee, where my family had moved while I was in school and begin my junior year in high school at Bartlett High School. I would return to Kirksville the next summer and then the summer after I graduated from high school to complete my freshman year and begin my sophomore year in college.
I had no idea what I would be getting myself into or what paths my life would travel when I went to Kirksville that summer day some 48 years ago, nor what would happen when I told Dr. Wray Rieger, Dean of Students and my adviser that summer, that I would major in chemistry.
What is interesting, at least in terms of today being Pentecost Sunday, is there never has been an occasion while I have been either preaching or writing blogs where Pentecost occurred on June 6th and only four times where there was a day or two difference between these two events.
And I suppose that I should wait until such time that does occur but the events of this day and age suggest that I should not wait. If June 6th marks the beginning of a journey, so too is Pentecost.
Pentecost may be considered the birth date of the church, for it was on this day that the Holy Spirit came to the people gathered in Jerusalem per the instructions of Jesus Christ. But birth dates can quickly turn in counting mechanisms and that, if you will excuse the pun, make things rather old rather quickly.
But Pentecost was and is more than simply the birth of the new church. It was the beginning of a movement, a movement that would change the world in ways that no one could foresee or even imagine. And with all the talk in the church today, especially in the United Methodist Church, about the impending death of the church, perhaps we need to think about what we are doing for tomorrow rather than counting the days from last year or the years that have passed by us rather quickly.
If we are to look to the morrow and begin again the movement of the church and this denomination, we need to realize at least two things from the Scriptures for today.
First, no matter where the people came from, they were speaking a common language. They understood each other rather clearly and when you consider the tone of the words in the reading from Acts, they were rather surprised that they were able to do that. Differences between people in terms of nationalities and cultures quickly disappeared.
For me, the problem today is that we no longer speak a common language. Oh, we may all speak English but the words we use often times have multiple meanings. And I think at times, we stretch our sensibilities to get the words we use to mean what we want them to mean.
Second, there seems to be a movement to make everyone in the church identical, no matter what side of the issue each person may stand on. And if you don’t stand with me on this issue, then you stand against me and I don’t want you in my church. What was it that Groucho Marx said, “I do not want to belong to any organization that would have me as a member.”
Paul points out that the people of God have been given many gifts and the assumption that I get from that is that we need as many individuals as possible to insure that we have all the gifts we need. For it is only when we have all the gifts are we able to function as a whole community.
If we choose to cast someone out because they don’t have a special gift or perhaps because we already have that gift, then we risk causing the community of believers to fail.
In the Gospel reading for today (I mistakenly used John 20: 19 – 23 instead of the regular Gospel reading – John 7: 37 – 39), Jesus asks the disciples what they will do if they do not forgive the sins of others. What are we going to do if we say to someone that they don’t meet what we consider the qualifications of our little club?
I know where I stand as to the future of this church and this denomination. I also know that there are many people who do not feel the way that I do and I sometimes wonder why that is. I also know that many of the beliefs and thoughts about people that so dominated the discussions in this denomination almost two hundred years ago were wrong and we have changed. What bothers me is that we are doing the same thing today. And if our judgements prove to be wrong, what shall we say to those whom we rejected today?
Let’s look at Pentecost as it was some two thousand years ago – the beginning of a process, a movement and let’s go out and change the world as we are supposed to be doing.