This will be the “Back Page” for this coming Sunday, June 9, 2019, Pentecost Sunday (Year C).
On 26 June 1963 President John Kennedy spoke to the people of Berlin. In his memorable speech, in which he spoke against a wall that separated families and stopped people from seeking freedom, he said that the proudest boast two thousand years ago was “civis Romanus sum” or “I am a citizen of Rome”. It was a claim that allowed Paul, as a Roman citizen, to move around the Mediterranean, preaching the Gospel message.
I was born in 1950 in the hospital on the post known as Fort Belvoir, Virginia. As such, I am a United States citizen. Had I been born one hundred years before, in 1850, I would have been considered a citizen of Virginia first and a citizen of the United States second. It would take the Civil War to change the meaning of “the United States” from a plural meaning to a singular meaning. I have noticed that there are many today, North and South, who still identify themselves with their home state rather than this country. And had I been born 200 years before, in 1750, I would have been born a British citizen, though many in Britain at that time would have considered me a 2nd-class citizen.
And while my citizenship may be a factor of my birth; by baptism, confirmation, and choice, I am a follower of Christ and, thus, a citizen of God’s Kingdom.
Citizenship in God’s Kingdom does not depend on where you were born or who your parents were or how much money you might have or your sexuality; it simply depends on whether you seek God. As a Citizen of God’s Kingdom, my duty is not to select those who can enter but to help those seeking God find their path.
The people who gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost two thousand years ago were many and varied, yet surrounded by the Holy Spirit, they become one.
Pentecost did not shut the doors to God’s Kingdom; rather it opened it up. Our challenge is to say to those who, this day, would seek to close that the doors that the doors will be opened and we will be there to open them.