The Trouble with the Spirit.
Pentecost, Common Lectionary Year C
Acts 2: 1-41
©2019 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones
Every year, the lectionary gives us this text
for the feast of Pentecost,
and for the last few years,
if my sermon titles are anything to go by,
I’ve been captivated by the utter strangeness
-and its potential for us –
of those Galileans who can suddenly speak so convincingly,
in a language “all can understand.”
How awesome that would be
if we were to be so equipped by God’s Spirit
such that we can, each in our own weekday worlds,
share the Dream of God, the Good News, the Gospel,
in ways that our yoga buddies, our teaching colleagues,
our next door neighbours can ‘get.’
And although that’s true to the text, and inspiring,
it just doesn’t feel like the Lively Word of God
we need from this text today.
There’s dark matter afoot, and all around.
To coin a few adjectives from Luke’s text,
I’m still reeling from my unsettling trip
to the US last month,
where more than ever before,
I witnessed polarizing hatred,
genuine fear and the beginnings of despair.
And close to home,
I’m perplexed, baffled by the politicized xenophobia
swirling in Quebec city, and Washington.
I’m outraged by legislated misogyny and homophobia.
I’m astounded by the willingness of so many to stand by
while politicians extract, like Jenga pieces,
those very structural supports of a social welfare system that protect
access to basic, affordable healthcare, education and employment,
that have been hard won over generations.
I’m ashamed of the glacial progress we’re making in reconciling with First Nations.
And I’m terrified that the willful blindness of nations and corporations
to the damage we are doing to our planet will have apocalyptic consequences
within my children’s lifetimes.
And I don’t know what to do.
I feel so very small, weak, human, inadequate against
such darkness and despair.
“Surely, God!” I pray,
“You have a Dream for Creation
where we share the earth’s resilient abundance,
where justice is equitable,
rolling down like an ever-flowing stream,
not merely colour-blind or gender blind,
but particularly attentive to protecting orphans, widows, aliens, strangers.
Surely God, you can do more than dream?
Surely God, you are up to this challenge?”
This text believes so.
With no Doppler radar warning,
God’s Spirit blows in to a locked room like a hurricane.
Ears are deafened with a fearsome noise,
and the air is charged with ozone, electric,
and then fire!
YAY! God to the rescue!
Ruach, the brooding Breath of God Almighty
is once more unleashed
upon the face of the earth!
All we need to do is batten down safe
under the hurricane shelter,
sandbagged against her tidal wave,
wearing our fire-proof vests and masks
and wait out the storm
while God’s Dies Irae (Day of Wrath, Day of Trouble)
sweeps away all the flotsam and jetsam
of cruelty and injustice,
all the rabid greed, all the violence against one another
and against creation, and ….
Oh, that’s not it, is it?
God’s Ruach does indeed come with wind and fire,
but not as some cosmic, indiscriminately violent force
razing forests, buildings cities to the ground
in a raging conflagration.
She comes, Luke says,
with precision, and settles/rests/abides
upon the heads of each one,
like tongues, like candle flame.
Each one. Uniquely.
Every one of that huddled 120.
fisherman and tax collector,
Zealot and Pharisee,
woman and man, rich and poor, gay and straight,
able bodied, other bodied.
She touches each one with her fire and life,
until God’s Dream troubles their souls,
until it becomes a fire in their belly,
until God’s vision cures their wilful blindness.
until she fills their mouths with a truth that
babbles in every language like a healing stream
across the face of the earth!
God knows, we need that Spirit again,
to come in Pentecostal fire and flame,
noise and wind, truth and vision, in these dark days!
For God knows, we cannot do this work alone,
we cannot in our own strength renew the face of the earth.
We cannot redeem what we have lost
without her re-creative brooding, troubling in our souls!
We need the force and the fire of God’s Spirit
to land on each of us,
to trouble us to truth,
to trouble us to action,
to trouble us to prayer,
to trouble us to care!
We need the force and fire of God’s Holy Spirit
to trouble the manufactured, false securities
that keep us numb to the vulnerability of others.
We need the force and fire of God’s Holy Sprit
to trouble those twittering justifications for inequity and greed and deformation of
God’s good world.
We need her fire in our hearts
to trouble us to walk the long hard road of truth and reconciliation;
to trouble us to stand with our gay siblings against all who belittle, and hate;
to trouble us to sit, stand, march, work alongside our siblings of colour,
and all who are othered, and marginalized
by the systems that privilege white, male, and able over everyone else.
We need her fire in our souls,
to trouble us with compassion to feed the hungry,
to trouble us with courage to make peace and justice our rule and norm,
to trouble us with love to welcome the stranger,
and to trouble us with commitment to mend the earth.
God’s Spirit is Trouble,
and She is the trouble we need!
She is the trouble of whom we will sing, and for whom we will pray in this next hymn, with words by Tom Troeger, written to Parry’s ever-so Welsh tune Aberystwyth. VU196