Readings from Scripture (Message) Acts 2:1-21
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were blown away. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia… Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”
(We moved this year, and so far we’re loving the house,
gradually settling into a new neighbourhood.)
But there’s a problem. Unfortunately, I’ve got the worst neighbour in the world.
He keeps banging on the door and ringing the doorbell at 3 in the morning!
It’s really disrupting my drumming practice.
I can barely hear the doorbell over my headphones.
(Our neighbours have been very welcoming, loving and caring!)
The divine disruption that comes into our lives might just come at 3 in the morning. It comes when we least expect. Our routines make us comfortable bordering into complacent, but disruption reminds us that everything can change as quickly as the wind shifts. Last January, if you told me I’d be recording my (almost) 70th online service, I would have said – go back to bed – clearly you’ve not gotten enough sleep. (And I should apologize that at our executive meeting in March of last year, I was dismissive of the voice of God as it spoke through one of our members, that we should make preparations for this virus that was coming.) Disruption catches us off guard, and forces us to reconsider all that we hold as true.
Author Kay Kotan has defined this time that we are going through as a disruptive time.
When we look at the pandemic as an interruption, we are seeing it as a delay. It is though we hit the pause button and when the world returns to “normal,” we will simply hit the play button again. On the contrary, disruption is defined as “a major disturbance, something that changes your plans or interrupts some event or process”, or “a break in the action — especially an unplanned and confusing one.”
We certainly haven’t paused much. Sure, vacations have been delayed, long held dreams might have been placed on hold, even funerals are waiting for a time when it is safe for us to gather together. But this holy disruptive time for many has broken us out of routine just long enough to give us perspective. Like the butterfly, when we emerge, how will we fly? Even now, what dreams and visions are inspiring us in the safety of the cocoon? I’ve seen plenty of images of people taking up new hobbies, exercising more, making job changes, all because of this disruptive time. Because when everything has changed, it gives us permission to adapt, to change, and to participate in the world in a whole new way.
When Jesus’ followers gathered together for Pentecost, they did so to celebrate a Jewish festival of the harvest. Like us at Thanksgiving, they sang songs of gratitude and plentitude. They gave thanks. They saw their lives as connected to one another, to God. This celebration was a disruption to normal work routines, giving permission for the people to see the world with fresh eyes. Ideally, these festivals were not just an interruption. These weren’t May 2-4 that we blearily return to normal routines on Tuesday as if nothing happened. So when the wind rushes in, and they actually listen to one another, paying attention to what God is doing “out in the world,” these followers of the Way play catch up to a God that is always two steps ahead.
We’ve been playing catch up too. This pandemic has been the great global wakeup call to our hyper-consumeristic, me-first, individualistic lives we’ve been leading. It’s no mistake that Black Lives Matter protests have arisen during this time, or workers’ rights demonstrations at places like Amazon, or how we’re considering basic income again as the disparity between rich and poor has continued to widen. (With deep respect to each and every person and family member that has lost a loved one, or who has suffered greatly because of this disease) We needed this pandemic like a 3am doorbell ringing, disrupting our selfish noise-making. And speaking personally, I’ve tried to thank people more, been more effusive with compliments and love that before I might have hidden away like the disciples, for fear of what others might think. Saving words for a tomorrow that might never come does no one any good. In this time of Pentecost, we are inspired by the disruption of the Holy Spirit that imbues this present moment with disruptive self-confidence in the belief that a better world is possible for all.
For if we’re going to be a church that is going to be relevant, competant, compelling, healthy, vital… in this post-pandemic world, we cannot be the church of January 2020.
The Holy Spirit’s power at Pentecost forces us to consider what it means to be the church today? What is God calling us to do in this time? For it’s no mistake that you chose to turn on this worship service today – it’s no error you have been called by God to this moment. You are a part of this community for this season and this reason – to do only what we can do. You have been given a particular language and gift to share with the world. You have been given a hope to unite people in a divisive time. You have been blessed by the encouragement that today is what matters – and the holy disruption gives us permission to adapt, to change, and to participate in the world in a whole new way.
For when we participate in the world in a whole new way, as Rev. Cameron Trimble tells us, we can change lives:
Dr. Gloria Wilder…a pediatrician who for many years has been providing healthcare in Washington DC’s poorest neighborhoods…Raised poor in the slums of Brooklyn, N.Y., she was a patient in this city’s free clinics which inspired her early in life, to pursue a career in healthcare….One of the most powerful lessons Gloria ever learned was the day her mother gave her 100 pennies, which was all they had and sent her to the local grocery store for some bologna and bread. Little Gloria, was embarrassed at the thought that some kids might see her hundred pennies and realize how poor she was. Her embarrassment turned to shock when the store owner whisked the pennies off the counter. He called out to one of the stock boys telling him to fill a big bag full of groceries, including a few precious peaches for her and her mom.
As she started to leave the store the owner said “Gloria, wait up a minute, you forgot your change” and he gave her back a quarter. And then he said to her, “Keep the faith, child. Keep the faith.” Today, Dr. Gloria is saving countless lives and bringing hope to a new generation of kids trying to break out of poverty.
Sometimes God shows up in the strangest ways but at just the right time. That’s the lesson of Pentecost. God’s gift to us on that Pentecost day so long ago was the promise that God’s Spirit is with us always, often acting with and through each of us [in ways that are different, disruptive, and divinely necessary]. It’s in the kindness of a store owner offering words of encouragement. It’s in the courage of a doctor who braves danger to serve her community. It’s in each of us when we do what we can to make the world more just and generous.
Thanks be to God for the fiery, passion of Pentecost that inspires us to adapt, change, and grow in God’s world together. Amen.