I really do like Pentecost dear friends. Not only do I think that red just seems to fit well as one of the best liturgical colors, but there are a number of fun things that can be done in the really big Pentecost church celebrations. I discovered one such thing while in seminary: Pentecost procession/recession Spirit Stick Twirl. (See picture for reference). It is essentially a number of very long red ribbons attached to the end of an elongated, extendable fishing rod. And as the participant in the procession, it is your job, to magnificently spin and twirl the red ribbon all throughout the sanctuary.
Give any person in my opinion, (especially someone like myself who is just a five-year-old boy at heart) a huge stick and say, ‘wave it madly’? How could that not be fun? And it’s a part of church!?!? I knew from the start; I was headed in the right direction. It really was a beautiful thing really, that I got to discover such a fun passion on a Pentecost weekend all those years ago. Because that’s part of what I think Pentecost is all about.
It’s a story we get to hear year after year and the description always makes me snicker a bit: those tongues of flame dancing upon the heads of the apostles, speaking the multitudes of languages. Then, Peter having to convince those gathered that they aren’t all drunk at nine in the morning. But the miracle of the story is that the gospel of Christ was able to be shared in whatever way possible starting then. Whether through verbal language, or any form of communication. And I think that we can communicate the gospel best, when we share our passions, or we share the things we’re passionate about.
Take just this week; there were several passions of my own that were being lived out. On Wednesday of this week, the 27th, it was supposed to be the first day that Americans were launched into space from the U.S. in nearly nine years in a fascinating collaboration between NASA and the private space exploration company SpaceX! NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is actually the first administrator to not have been alive during the moon landings; instead growing up with the 80’s shuttle era. For this launch he brought back the famous, connected ‘worm’ NASA logo. Oh, I was so excited for Wednesday and had all the live-streams going only for the launch to be scrubbed at T-minus 17 minutes! Darn it weather!! Well, I now know that Saturday will hopefully be just as exciting as that is their next launch window.
Also, in the last week, one of the places that is central to my understanding of the Gospel and played a key part in my calling to the ministry opened up the possibility for people to come to camp (LOMC) despite having to close down their normal summer camp programming. I get to go to camp again! I sure hope that the Pentecost Holy Spirit connects to the passions in you like this.
But I’d be remiss if I did not mention the other passions that the Spirit called me to this week. For my week was not all filled with only the passions of camp, family, church and space. I, like many of you did, heard the cries, that another sibling of color died this week with the words, “I can’t breathe” on his lips. In a week where the Holy Spirit is breathed out upon us all as a gift from God, my passion burned within me. I know that this topic isn’t one that we like to talk about; the phrases and words it brings up sure sound divisive, but church, what is more unifying than, breath, love, and life?
We can hear the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter” and we can witness the events that have happened in Minneapolis, Central Park, and Georgia and our first impulses easily become defensive. Please, let us lay aside these preconceived notions we may have as this isn’t about that. I felt passion alight within me this week in learning about George Floyd’s death and passion to once again say ‘black lives matter’ because they do, and his life did.
Pretty quickly after someone utters ‘black lives matter,’ the response of ‘all lives matter’ will come. And yes! Of course, yes; All lives absolutely do matter. As a called leader of the church of Christ, as a follower of Jesus Christ and as a child of God I fervently believe that every single life is filled with inherent value, is valuable, important, and worthy of dignity. The problem, however, is that there are many who don’t. And what’s more, for others still, lives of people of color don’t matter at all. So, as I declare that they do, I lift it up because it isn’t clear to all.
Take our prayers for example. The prayers of the people would still be going on right now if we were truly to pray for each and every single person everywhere in every need at all of time. Instead we pray for the particular; the particular needs, or the particular joys, life milestones, or places that might be in pain, or in need of healing or restoration. We pray for our graduates and confirmands, for the Baehr’s, Carr’s and Marquez’s in their grief, and we pray for all who are affected by this pandemic.
As we attempt to widen and say, ‘all lives matter’ as a response to ‘black lives matter’ it’d be like responding that we ‘need to pray for the full people too!’ as we pray for those who are hungry. And look, perhaps this passion doesn’t burn as strongly for you, but the glaring disparity of this and recent weeks isn’t new. These aren’t one-time isolated events, pertaining to just one individual as we remember George, or Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year, or even the threats called out upon the people of color like Christian Cooper as he was bird watching in Central Park. All of these, and countless others are connected in an immensely tightly woven web of system racism of which we are all a part.
It does not feel good to admit that. But it cannot be denied, and we cannot try and cordon ourselves off from it. It’s part of what drives this passion in me. Too many times, friends, colleagues and classmates that have shared their experiences of being followed in stores, having the police called on them, fearing that they might not make it home. I know that my own despairing feeling is nothing compared to that of their own and that is my confession. But the Spirit calls, and she equips.
Because like all of the passions that we have been gifted with by the Spirit there are things we can do; things we can do more than just offer our thoughts and prayers to tear through this web of racism. And like the web itself, it won’t take the work of just one, nor will this become the sole passion of us all, nor our singular mission. But doing a better job to dismantle this web is something we can do. It is like we have been doing all along dear church, and doing oh so well. We, in these last few months have been doing all that we can do for the Children of God who are hurting the most. And this is no different. For when we do these things for them, we do these things for Christ. Thank you for reading dear church and sharing in my passion. Come, let the Spirit burn as she comes to alight upon us all.
Peace & Pentecost Blessings,
Curious about just what some of these things we can do to work on dismantling systemic racism? Click on the following links to learn more: