"What Happened at Pentecost"
May 20, 2018 - Pentecost Sunday
Perhaps Pentecost comes this year to be the instrument for the salvation of our Church in our present struggle with our identity. We Methodists, (I am not ready to add the name United) are always looking for a method, a way to get us through the tough places. Some call us slow learners–but once we decide, we often get it right in ways that those relieved of a struggle fail. I have a friend who left our fellowship looking to join a “liberal church” (her words). After a while she came back. She said that she always felt like an example–and very lonely.
These days I believe that God once again is building the Church. And it is a messy business. That is what the struggle means–God is like Jeremiah’s potter working with the resisting clay, always having to start over–to reshape–rebuild?
And God the Potter always builds the church with the clay that I would not have chosen. What a motley crowd gathered there in Jerusalem that day called Pentecost. Have you read the list? And each person there heard with understanding. Seems too good to be true. So we ask, what happened at Pentecost, and who were those people?
Was Cornelius there–a good man but a gentile, common and unclean? What about Saul of Tarsus–going around breathing threats and murder? No one expected to make a church out of people like that. And folks from Crete and Arabia were there, and later that Ethiopian eunuch–a half man excluded by the law from the assembly of the Lord. Was he there? Well, he must have been, because someone gave him a Bible.
Surely the leaders could have done better. But the spirit of the Lord was in that place–yes, in the very place where it was often said, “You are not my people.” They will be
called the sons and daughters of the living God. This begins to sound like Christian liberty.
The language of Luke-Acts is amazing. Now we know who is in charge. It is the Spirit of the crucified, resurrected Christ, who died his death outside the gates of the holy city on a dung heap, among the rejected–pointing to the one true God of us all.
Here is the point: The spirit falls where God wills it. It is God’s spirit who will build the church. From the very stones that cry out, God will make a people out of “no people.” Do you wish to be in that number?
I believe this is the meaning of our current struggle. And in this struggle there are no winners or losers–just folks who have decided to be together for the living of these days.
I thought about all of this a few Sundays ago when our Bishop led us through a process of finding a way to stay together. Later I came across these words:
“Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the spirit.” II Cor. 3:17-18
Prayer: God, we ask that you mold and make us after thy will. You are the potter—we, the too-often-stubborn-and-unyielding clay. Unite us so we can reclaim in great humility our name, The United Methodist Church. We seek your spirit in the name of Jesus the Christ, our only hope for unity. Amen