You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection HERE.
Take a moment to tune into your sense of hearing. Listen. Maybe close your eyes. Get comfortable in your chair, or if you’ve been sitting a little too long stretch. Breathe deeply. Slowly.
What do you hear?
Birds? A car going past? If you are in a room with others right now, do you hear someone squirming? Does the nearby sound come from a beloved pet? If you are alone, are you in silence?
Now, listen more closely. What did you hear this past week? On the news? In conversations with others? In your heart?
Fear? Anger? Shame? Brokenness? Tears?
Lasts gasps for air?
Shhhh…. Listen. This is the sound of things changing.
The sound of things that need to change.
We are welcomed this morning into a movement of the Spirit.
The great “whoosh” of the Holy raging in our midst.
And it is only 10 a.m.
On a Sunday morning.
In the midst of a pandemic: this week we reached the grim milestone of 100,000 dead in the United States.
And then story after story of family members, friends, and neighbors who are black doing normal, everyday things and encountering violence and death. This is not new. But it should not be our normal.
What do we hear?
The Spirit is continually doing all she can to open human hearts to hear new languages. New voices. Voices that need to be heard.
“When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting… 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak…. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages… ‘we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!’ 12 They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?”
(Acts 2:1-2, 4, 6, 11-12, CEB)
God is Still Speaking, as we find ourselves together, in one place. This place, this earth, this globe, this digital community. This is our place. And we, friends, have work to do. Deep spiritual work, taking a hard look at ourselves, especially those of us who are white. As a congregation, we have participated in sacred conversations around racism, white privilege, and the Doctrine of Discovery. This is good, difficult, Holy Work. But there is so much more to do.
We need to better understand and work to overturn the underlying systemic and institutional structures of racism which have undergirded the United States since its inception, and led to us hearing people who are black saying over and over, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
This is a moment, a movement. A cross-generational invitation by the Spirit to dream new dreams, and listen for visions of a new world.
As “spoken through the prophet Joel:
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young will see visions.
Your elders will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16b-17, CEB)
Can we dream those dreams?
Listen… for the sound of change.
It is happening.
I just wish the Holy Spirit wasn’t blowing with so much force right now.
During a pandemic.
I wish she would tone it down… just a bit.
There has been so much change, so must negative rhetoric, so much tension…
I’d like the Spirit to give us some down time.
To provide little comfort.
To be more like my obnoxiously affectionate cat, constantly purring, and using “happy feet” to encourage me to sit still and do nothing.
I need a break from the loudness of this moment.
No. Instead of calm reassurance, the Spirit pours forth today in a “whoosh” of voices. We see dreams boldly written on protest signs as people march in the streets of Minneapolis and other cities across our country. In downtown Madison. We hear the dreams of people who are black. The dream to be seen without question as the fully human, creative, productive, loving people they are. A dream which is long overdue.
This Pentecost, can we, will we, be bold? Bold in our faith. Bold in our responses.
That is the Great Hope I hold in my heart for this day.
A hope which is sparked by each and every one of you here, and those who will watch the recording of the service in the days to come.
A hope affirmed by the joy I have experienced through this year’s confirmation program. This is Confirmation Sunday. Two of the youth in our congregation, Adam Schoenwetter and Aidan Oebser will be affirming their covenant with this faith community.
Adam and Aidan, God’s great hope is rooted there. With you. In you. Through you.
“God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young will see visions.” (Acts 2:17 CEB)
I am excited to see your visions. And how you will live and grow into the life of the church.
Over the past 9 months, Adam and Aidan have participated in 4 confirmation modules:
- Bible Book Camp, a series of 5 classes focused on the Bible and its historical contexts over time
- Beliefs and Belonging, 5 classes of which we started with this question – What is the world’s BIG PROBLEM? And… how do we solve it? In this module we each wrote a God Statement the youth, the mentors Ruth Schoenwetter, Ben Wealti, and I. We talked about church history and the history of the United Church of Christ, and asked the question, “Why Church?” Why in a post-Christian, secular culture do we still “do” Church?
- Our Love of Neighbor entailed visiting and worshiping with 3 different faith traditions. This module was starting as Safer at Home orders were put in place, so the student virtually worshiped online with various faith traditions, and
- Faith Practices, in which we explored different forms of prayer, generosity and stewardship, service, and advocacy.
And now, their God Statements. These are their visions of who God and Jesus are for them. These are a bit different from Faith Statements, as I have encouraged the teens to see their faith as a work in progress which will change over the course of their lives. Today is only a beginning. Their rough draft of faith.
I invite each of you to be in a space of prayerful listening. Listen to their visions. After each of the students reads their God Statement, if you’d like, you can type a response for him in the “chat” or “comments.” They will each be able to read you message.
Adam, would you share your statement?
“To me, God is an entity unlike any other known to man. God created the world that we live in and created us upon it. God guides us through life, at times rewards those who do good often with feelings of good will and grace.
To me, Jesus is the son of God, sent to earth to remind us of God and the ways of God. He sacrificed his own life upon this earth so that we can live a better life and continue it in the next.”
I appreciate the aspect of uniqueness you experience in your relationship with God, Adam, and your description of the life of Jesus as to “remind us of God and the ways of God”
Aidan, would you share your statement?
“God is the definition of good. God has never been bad and never will be. God is here to guide earth and make life as good as possible for all human beings no matter what race or gender. God does not have control over what we do, but still guides us through life with faith practices such as praying and baptizing. God created Jesus to help us physically by healing the sick and guiding humanity further by gaining a following. Our job as people on this earth is to worship God and to not sin.”
I like the relational aspect of God you depict, and the inclusion of faith practices as a part of your relationship with God.
People of God, just as Peter preached out on the streets of Jerusalem that morning so long ago, once again we proclaim,
This is the sound of things changing.
The sound of things that need to change.
Let us be swept this morning into the movement that Spirit.
A forceable “whoosh” of the Holy.
May the world see visions.
May we all do more than dream dreams.
May we be bold. Bold in our faith. Bold in God’s Love.
That is the Great Hope I have for this day.
~ Pastor Kris
Reflection offered on Acts 2:1-21, May 31, 2020