When Jesus entered his public ministry, he came with one primary message: “the reign of God is here. The kingdom of God is coming. The presence of God is not out there; it’s here, among you.”
The people who heard that message didn’t really know what to make of it – especially since Jesus’ idea of kingdom, power and privilege was different from their own notions.
In fact, Jesus’ notions of power and privilege were completely upside down and inside out from theirs.
Jesus ate with anyone who sought him out.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus sought out people whom others isolated and taught his followers to do the same.
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…
Jesus shepherded the lost sheep, went after the lost coins, embraced the lost sons. Jesus washed feet, broke bread and poured out wine.
Jesus took up his cross and carried it straight into the worst violence the world could muster.
And then, fifty days after the death of Jesus, a small group of disciples gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost. Most of these had experienced the Resurrected Christ. Many of them had been present at his ascension.
And now – 50 days later – these disciples were floundering and wondering:
- What’s real?
- What’s true?
- What’s next?
And then the doors of their small lives were blown off their hinges by the wind of Pentecost. The safely shuttered windows of their preconceptions were whooshed wide open.
Because of that Pentecost morning, that small questioning group of Jesus followers multiplied into a multitudinous community of Christ made up of people from every nation and every language and every walk of life.
Some of those early disciples were not comfortable with that disorienting diversity.
Some of us still today are not comfortable.
Even so, if Pentecost means anything, it means that the wind of the Spirit is continuing to blow away barriers and to break down walls and to breathe a new people of God into existence.
The Holy Spirit keeps expanding boundaries and enlarging the territory of God’s reign, gathering us into an expansive, eclectic community. Here we are: men and women and old and young and gay and straight and black and white and brown and red and blue and ….
How many other differences could we name?
But when we live as Pentecost people, differences don’t divide us.
None of those differences could ever become dividers because Pentecost people recognize that God’s kingdom includes all of us.
We understand we have all become part of God’s multi-cultural, multi-faceted, multitudinous people.
“The presence of God is not out there; it’s here, among you”
The Pentecost wind Acts describes, by the way, is not a gentle breeze.
Sometimes, of course, God’s way is a soothing breath of fresh air. Sometimes God’s way is the way of cocoons and apple seeds and gradually greening fields in the patient springtime.
But sometimes God’s way is to blow the roof off our self-centered lives.
Sometimes God’s way is to blow the lid off our small, settled assumptions.
And when the Holy Spirit rushes like a mighty wind, God may well intend to blow away every insecure, inadequate thing upon which we ground our lives.
And whenever that starts happening, I promise, it will be very uncomfortable. It will be distubing and disorienting.
We may well be blown away into new places. New people may well come gusting into our lives. Old familiar ways may well give way to new challenging insights.
And I say: so what?
What do we have to fear?
The Spirit of the Risen Christ is still among us, within us and around us – breathing the mystery of life and the promise of new beginnings.
The Spirit of the Risen Christ is still blowing us toward new possibilities and new directions.
Thanks be to God.
Black and white image credit: Beautiful Pictures of Rain Photography