From the Rector
This weekend we’ll celebrate the birthday of the Church. That’s essentially what the Day of Pentecost is. Before Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were fearful, timid, and unsure of what to do without Jesus there to guide them. But what happened to them at Pentecost transformed them into a movement capable to carrying the gospel to the farthest reaches of the world. In honor of this holy birthday, I hope you’ll wear red to church this weekend. It’s a fun way for us to mark the occasion, as red is the traditional color of the Holy Spirit, and there will be lots of red everywhere (flowers, vestments, streamers).
The story of Pentecost is surely one of my favorite stories in the Bible (don’t you love when onlookers accuse the disciples of hitting the wine early?!), but, I have to be honest, it’s not an easy story to comprehend. It seems like something from an Avengers or X-Men movie more than something that could occur outside a movie theater. Wind rushing, fire shooting around, and people speaking in many languages…I mean, it makes for an exciting scene, and it’s a story I love hearing told every year, but I struggle to find myself in it. I’ve just never witnessed or known anything remotely like it.
And yet, I can’t help but believe in the fundamental truth of the story – that the Holy Spirit is alive and moving in the world – because I’ve been blessed to witness the power of that Spirit with my own eyes. Maybe not with pyrotechnics or Hollywood special effects, but in ways that have transformed lives, changed the course of history, and grown the Kingdom of God. 2,000 years later, the Spirit is still showing up all the time to get the fearful, timid followers of Jesus moving – to fill us with faith, hope, and love, and also a healthy dose of courage so we’ll risk our safety and comfort in order to serve and bless someone else. It was a little Pentecost last weekend as we marched in the Pride Parade, proclaiming with beaming smiles and “mom/priest/bishop hugs” the message that “God thinks you’re fabulous,” which too many in the LGBT community have never heard. You should definitely check out the pictures from the parade to catch your own glimpse of what the Spirit was up to.
And I’ve witnessed the Spirit again this week as a wide array of religious leaders came together to create an emergency shelter to host a group of asylum seekers that will be transferred to Dallas in the next few days. I’m proud to be part of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square, a multi-faith group of leaders that works on fostering understanding and compassion in North Texas, and FFD has partnered with Dallas Responds to provide services to nearly 60 Central American asylum seekers that have been temporarily released awaiting final decision on their request. Oak Lawn United Methodist Church has literally been turned into an emergency shelter to provide relief to these men, women, and children whose lives have been overwhelmingly filled with suffering. You can help with this effort by donating time or money, and if reports from the border are any indication, the need will inevitably stretch well beyond this weekend.
I may not totally understand what happened to the disciples in Jerusalem on that fateful first Pentecost, but I do understand what Peter Storey, former Methodist bishop in South Africa during the apartheid era, calls Pentecost: “the great nevertheless of God.” Even while surrounded by the strong-armed agents of repression, Storey knew that the Holy Spirit was active in his nation. The government had all the power; nevertheless, God was with the poor in South Africa. The South African regime did not hesitate to use force in order to stop rebellion; nevertheless, Storey, along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others, led the black South Africans in a peaceful revolution. The odds were heavily against a peaceful revolution; nevertheless, with God on their side, they were victorious. There was a strong temptation to retaliate against their former persecutors; nevertheless, God gave them a means of forgiving enemies and discovering true reconciliation.
No matter what the odds, when the Holy Spirit is at work in something, no obstacle can block the great nevertheless of God.
So come this weekend and help us celebrate the birthday of the Church and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Come and pray with us in thanksgiving that whatever happened to the disciples at Pentecost is actually still happening today. And then let that same Spirit set you on fire to be part of the great “nevertheless” movement of God in the world.