|This Sunday is Pentecost, the day Christians remember and rejoice that Jesus kept his promise to us, pouring out his spirit—the Holy Spirit—on all of his people.|
When the Spirit was unleashed, the gospel of Jesus began to spread beyond the small group of his disciples. When the Spirit came, cowering Peter became a mighty evangelist. When the Spirit came, miracles and acts of power came with it. When the Spirit came, the church was born. And for centuries, churches have remembered and celebrated this moment in history with passion and joy and loud shouts of praise.
But not this year. This year, our church building will be empty. Our sanctuary won’t be filled with our voices lifted in songs and shouts of praise. We won’t laugh and launch kites or gather around pot-luck tables, taking and rejoicing in the unity we’ve found in him.
This year, in our building, we’ll have a silent Pentecost.
And, uncomfortable and disappointing as that will be, maybe it’s right. Maybe all of our shouting and celebrations have been the wrong kind. Maybe it’s prophetic. Maybe this year’s silent Pentecost is a judgment against our silent churches. Maybe God can’t hear our pentecost shouting because our silence is deafening—silence in the face of injustice, silence in the relentless cycle of blood shed, silence in accepting the racist systems which kill our brothers and sisters.
But here’s the thing—our God is full of loving grace. Grace was never meant to free us from judgment; grace was always meant to free us for judgment, so that—in spite of our fear and weakness—we might be filled with His spirit of powerful redeeming, repenting, transforming love.
So, friends, this Sunday is different. It won’t feel the same; it won’t be the same. But we shouldn’t be the same. We will remember and rejoice in the promised gift of our savior that was given to change us, change everything. Together—even while apart—we will pray for the Spirit that fills us and resurrects us—and we will pray and pray, until there is something to shout about.
This week we gather together in worship centered around another one of Jesus’ more troubling parables. It’s the story of a beautiful party and all the reasons most of the guests missed it. They didn’t miss it because they were busy sinning, committing crimes, or hurting people. They missed it because they were prosperous and responsible and because they put their families first.
As we begin to move from Phase 1 into Phase 2 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions, we have to decide what parts of our lives we will pick back up again. This parable reminds us that the choices our culture celebrates are the very choices Jesus warns against in this story. So…how should we live now?
I hope you’ll listen in as we allow the words of Jesus to shape the next steps of our journey.
I have terrible eyesight, but I mostly refused to wear glasses until I was in my twenties just because I didn’t like to wear them. And then, when I was 24, I got contacts. I wore them all the time. For the first time in my life, I could see.
The parables are like that—like spiritual contacts. These stories sit on top of our souls and become the lens through which we see reality clearly for the first time–if we are willing. Without them, we see Jesus and his Kingdom, but not clearly. We can get by, but not very well. We squint and miss connections and, sometimes, crash catastrophically. But when we let these stories correct our sight, we see clearly how to live. Things we thought were familiar to us, like grace, are revealed to be something more.
This Sunday, we use the parable of the unjust tenants to help us see how we are called to live as followers of Jesus. Fair warning, sometimes clear sight terrifies before it clarifies. But all truth is God’s truth—and when we receive the grace to walk in truth, it will set us free.
Many of us are carrying bruised hearts into worship this Sunday. Some of us have already watched loved ones get buried. Some of us are wondering how much longer we can hold on financially. Some of us are overwhelmed by the mental, relational, and spiritual challenge of continued isolation.
Some of us are raw from the trauma of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery.
Again and again, through the prophet Isaiah, God consoles, comforts, and warns: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, behold I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it, for behold I am creating new heavens and a new earth and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” These promises were sealed in Jesus’ words from the throne in Revelation: “Behold, I am making all things new.”
In a whirlwind of pain and suffering, we cling to these words. We cling to all of these words—especially the all—because Jesus entered into time and space to usher in complete and total redemption.
This is always good news, but it is especially good news in a week like this one when we see how trapped we are in cycles of sin, violence, hate, and destruction. God really is making A-L-L things new. Every last bit of reality. But, we can’t embrace and participate in the new if we are clinging to parts of the old. Jesus warns us that the holy new can’t be patched onto the broken old; that, when we try to fit the new reality into the old forms, destruction ensues.
We are called to follow Jesus whole-heartedly into the new realm of God. Among other things, that means telling the truth about the brokenness of the old. That means embracing what is strange and unfamiliar in its uncompromising righteousness. That means trusting God and longing for redemption enough to let go of customs and beliefs that are familiar and seem harmless and benign. It means embracing the same kind of rejection and suffering our Lord endured when he spoke truth and lived among us—all for the offer of new life with and throng him.
So, friends—please listen in as we face the lies we have been freed to rise against.
Many of us have heard the parable that Jesus told about the man who built his house on a rock and the man who built his house on the sand. But, before he told this story, he asked a question.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Because, this is what we do, isn’t it? We call him Lord, but we do not do what he says. And—newsflash. It’s not because we don’t understand him, it’s because we can.
Last month, we celebrated the upside down Kingdom of God. This month, we are exploring the parables of Jesus as we learn how to live in his upside down Kingdom.