This week’s sermon (10 min) with full transcript below
50 days after the events of Easter, religion changed forever.
In the cross of Christ, god had identified with the brown body that was murdered by state violence and had vindicated the victim who cried out ‘it is finished’ – let this scapegoating mechanism be exposed for what it is. Jesus unmasked the unjust nature of the powers the be.
The nature of god’s presence in the world was trans-formed as well. The temple curtain was torn in two and the glory of god was exposed to come out from man-made structures and institutions to find its home in the new body of Christ – the people of god.
The event of Pentecost was radically illuminating, thus the symbolism of the tongues of fire. God’s spirit had come to all flesh. This is the decentering of God’s power to the margins, the democratization of religion.
The church is essentially Pentecostal.
I’m not talking about the gift of tongues only, the miracle of Pentecost is not in the speaking but in the hearing. People heard the message of God’s love in ways that they could understand (as if in their own native tongue).
God was communicating through ordinary women and men – not just those with religious titles or theological education. God was pleased to speak through the children of God by pouring out Holy Spirit power on all flesh in a fulfillment of Joel 2 that daughters and sons dream dreams and prophesy.
Pentecost is my favorite day of the church calendar. Not just because of its liturgical flare or because it is ‘the birth-day of the church’. Pentecost is my favorite because it holds the very DNA of the church being contextual in its message – speaking in ways that people of different tribes and nations can hear and receive that good news of God’s work in the world.
As Methodist we take this very seriously. God’s presence in each person means that they are vector of God’s ongoing work in the world and their experience is a valid location for revelation and reflection. We added to the inherited Anglican triad of scripture, tradition, and reason the fourth component of our Wesleyan quadrilateral: experience.
We let that experience inform, form, and transform our mission and ministry. That is part of why the historical commitment to the abolition of slavery was spearheaded by Methodist around the globe.
We expect to experience the things that we believe and we believe people’s experiences.
This is especially true for liberal Methodists. To our religious commitment we also add a layer of prioritizing the inherent worth and value of every individual. Every life matters.
When we see an atrocity repeated over and over again of certain demographic of our population – in this case, unarmed black men – being victimized and disproportionally targeted we cry out in lament at the injustice built into the legacy of racism in the country. We rail against the nature of our whiteness in being complicit with the historical policies that police black bodies differently.
We can not stand idly by at the systemic nature of racism in America and it makes us sick to learn about the experiences of whole communities of color being targeted for different treatment for the last 400 years ( actually over 500 years).
We teach our kids to sing “Red and Yellow, Black and White”, all are precious in Jesus’ sight.
The Bible says that if one part of the body suffers, that we all suffer. Jesus said that if even one sparrow falls to the ground, the God’s concern is there. Well more than one part of our body is hurting and we are experiencing the convulsions of that sickness.
Dr. King famously said, ““In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
We can keep silent no longer. We must speak up and stand with our sisters and brothers who are hurting. On this Pentecost Sunday we must also embrace our prophetic voice and speak in tongues that are not our own so that all may hear the message of God’s love and justice in ways that they can hear it. Not just in the langue that we are comfortable speaking but in a langue foreign to ourselves so that the dignity and worth of every soul can hear and receive it in ways that matter to those who hear our utterances.
Black lives matter. Every black life matters. Red lives matter. Brown lives matter. And if that is not true then we can not say that every life matters. So we raise our collective voice to say that we will stand against the systems of injustice and marginalization that have been put in place in order to expose the continuing scapegoat mechanism that plagues our country and unmask the powers that be which perpetuate the ongoing persecution of our sisters and brothers who bear the image of God (imago dei) and on who’s tinted flesh god’s Holy Spirit has been poured out.
The importance of every single life and every single person and community is infinite value and worth to the God we cry out to.
Hear the prophet Amos speak to us again today:
14 Seek good, and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
15 Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
16 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:
“In all the squares there shall be wailing,
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning
and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation,
17 and in all vineyards there shall be wailing,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.
18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light,
19 as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
and a serpent bit him.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.