Pentecost is soon upon us. A day when we remember and celebrate the birth of the Church. Even as a teenager, I remember that one of the things I was amazed at was the staying power of the Church. Governments, business, nations, economies all come and go over the last 2,000 years. Even philosophical views, which most are unaware of having, do not last. Individuals of western civilizations, for instance, do not understand themselves and the world in the same way they did in the first century. Things don’t last. Yet, the Church keeps on keeping on. I’ve always found this amazing, especially considering all the humans and their flaws who make up the crew. It’s like a ship that keeps floating while the crew keeps drilling holes in the bottom.
When I hear people talk about religion or Christianity, in particular, as the cause of wars, I want to say, or do say, “Actually, I think it’s us,” meaning “us” as in “us humans.” We’re quite a species. It’s so easy to blame something else rather than take responsibility for our own destructive tendencies. For example, conquering, controlling, greedily oppressing usually comes with an effort to justify the behavior. “Well, we’re doing it for freedom.” To which the other side says, “Aah, we were pretty free.” “O.K., then we are doing it because we love democracy.” Response, “We have our own form of government that we like.” “O.K., we’re patriots.” — “We are patriots, too.” Then, searching for a bigger stick to one up, “Well, then, we do it for God.” (Remember “infinite justice?”) This is where I think God probably comes running out of the garden in her cotton dress and sun hat, sending her fighting children to their rooms. Actually, that doesn’t happen, but I bet God’s response to our own ridiculous, created arguments upon which we stand to justify our behaviors is one of shock and even hurt.
Pentecost is an event where I’m very much aware of God’s greatness. Of the Holy. Also, I’m made very much aware of our own human inability to the “Lords” of our own lives and, especially, the Church. The Church lives by God’s power and grace. Sure, we are important, but we are not the lead singer, to add yet another metaphor. When the Pips (back up singers) drift forward and take over the concert from Gladys Knight, it goes down hill. That show is not going to be successful.
At All Pilgrims, we are not distracted with arrogance to think that “we are running a church.” Our operational objectives don’t take the lead over our spiritual growth and faithful living, expressed in relationship with one another. Instead, we are faithful in our seeking and following, and we therefore are on the move, together. Our building project is not for us or by us, alone. Our joining new members on Pentecost is not for us or by us, alone. Our worship is not for us or by us, alone. Rather, God calls and moves and seeks to shape us that we may exhibit, make real and tangible God’s love and life.
For me, Pentecost is very special because it has stood out as a defining moment in my faith life. It inspires awe and gratitude. It is remarkably humbling, and it is wonderfully reassuring. God is God, and we are not. That is good news. Even as we do our best to be faithful back up singers, sometimes tripping over our many extension cords, attached to our drills, which sometimes create holes in the ship, God runs out of the garden in her sun hat and summer dress to love us forward as the lead singer, making our concert one of remarkable beauty and abundant, eternal life.
We are a part of something far bigger than ourselves!