Pentecost 2020 Sermon by the Vicar, Lisa Fischbeck

Here’s the video link. (13 minutes)

Here’s the text.

Pentecost 2020
The Advocate on Zoom
May 31, 2020

In the Name of the creating, restring and transforming God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Fire

It brings comfort to a cold night.
It lends an air of celebration and joy on days of festivity.
It can serve as a conduit for good reading, a nap, a bit of romance perhaps.
Come heavenly comforter,
Spirit of Peace.

But it isn’t wintertime here in North Carolina this Pentecost Sunday.
And the fire of the Spirit is not all sweet comfort.

Instead, we are perched on a Sunday after a week of civil unrest across our nation.
A week in our nation when as much as ever we need a voice 
of compassion, equanimity, calm and strength 
emanating from our nation’s leadership.
And what we are getting instead is …
Well, what we are getting instead is something else.
So we turn to our God.

Fire

It refines and purifies,
It cleanses us of impurity.
And I’m not speaking here of what might be considered physical impurities,
Rather the impurities of mind, heart and soul,
Impurities such as racism,
That get in the way of our knowing and making known
God justice, God’s mercy, God’s Peace and God’s Love.

Fire.

I am grateful to Nancy Trueblood for organizing our poly-lingual reading of the story of Pentecost from the book of Acts.

So that we can experience anew the chaos and the celebration of many languages, many people,

And with the translation before us on the PowerPoint provided by Nathan,

we, too, can understand what is being said in languages that are not our own.

We need to remember that the Christian Pentecost story 

started with the disciples all holed up in fear and uncertainty.

They’d already been through the crucifixion 

and all the fear and uncertainty that had caused.

They’d already been through the experience of resurrection and all the sweet relief and excitement it brought on,

They’d already been with Jesus among them for a season,

Setting their hearts at ease,

Challenging them anew,

Causing them to realize that things were not ever going to be the same.

That there was a “new normal” indeed.

But then Jesus disappeared again.

Ascended.

They saw him go.

Sure, he offered comforting words before he left.

But still,

Here they were again,

Holed up in one place together,

Filled with fear and uncertainty.

Not knowing what the future would bring.

What the nextnew normal would be.
Sound familiar?

When suddenly, 
there was the sound of a rushing and violent wind,

Think hurricane or tornado.

There was the sound of a rushing and violent wind.

And then the appearance of tongues,

“As of fire”, the story goes.

And those tongues as of fire landed on each of them.

None other than the Holy Spirit was filling them, 

and filling the room.

The next thing they knew,

They were able to speak and understand in languages they did not know before.

And they were united,

Not only with each other,

But with all the crowds gathered on the streets outside their window.

Because everyone could understand everyone.

It was as if there were a universal language.

No.

It was that there wasa universal language.

The language of the Holy Spirit.

Fire. 

You may have heard in recent days

A recording of a speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1967.

It was a speech he gave against the backdrop of rioting that rocked our cities that summer.

He called it “the other America.”

One America, King said,  
is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. 
This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; 
and culture and education for their minds; 
and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. 

This sounds like most of the people most of us know, doesn’t it….

But tragically and unfortunately,King went on… 
there is another America. 
This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. …
In this America people are poor by the millions. …

In the speech, King goes on to underscore his commitment to non-violence.

And he also works to help those who would listen

To understand why the rioting was happening.

A riot is the language of the unheard.He said.
A riot is the language of the unheard.

And what is it that America has failed to hear? Among other things, Kings said:
…it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity.

And so, King went on, 

in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots 
are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. 
And as long as America postpones justice, 

we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. 

A riot is the language of the unheard.

A riot is the language of anger, yes,

Anger over constant, persistent unending injustice and oppression.

It is the language of a people who can find no other way to be seen and be heard.
And here on this day of Pentecost, 2020,

We cannot miss the significance of the fire,

As buildings burn, as cars burn, as fires burn in the souls of the downtrodden.

The fire of Pentecost lit on the disciples

And empowered them,

Not only to speak and understand languages they did not previously know,

But also to share the message of God

To all the then known world.

That’s power. 

Changing a group of frightened people,

Uncertain of what the future would bring,

Into go-getters of the highest form.

Fire

It is in the spirit of unity and in celebration of the fire of Pentecost

That you and I are wearing red this morning.

You, and I and Jesus. (point)

By wearing red, 

We are,

At least at some level,

taking the fire of Pentecost ontoourselves and  intoourselves this day.

Like a mantle.

Do you feel it?

What does mean to carry the mantle of Pentecost?

What does it mean really, to wear red on this day?
Certainly it is fun and unifying and joyful,

And that is good.

Certainly it reminds us of the comfort and Peace that the Holy Spirit brings.

That’s good, too.

But we all know that thisPentecost,

This Pentecost 2020

Is a Pentecost amidst a covid crisis that has laid bare the economic disparities of our land.

It is a Pentecost amid another round of riots rising out of the atrocity of our nation’s long history of racism.

Will we let our common language include the language of the unheard?

Will we seize this Pentecost moment in our nation and in our lives?

I know, I know it is hard to know what to do.

What can we do?

Especially in these covid times.

What can we do?

Well, I want to make three suggestions.

Three things we can do, and all they will take

For now

is our time.

No more than 4 hours and 9 minutes of our time.

First, if you haven’t seen it already,

do a search and find a video link to the 9-minute video of the arrest and murder of George Floyd.

Watch it. Watch all 9 minutes of it.

And realize that the abuse of black human beings,

Especially black men, 

That we associate with mid-19thcentury America, 

is still very much a part of our nation’s way.

Second,

Tune into MSNBC tonight at 9 PM

 And watch Poverty and the Pandemic.

A discussion with Joy Reid and William Barber.

Come to understand more fully the language of the unheard.
Black, brown and white.

Third,

Participate in The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March 

on Saturday, June 20.

It’ll happen at 10 am or 6 PM, or on Saturday, June 20.

Stay tuned in for all, or if need be just some of the two hours.

It may get tedious.

It may feel repetitive.

Stay with it.

However inconvenient it may be to us,

  1. It is asking a whole lot less time that getting on a bus and going to Washington DC for the day, which is what we were planning before covid 19 hit.
  2. Whatever inconvenience it entails is not nearly as inconvenient as the inconvenience experienced by the poor and the oppressed in our society every single day.

On Sunday, June 21, we will talk about it in our screenside chat.

This may not feel like enough, and it isn’t.

But I offer these three things we can do 

Because we can do them,

to share in the language of the unheard.

Maybe we can consider it our Pentecost pledge.

As we prayed earlier in our in this liturgy:
Officiant:     If Christ’s disciples keep silent

All:             These stones would shout aloud.   

We cannot keep silent.

Fire. 

See the fires of this day, 

Feel the burn, (that’s burn, with a u)

Feeling it in our red clothing, in our zoom, in our national news,

See the fire, feel the fire, share the fire.

until allGod’s children can come to know

The language of the unheard 

and they are unheard no more.

Until allGod’s children can come to know

the language of God’s justice, God’s mercy,
God’s Peace and God’s love.                                                                                                         

Amen.