Scripture: Acts 2: 1-18
Breathe on us, breath of God. Fill us with life anew. That we may love as Thou wouldst love and do what thou wouldst do. Amen.
I have a complicated relationship with Christianity. On the one hand, I have been shaped in my cells and bones by the stories, hymns and liturgy of the Christian tradition. Honestly, I could start to cry at the very mention of the exchange between Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the 20th Chapter of John’s gospel when Jesus says Mary’s name and she recognizes him. “Mary…Rabbouni.” The ways in which those two words embody the experience of resurrection does me in every single time we read it on Easter Sunday.
Or when we sing “Won’t you let me be your servant” and catch each other’s eyes as we sing, “I will weep when you are weeping” or when we sing, “Precious Lord,” particularly when Allan, Claire, Jeanine and Mary are here and the room is filled with the harmonious prayer of petition, “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am weak, I am worn.”
Particularly amidst difficult times like the ones we are living in…it is to these scriptural texts and these hymns and the rituals like the communion we will celebrate in just a moment, that I return to to ground and hold me.
But, my friends, I know I’m not telling you anything, but far too many of our Christianity has been co-opted and twisted into a poisonous brew of judgemental, death-dealing horror. I still get almost physically ill when I think of Jeff Sessions literally quoting scripture to not only justify but support putting children in cages at our Southern border. Or the ways Jesus name is called out to baptize what Susan Thistletwhaite is encouraging us to call Christo-Fascism and its toxic brew of racism, sexism, heterosexism and white nationalism.
I live in a tug and pull reality between these two poles every day. And, honestly, I might have thrown in the towel on calling myself a Christian if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit and her rushing wind, her wild goose, her fire of passion and her flowing water.
Every time our tradition starts to get reified in rigidity and death-dealing dogma, the Holy Spirit rushes in and, for those who have ears to hear, gives us to understand those who just moments before were seen as our adversaries. Every time our tradition seeks to define who the real Christians are…or, worse yet, who the real human beings are and who are less than human, the Holy Spirit blows through in-spiring the resistors and the prophets. Every time we get muddled or have our true vision obscured by supremacist logics that make us think we’re better than someone else, the Holy Spirit burns down our certainty and gifts us with questions and new experiences that lead us to ever more open hearts.
I would even offer that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a deeply universalizing move. It is the Spirit, the Mysterious presence which animates and connects all of our human religious traditions.
My dad was a sailor his whole life…on little human-made lakes, on the Great Lakes and on the ocean. I grew up sailing on Lake Erie. I have so many memories of lying on the bow of our 22-foot Venture sailboat with the only sound being the wind and the waves splashing against the hull and we raced through the water. When I would sit up and look back, I would see my dad with his hand on the tiller and a look of pure joyous contentment. The last boat he owned was a small 14 footer whom he named “Ruach” which is the Hebrew word for Spirit or wind.
My friends, on this Pentecost Sunday, as we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian church, I am praying for mighty winds and fires of justice and reigns of love. And I’m praying for us to allow ourselves to set sail on Ruach’s wind and waters.