RCL – May 27, 2012 – Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Here, at the beginning, I will say that Pentecost is one of my favorite days in the Christian year and I am always disappointed that the season of the Spirit always slips quietly into “Ordinary Time” until Advent comes along. But the day itself, Pentecost, always fills me with a joyful anticipation. And, if I am to be completely honest, the day also stirs a secret hope that when I say the words, “Come, Holy Spirit, Come” as part of the communion liturgy, the Holy Spirit will, indeed, (or is that in deed?) come and blow the doors off the sanctuary and disturb a few sacred butts.
I love the Pentecost stories with their vivid images. Who can hear the description of events in Acts and not see those tongues of fire? Or smell the dust in Ezekiel’s valley of bones? Or feel the anticipation of the Advocate John promises? I’m just not sure how much we pay attention. These are great stories filled with emotion and details. But what do they mean for the world today?
Today I feel a stronger kinship with Ezekiel than I do with Peter. Peter stood on the edge of a transforming world. Wherever you stand theologically, there is no denying that Jesus (and those who followed) changed the world. Ezekiel, however, looked out upon a dry, dusty world in need of new life. Such was his lot – to prophesy to the bones… and watch them rise again.
This is the power we need in the world today. I cannot be the only one feeling weary. The news is filled with items that can aptly be described as dry, brittle bones. Is it really 2012 where the issue of morality in women’s healthcare is being raised? Or the need for affordable healthcare for all people? Or our need to attend to global warming? Or the religion of a presidential candidate? Or the care of soldiers returning from war? Violence in the streets, in Syria, in Sudan, seemingly everywhere? Homelessness? Hunger? Poverty? This world is exhausting for those who pay attention. Surely, it is in need of sinew and muscle and breath anew.
Prophesy to these bones and they will rise again.
Yes, maybe so. There are protests. There are cries for justice here and there. It seems that there might be enough people who do not want to see America become a theocracy (and a bad one at that) even if the economy is suffering under the impact of a war gone on too long and the foolishness of Wall Street; faith is an important quality in a potential president, but it should not determine public policy. There are those who speak out against injustice being the way to financial stability for a frightened nation; access to healthcare should not be determined by gender or economics. Here and there amidst the weary bones are signs of life yet to come.
Turning our attention to the wider world, possibility is awakening. Egypt is electing its first-ever president. Afghanistan is preparing to stand on their own after too many years of warring violence. Pakistan is considering re-opening trade routes. The UN has not given up on Syria attaining peace. The Euro-zone continues to hold on. A Chinese activist finds safe-haven.
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
I guess this is my way of saying that there is hope even for those of us slogging through dry, dusty valleys full of bones. This is what Pentecost means for me at it’s heart. The Advocate continues to advocate. The rattling of bones leads to life made new. The Holy Spirit still sets the world on fire. It isn’t about doing the same old thing the same old way. It’s about expecting the breath to be knocked out of you just so you can breathe new life. It’s about meaning it when we invite the Spirit into our lives. It’s about letting go of the things that keep us dry and brittle and weary and running after the things that set us on fire with possibility.
What will you prophesy?
Justice? Peace? Transformation? Hope? Life?
And when you’ve done it, expect it to happen. Look for it. Work for it. Live for it. But for the love of God, do not let the season of the Spirit become ordinary time; do everything in your power to make it extraordinary.