Rev. Katherine Todd
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The Spirit of God is a great equalizing power. Notice how the Spirit of God knows no lines of race or gender, age or power. For all the lines in our world – dividing by color, dividing by economic means and opportunity, divisions by gender…or perceived gender, divisions by class, division by age…
For all of this, the Spirit of God cuts right through it.
I used to think all these differences were best unseen. I thought that to love someone different than me meant being blind to all that made us different. But someone significant to me once said, “No. I am different.” Being blind to the differences wasn’t the answer. It made them feel less seen, less known. Rather, seeing the differences and loving still,… THAT is closer to the answer.
For it is in the infinite space and differences between us where we find our greatest individual and collective strength. When we open ourselves to learn from one another, we are all the richer and far stronger.
So in this world determined to judge and to draw lines, may we be a people who follow the Spirit of God’s lead. The Spirit of God made no distinction. The Spirit did not only come to the righteous, to the worthy, to those good enough.
The Spirit of God has been poured out upon all flesh. All flesh.
What does that mean?
Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks more to this when he says:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Paul says that everyone led by the Spirit of God is a child of God.
Now THAT is a very broad statement.
In a world very divided – religiously, ethnically, dietarily, and on and on the list goes – in THIS world where some are considered property of others and a very small segment of society is legally able to own, buy, and sell property, THIS was a radical statement. Because here Paul is not only saying that ALL FOLLOWING GOD’s SPIRIT are children of God BUT THAT they are also heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
These are statements about power and authority. These are statements associated with wealth and privilege. These are statements about belonging.
And so in this ancient text, fraught with the social structures and limitations in the minds and worlds of its many and varied writers, we have been given this radical ray of light in the darkness of the powers that be in the world. You will know a tree by its fruit, you can discern the children of God by their obedience to the Spirit of God.
Notice, you do not know the children of God by our human labels,…nor by religious membership,…nor by perfection. No one who has ever followed God has done it perfectly. The Bible is excellent in showing us that! But to be part of God’s family, a disciple of God, a follower of the Spirit of God is to be in relationship with God. It is to be molded and shaped in fellowship with God and God’s people. It is to be healed and redirected away from death and toward life. It is to listen while walking in faith, and to turn around, when God says the word and you realize you’ve been going the wrong way….
We are defined in relationship to God. THAT is what matters.
Not the labels
Not the names
Our God has poured out the Spirit upon ALL FLESH!
The power of God lives in and among us!
The presence of God is here and now.
And God is all about us, in faces and places we would never expect.
But may WE be a PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW the Spirit of God.
MAY WE be a people who are defined in relationship with our God,
Open and ready to see God’s face and hear God’s voice among the last and the least.
May WE be a community that works to tear down the judgements and distinctions that divide and isolate.
MAY WE BE a community where the broad spectrum of beautifully made and utterly loved creatures may find their place of belonging.
May it be among us.