I went to a Pride March, yesterday. I wasn’t sure anyone was able, or wanted to go to the March today or not. So when a couple friends invited me to the Dyke March down on Argyle in “Little Vietnam,” I jumped at the chance. I walked right out on Jim and Julian finishing up the flooring in the lower level east rooms, and Mary and Dick painting the last wall!
The Dyke March is different in a number ways. It’s much smaller of course. There’s no floats either – it’s a March, not a Parade. And we walked on the sidewalks, not the streets. All in all, this was a pretty meek, “inherit the earth” kind of crowd, it seemed to me. Also, no corporate sponsors are allowed, instead, they do private fund-raisers throughout the year, and then at the event, the only thing they sell are Dyke March T-shirts, carefully laid out on the grass, for only $10. And finally, if you’d been there, you’d probably have noted how I was definitely in the minority as an M, among mainly, F’s, as the Transgender community would say!
But a couple things were the same. For one, the Dykes on Bikes were there, on their Harley’s of course, always a crowd pleaser at the big Sunday Pride Parade. But secondly, and most importantly, people feel free to be themselves. Women arm in arm, a myriad of T-shirts expressing equal rights in various creative ways, lots of rainbow colors and fabulous tattoos, and a strong sense of belonging and empowerment. The core of any Pride march is being out and proud, and not afraid to show it.
Every year it seems to become just a bit more accepted and respected. It wasn’t always that way of course. In fact, the Pride movement was founded on it’s opposite, overcoming the fear and anger and violence against those who are LGBTQ. The brave few who stood up at the Stonewall riot in NYC on June 28th, 1969, and said, we’re not going to be excluded any more, endured all out war by the police. Early Pride marches, always held non-violently, were not always well received. But today, in Chicago, the Pride Parade will have only a small band of ultra-conservative Christian denouncers, reduced to a very small gallery at the end of the route, their vitriol being drown out by the 99% of the crowd cheering their support.
In our gospel reading, when Jesus acts out of the ordinary by rebuking the wind and sea, the disciples are afraid of him. Who is this? This is no ordinary healer, but a rebuk-er of the wind and sea, one with the power, only God, God’s-self, can possess. Healers were relatively common, even the disciples were given the authority to heal when Jesus sent them out 2 by 2. But to rebuke the wind and sea, command its “proud waves be stopped,” as Job described God’s creative power, that was not done!
The windstorms that came up in the Sea of Galilee in the gospel stories, were all about the spiritual conflict of the day. And the raging waters are a symbol and sign of someone, or something, that has come out of the closet and declared their pride, and refuses to go back again. The initial coming out is not always well received. We are changed, and we don’t like it.
For Jesus and the early church it was all about crossing over to the other side. By the time Mark wrote his gospel from Antioch, or wherever he was outside of Palestine, he really didn’t know Syria from Jordan from Lebanon. For him, the other side just meant, the side that wasn’t Israel, foreign territory, the non-Jewish, Gentile side. And every time the disciples cross the Sea of Galilee to go to the other side, that’s when a windstorm of some type blows up out of no where. Every time they come back home, the seas are calm and its easy sailing.
Coincidence? Hardly! For Jesus and the early church, they were struggling to hold their ship together over the issue of allowing “those people” on the other side to come into the church or not. Should Gentiles be allowed in? And if so, what would the requirements be? Since all followers of Jesus were Jews initially, wouldn’t Gentiles have to convert to Judaism first? The voyage was a stormy one for a time. The debate raged on. The windstorms blew up every time someone reached out to include the other side!
According to Mark and all the gospel writers, Jesus, a Jew himself, took a stand, came out of the closet, and rocked the boat. But he also calmed the storm, to make a way for the reeling, fearful church community to find, unity. The disciples are shaken by their call to go to the other side, but they are also filled with awe that Jesus can help them; and when Jesus asks them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” we begin to understand the gift of grace that Jesus has given us – that we too, as Gentiles, have been grafted on to the tree of life. And, as St. Paul says, faith, now, is the only marker of discipleship. Given as a free gift of God’s grace, we are free to be who we are. Jesus provokes controversy and change, but also provides a way through the windstorm. He is alive, commanding us to go to the other side, promising to make a safe passageway, out of every storm.
“Something similar,” Michael Joseph Brown argues, “has happened with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the United States. As long as we remained in the closet,” he said, “hiding our identities, pretending to be confirmed bachelors – and such, America was satisfied. Like Jesus, when LGBT people begin to reveal their identities, take command of the circumstances around them, act out of the authority and dignity given them by God, then they may see those around them — even those closest to them — respond with great fear.” And so, marching, I guess, is still important.
You see something similar, we could say, going on around President Obama’s announcement of supporting Marriage Equality. There are some of his own supporters who are not there yet, and are even digging in their heels. Going boldly to the other side raises questions of authority, and there is some vocal opposition and fear. Many others, of course, have welcomed the President’s declaration as a real break through, and see it as a calming of the storm they have lived, and are cheering him on.
Jesus opened the door to receive all those he encountered on the other side who had faith, whether faithful fathers who came to him to heal daughter’s who were deathly ill, or women who’s faith was so strong they asked to eat just the crumbs from Jesus’ dining table, and it would be Grace & Life enough! He was initially misunderstood by his own disciples, and reviled by the Jerusalem religious leaders, humbling himself all the way to the cross. But he lives again, and sends us the Holy Spirit to empower us now to be able to calm the storms and say to windstorms and raging seas, “peace, be still.” And so we welcome the stranger, and build bridges to shores, on the other side.
Christmas in July! Church camps celebrate it. Congregations celebrate it too. We’re half way there to setting up the tree again. Next Sunday is St John the Baptist Day, when we celebrate the height of Midsommar, the longest day of the year, which begins the shortening of days, until Christmas, when Jesus, born into our world, begins the lengthening of days again. Maybe you can imagine our Christmas Tree set up here in the chancel, a symbol of new life, all decorated and lit up, to herald the light of the world, the Christ-child.
In scripture, trees have a majestic quality. The opening chapters of Genesis and the creation stories describe the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Abraham, that wandering Aramean, took part in tree worship, even after he was called by God. In the book of the prophet Hosea, God says, “I am like an evergreen cypress” tree, strong and mighty, and which we can imagine, looks a lot like the Christmas tree we know.
In our reading from Ezekiel today, God takes the part of a master gardener, or landscaper, if you will, when the LORD God takes a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar, and goes to plant it on Zion, the highest and most lofty mountain in Israel, or, the Temple mount. Though the house of King David has ended, God will replant and renew. God will transplant and start over. God can make a new dominion on earth. Not that Ezekiel had Jesus in mind, in his writing. Prophet’s spoke to their own time and community. But how can we not see ourselves in this beautiful poem of restoration for Israel, having a clear vision of new life that will emerge from the stuff, and DNA, of the people of God. And it is God who will do it, God the master gardener.
The image of the tree is one of the most common religious symbol archetypes. The ceiba peace tree of ancient Mayan days, the Shinto sakaki tree decorated with paper streamers in Asian homes, the legend of the Native Americans of the eastern woodlands, of the tree growing on the back of the turtle, and the Australian aborigines palm tree, all reverence the fertility and majesty of trees. And, interesting in many cultures, including Palestine and the ancient near east, was the belief that the earth herself was the greatest source of life. And so in the parable of the sower that Jesus tells, the sower doesn’t do anything but scatter the seed, then goes to sleep, eventually gets up, not to water the crops or weed them, but to go back to work, while “the earth produces of itself,” Jesus says, which is the life-force of nature, the power of God deep underneath, the “Ground of our Being.” (Tillich) These are seeds of wisdom Jesus gives us that we can scatter wherever we go, a rich story of life and faith, hope and trust, in our God.
But when it comes to trees, Jesus, whether intentionally or not, subverts the male-centric pattern of the mighty cedar and evergreen, in favor of a large shrub. To be sure, it grows phenomenally and secretly from one of the tiniest of seeds, the mustard seed – but, it’s rather hilarious, however you come to see it – the dominion of God is not like a giant cedar, but grows to be a good sized bush! Jesus has a playfulness with the non-dominant symbol of bush vs. tree, which has a kind of gender-bending, or queer orientation, this amorphous shrubbery. The mustard plant is a weed, an invasive species, actually, and grows subversively, and like a Pentecost wild-fire, spreads itself around, crossing borders and boundaries, ending up somewhere near you, even in your own garden! In common with the tree legend of Ezekiel, is that, the birds of the air, of every kind, come and nest in its branches or shade, whether tree or bush, signaling the inclusion of all people’s, into God’s promise to Israel.
For many, this promise of inclusion in its macro-application, points to the “new covenant,” and our inclusion, the Gentiles, through Jesus. And, just this past Friday, in an exciting micro-application, another strong move for the inclusion of all God’s people here in the United States, was announced. President Obama, after careful study, has made a way by executive order, for undocumented youth to live their ‘dream.’ Speaking of the policy he said, “These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag, they are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”
But now, on paper, undocumented immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have graduated from high school, or served in the military. Of course there’s politics involved, but what I’m interested in is the way it fulfills the biblical promise that, birds of all kinds, by which was meant, peoples of all nations, are welcome in the neighborhoods they live and work and go to school.
Here in Chicago, Brianda, recent high school graduate, lives in an apartment with her mother and older brother. Brianda hasn’t seen her father, who she described as “abusive,” since she was 4 years old. And until Friday’s announcement by the president, Brianda lived in fear of being sent back to Mexico, even though what she knows about her parents’ hometown there, she’s mostly learned from looking at Google Maps. Brianda came here as a babe in arms – not unlike the Christmas story when Jesus fees to Eygpt to live undocumented for a time. “I’m a person who always does the right thing,” Brianda said. “I don’t like to break the law.” So it didn’t feel right to have to fake papers to land a waitress job recently. This hiding and living in fear sometimes makes her angry, even at her parents. But now she has great hope, and is excited about the opportunity to go to college without fear of being discovered, she said. Bianda plans to study photography at Truman College.
The trees and shrubberies that grow, we know not how, bring life in the most unexpected ways, though by faith, we know they derive their sustenance from the deepest of roots in the good green earth, the Ground of our Being that God created.
We grow here too. Yesterday we continued painting and also began laying our new flooring in the lower level back rooms at Unity. And if it wasn’t for little Alena, who wanted her uncle Jim to stay another day, for Father’s Day today, we wouldn’t have had our expert tile layer yesterday. God continues to make a way for things grow and bloom beyond our understanding, even as we sleep and rise.
How about you? Do you hear yourself invited anew to this biblical story, or will you invite another, your uncle Jim, to be one of those trees that comes to know Jesus and to rejoice in God's gracious beauty, and join in God's praise? Who is "every kind of bird" that has not yet been invited to nest in God's noble cedar, or differently oriented mustard shrub? With whom can we share this inspiring Ezekiel poem, and wonderful gospel parable, in a way that might make them think about this God thing in a different way? God as tree tender? God as one who invites all to nest in God's tree? (questions inspired by Fred Gaiser on workingpreacher.com) And to see it maybe as a Christmas tree, springing forth in July?!
They said, he has an unclean spirit, and were calling Jesus, Beelzebul, and the ruler of demons, and even the crowds were saying, he has gone out of his mind. Demonizing one’s opponents, is an old tactic, become new again in our time! One political party or neighbor uses it against the other, using inflammatory language that characterizes the other in simplified, negative terms, with little room for the nuance or depth of character, we really have. Other times we suddenly stand together as a nation by demonizing those outside of us, foreign countries and their leaders, speaking as one, where we had been polarized parties, disagreeing on everything, at each other’s throats, united now, in our attack of the outsider. Then one day, somewhere down the road, we find that, opps, that country, or that ruler, hadn’t really had that kind of power to threaten us, there was more to the story, and there were a number of peaceful options we could have taken instead.
Jesus’ case is tricky too. Because he did do something to get the legal experts in Jerusalem all riled up. It was shortly before this story, when Jesus healed a man with a withered hand, healed at a time when it was against the law. He did it on the Sabbath, the day of rest from all working. Jesus’ explanation, of course, was that the Sabbath was made to serve humankind, not the other way around. But immediately – a favorite word in Mark’s gospel – immediately, the Pharisees and Herodians, went out to conspire how to destroy Jesus. Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah the Jerusalem authorities were given to warm up to. He tested the limits of the law, and even went over the line, at times. He was not a leader who was approved from within their circles, but had come from the northern rebel territory of Galilee, the place where he had called his disciples to leave their families and become a wandering landless band, a new order, not quite definable, unattached to the politics or socially approved institutions the legal experts recognized.
So, demonization is apparently part of the plan to destroy Jesus, and not just subtly, but blatantly, going all in, with one outrageous attack. He is evil itself! He is Beelzebul, ruler of the demons! How else could he cast out demons, like the healing of the man with the withered hand, unless he knew those demons intimately?! Just look at him, he’s out of his mind! He’s possessed, himself!
But the crowds don’t fall for it, not quite yet. They’re still curious to hear Jesus’ side of the story. How can Satan cast out Satan, Jesus says? If a dominion is divided against itself, that dominion cannot stand. It doesn’t make sense, what they’re saying about me.
And, a parable, or riddle: no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man, then indeed the house can be plundered.
Jesus turns the tables! The legal experts, out to trap him, out to destroy him, out to demonize him, are in league with the strong man, they are the ones who have been plundering the property of the people, the peasant crowds. And Jesus is the only one who is stronger than these authorities, and the ruler of demons, just as John the Baptist said. Jesus is the only one who can tie up Beelzebul, and those who are in cahoots with him. One who is stronger than all the rest, as John said when he saw Jesus coming towards him at the Jordan – he has the power of God.
Who is the strong man we know? Who are the authorities that plunder the people and claim to speak with religious conviction, or political power, but who are really attuned – perhaps unbeknownst to themselves – to defend the status quo that continues to empower and enthrone them, making them little lower than the gods? Who are those that create their own family-of-the-privileged, instead of a family of the children of God? And, is the church ever complicit in these privileges? If so, how do we break out?
Adam and Eve, caught in a web of lies, need to break out of sin. They had it all, the Garden of Eden, privileged beyond belief. And still it wasn’t enough, they wanted more, and they didn’t think twice about breaking God’s prohibition to eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden. And, their story of sin and separation, is the story of us all. We are the ones who have hid from God, ready to blame even our closest companion and friends, in a vain hope to keep up our untarnished and perfect image. Why have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat, God asked Adam, who said, Eve gave me the fruit from the tree, and I ate. Then God said to the woman, What about you? And Eve said, the serpent tricked me, and I ate.
So, by this tale of complete and utter failure, by their abuse of privilege, they are able to show us, how to break out of sin and separation from God, how the tree of life is not ours to take. It is only ours, so far as God gifts it to us.
So, how do we break out of this web of sin – our sin in thought, word, and deed; thinking better of ourselves than others; telling lies; saying hurtful things; looking the other way when action is needed? First of all, there is no hiding from God. The one who hides from God is the one who is in denial of ones responsibility in the world. And besides, God sees everything we do, all the time! Second, blaming others, especially those most dear to us, is a cop-out, another form of denial. God has given us everything we need to live a rich and full life – we have the Garden of Eden already, we just keep tripping over our privilege, envious of more, denying the freedom and responsibility God places in our hands, and blaming others, instead of living with it as a gift from God. Yes, we have everything we need already! In Christ, we have life, and we have it abundantly.
And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God keeps pushing us back into human community with one another, where we are invited to live together, not polarized, not abusing privilege, but finding a way to share the Tree of Life and make the gift grow – to make it enough for each other, as God has already made it enough for the whole world.
Of course that’s an unpopular message. It’s threatening to everyone, because we have been tempted by the power of the ruler of demons to believe we deserve what we possess, and call it ours, and so it goes on down the line, pitting us, one against the other, just as the serpent drew up the game plan of temptation, instead of trusting in the One who made this world very good, who made this urban green space, this community, that is enough.
Jesus didn’t even have time to sit down and eat with his disciples because of his battle with the ruler of this world. Adam and Eve, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate to grab it up and chow down! We have the table of grace, the meal of life, set and prepared for us each and every week that we gather. Let us eat and be satisfied. Let us be filled with the power to bind up the strong man, and continue our journey with Jesus toward God, who is alive in every neighborhood and community around us, gifting us with healing, salvation and life.
In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, the good news is that all God's children share together a common identity and heritage, we are made heirs of God by adoption. By this adoption, we become sisters and brothers of Christ, re-made and bound together in a diverse family.
Even in our families of origin, it’s complicated, and fraught with loss and rejection, acceptance and favoritism. The Marriage Equality bill that was introduced into the Illinois legislature this session to grant to everyone in our state equal protection, not just opposite gendered couples, but same-sex couples too, was pulled suddenly last week when some 25 same-sex couples from around the state, life-long partners, filed two lawsuits against the Clerk of Court, that their right to marry, their human rights, were being denied them as gay and lesbian couples. Quite a week! Wherever this ends up – and hopefully, by the grace of God, it will bring marriage equality soon – we know that loving, same-sex partners, will continue to make life-long commitments to one another, and a variety of shapes and configurations of loving families will continue valiantly, struggling to be faithful to the ones they love, and to raise their families.
The pastor who performed the civil union service for Ann Marie and Patricia, tells of the couple’s six year old daughter Hailey. She is a child with special needs because of the trauma she suffered the first few months of her life, but now Hailey is thriving under the care of her new parents. Recently, Hailey was legally adopted by Ann Marie, in the next step of the process. At the hearing, the judge commented that hopefully soon it will be possible for both Ann Marie, and her wife Patricia, to adopt Hailey together, as her legal parents - parents that the judge found to be highly qualified, noting that, with a back log of some 127,000 children nationwide waiting for adoption, how tragic it was for the country, that Ann Marie and Patricia were not afforded all the legal protections and privileges opposite-sex married couples took for granted. How much healthier our society could be if little Hailey could grow up adopted by both her moms.
A seminary professor I know, recalled a story about her niece, who is an only child. The professor was at a recent family gathering when the nine-year-old cried to her mother, "I wish I was adopted, like my cousins. Then we'd have more in common with each other." Her lament may surprise some of us, but it reflects a very human concern for belonging and identity. (Audrey West, Working Preacher) Not knowing any better, to the niece, adoption looked like a stronger bond than natural born siblings.
St. Paul proclaims, “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.”
Most scholars agree that Paul borrowed the concept of adoption from Greek or Roman law. The Jews did not practice adoption, and the word never appears in the Hebrew scriptures. In The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris says adoption is “a useful word for Paul, for it signifies being granted the full rights and privileges of [belonging to] a family [in] which one does not belong by nature.” One is not born a Christian; one becomes a Christian. (Verity A. Jones, CC)
Do we sometimes feel like being a Christian is our birthright? Do we assume that because we choose to be here, we are natural born Christians?
We know that God loves us even when we are still sinners. But in the sacrament of baptism, here at the font, we rejoice that we have been adopted by God, and made fellow heirs with Christ, brothers and sisters in the faith. In the waters of baptism, we begin a new journey and life, becoming followers, being formed by the grace and love of God – who has chosen us. Here, our last names are all the same, Christian. We do not choose God, but in Christ we are claimed and named, and adopted into the life of the Spirit, the risen one.
No where is that more clear than in the baptism of little Gabriella Ann Fernandez today, who comes to the font in the arms of her parents, unable to answer I do for herself, or understand the depth and meaning of the sacrament of baptism. And yet, she receives as fully as any of us salty and seasoned adults, the gift of grace and love and salvation. God calls us first, just like Isaiah. And whether we respond immediately with “here I am,” or much later, we are all children of God by adoption, and not by natural birth.
Jesus was clear that his family included the faithful who surrounded him at the egalitarian meals that came to be known as the meal of holy communion, for us. And that his followers and disciples became his sisters and brothers, at the end, when he washed their feet, on the night in which he was betrayed. He adopted them, and continues to adopt us as siblings. And Jesus included a rich array of followers, from the highways and byways, even tax collectors and sinners. He called for a kingdom on earth that equally invited the marginalized and outcast. He dined with rich and poor, and lovingly fed the 5,000 pilgrims on the hillside that the disciples would have shooed away. And all those who believed, the faithful, he adopted, and called his new family.
Not that Jesus wanted to exclude his biological family. We know that, of Jesus’ many brothers, James became a key leader in the Jerusalem church. And his mother Mary was adopted into the faithful assembly too, if you will, when from the cross Jesus gave John to her as a son, and then gave Mary to John as his mother. Jesus invites all to the font, and the table, to be adopted into the family of faith, so that we may nurture and support one another in our mission to God’s world.
Single parent families, same-sex partners and parents, inter-racial couples, those divorced and re-married, there is such a host and variety of ways that we belong in the diverse family of God. Our families-of-origin are not always places where we are accepted or loved, but with God, all are welcome, loved and cared for, as adopted children. Adoption, is the common denominator. God chooses us. None of us can earn our way in. We don’t have a birthright to this family. But we are loved and cherished because God made us. And here at the font we are made heirs of God, and sisters and brothers of Christ, now and forever.
From community entombed, to community alive! From behind locked doors to dancing in the streets! The disciples waited, lo these 50 days, for the Pentecost Spirit, to come! From followers, who were lost, afraid and confused, to apostles, found, empowered and made articulate. The last act of Easter Day has arrived. Christ is risen, ascended, and now, gifts to us, the Holy Spirit.
And just like that first Easter evening, when the disciples were all together in one place, so, exactly 50 days later, they wait in the same place, waiting just as Jesus instructed them. They knew to wait, for the coming of the Holy Spirit. They just didn’t have any idea what it would look like, or how powerful an experience it would be!
From community entombed, to community unfurled-alive! Can these dry old bones live? Can the whole house and community of the new Israel, rattle together, head bone connected to the neck bone, and so on? Can the four winds breathe into these fearful, entombed disciples, and animate them into the church?
They waited together in that upper room, disbelieving in their joy, until suddenly, without warning there was a sound like a mighty, gale force, wind – no one could tell where it came from as it filled up the entire structure. And like a wildfire, flames swept in and appeared to rest over each of them. And out of the chaos, the disciples all began to speak, in the foreign languages of everyone, who had come from around the world. An instant Rosetta Stone miracle! John the Baptist had predicted at Jesus’ baptism that he would baptize with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” And so it was – a mighty wind, and tongues of fire! And wonderfully playful, the tongues of fire, morph into fire-y tongues, the first gift of the Spirit in the church, the gift of proclaiming the gospel good news. And some 3,000 were baptized by the end of that day.
Today we tell the good news that Malesh and Boyosa are prepared to affirm their baptismal promises for themselves and become confirmed members of this Unity congregation and the whole Christian Church.
Malesh, eldest son, responsible for his siblings, our lovable brother in Christ, pre-med student in high school, tall and resolute - together with Boyosa, second oldest, quiet and reserved, yet the first of his family to speak from the ambo here at Unity, as a reader of the scriptures: these two, today, will publicly reject sin, death and the powers of this world that rebel against God, and affirm the triune God, father, son, and holy spirit; promise to continue in the covenant God made with them in baptism, and finally, receive the laying on of hands, for the gift of the holy spirit.
And just as their confirmation is not a one-way proposition, but a covenant between them and God, so too our relationship with Malesh and Boyosa is a two-way relationship. We pledge to welcome them; and support them; and pray for them, as fellow confirmed members.
There is no doubt that Unity would be much less without Malesh & Boyosa and the Mangeango family. That they have broadened our understanding of the faith, much like that first Pentecost day was so enriching by the very diversity, and its ethnic gift-giving, in believers from all nations, near and far, who renewed and animated the whole Body of Christ, a spirit-fired resurrection, up-lifting the word and presence of God’s mission for the whole world.
“I tell you the truth,” said Jesus, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate [the Spirit of truth] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send (her) to you.”
So, from community entombed, to community unfurled-alive – we are nothing without the spirit of truth, but in community, in the Body of Christ, we are everything, alive and re-animated through the power of the Spirit, from the four winds, Jesus sends to us.
Even on our darkest day, when we feel locked up and entombed in fear, even when we wait paralyzed, even as silence overwhelms us with its deafening, oppressive noise – Jesus, as Holy Spirit, is there creating possibility for us. She arrives always in community, where we wait in prayer, and we dine on his body and blood, and we support and pray for one another. For our life is born anew, born from above, in the community of Christ! There is no Spirit of life, no spirit of truth, no spirit of peace & justice, but the one that lives in and through the gathering of the faithful, empowered and sent out into the streets.
From community entombed, to community unfurled-alive! The Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of Jesus’ resurrection, is alive in the jangling, ever re-animated embodiment of community. Not just community in here, not just in Christian community, not just in confirmed members, but in the widest possible community of Christ in the world, in all nations, in all those we encounter as stranger, the stranger who is always potential friend, and angel of God. The chaos of the Holy Spirit is fed, nourished and ordered by the worshipful ingathering sent out to all: “Parthians and Medes, Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia… Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs,” and so many more.
The Spirit creates community, just as the vision of dry bones were reanimated, rattled together, into a living breathing people of God. The community is stronger as it welcomes the newcomer and friend, from far, or near. The Holy Spirit is alive and growing wherever we make connections with one another and build on common interests that fulfill our core values as followers of Jesus, and in the justice and peace of the Christ, who sacrificed the hierarchal privileges of the old sacred violence, and humbled himself as one of us, servant and friend.
Now, in his gift of the Holy Spirit, she transforms us, from community entombed, to community unfurled-alive! From behind closed doors, we are invited to the banqueting celebration, and dancing in the streets!
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!