Social media geeks, however, are naturally sensitive to this mislabeling. Flash Mobs have been around in the U.S. since at least 2003, when Bill Wasik of Harper’s Magazine first organized seemingly spontaneous gatherings to poke fun at those who were obsessed with being part of every new trend. Some say the concept has backfired, instead, giving conformity a vehicle, that allowed it to appear non-conforming. In any case, Flash Mobs originally had nothing to do with violence or theft. Wikipedia defines a flash mob as, “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire.”
The first Flash Mob I can remember was earlier this year when a social activist group against the war in Afghanistan appeared out of no where in Millennium Park to do a dance while singing anti-war lyrics accompanied by Michael Jackson on a boom box, in front of the Bean, and just as suddenly, disappeared again.
Pentecost Day in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, was perhaps the original Flash Mob, except they didn’t disperse quickly! It was quite a gathering, as about 3,000 were baptized that day! They had no social media, no blackberry’s to send or receive the go message to gather. Instead it was the tongues of fire and the tornado-like sound of the wind that announced the Flash Mob. Or was it the babble of voices in every foreign language, which the disciples suddenly spoke? Every nation under heaven, Luke noted, had a representative in Jerusalem for the early summer festival. Many had a hard time believing that the peasant fishers from Galilee could speak their language! But they can and do believe that, at this festival, they would be filled with new wine at 9a.m.
The disciples, just as Jesus instructed them on the day of his Ascension, were all together in the house waiting for the coming Holy Spirit to form them into the church. They kept praying and singing, reading scripture and breaking the bread of Christ’s meal. And so: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place,” as Luke says. And, they became the Body of Christ, the church, all those touched by the unpredictable power of the Spirit, but not until, and because, they were drawn outside “of the house where the disciples had met,” and into the neighborhoods of Jerusalem where the 3,000 plus gathered to listen. The gathering, or Flash Mob, if you will, became the new church.
It’s then that we finally hear from Peter. His tongue, being tied since he denied Jesus in his darkest hour on Good Friday, is loosed. And he’s empowered to speak, like John the Baptist’s father Zechariah, who for 9 months was struck mute because of his faithlessness, but then, when the Holy Spirit comes, is given back his voice at John’s birth, and with this new life he immediately sings a wondrous song of praise to God. Now too, Peter “sings!” He speaks the word of God, that this Pentecost commotion, this whirlwind of a holy encounter, is just what the prophet Joel prophesied. This is God’s new day, he says. “Our old men are dreaming dreams, and our young women and men are seeing visions,” for whoever “calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
And, it was like the first day of creation all over again, when the Spirit of God first blew like a wind over the chaos of our un-made world, and God spoke and brought the cosmos into being, and it was very good. The winds of Pentecost also blew a whole new world into the lives of the gathered, changing the chaos and corruption of their world, by empowering them to speak about this new day!
It wasn’t easy, and not as neat and well organized as this one story in Acts, if you go on and finish the whole book. The conflict of, Jews and Christian Jews, will continue to play out, as the community grows and splits apart, as brothers and sisters and families are empowered and divided, in following the one called Messiah, or not. Not all were baptized that day. Not all embraced change. But those who did continued to support one another in prayer and praise, with word and the breaking of the bread, and works of love in the world.
We see that in our church today too. Not all can see the vision or endure change. Some will split off, and go a different way. And we all go through the stages of grief: anger, denial, depression and acceptance, and maybe a few more! In our church nearly two years ago, when the policy changes and Human Sexuality Social Statement were ratified in the ELCA, there was anger by those who could not abide change, there was denial that change was coming, by others, and a mix of anger, denial and depression when congregations began voting to leave the ELCA. And now, we are working our way towards acceptance and the work of transformation. Some of us are ready to grow into the new church God is calling us to. And there are 1,000’s outside the ELCA who are, and will be, receptive to the prophetic word of God we share. We who stay, continue to listen for, and follow our vision, and we grieve the loss of even one sheep from the fold. But the church continues under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and She sharpens our vision and our dreams for tomorrow.
Jesus was a kind of Flash Mob action too, when he appeared to the disciples “when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where they had met were locked,” for they were afraid. “But Jesus came,” to them out of no where “and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’.” And he breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit and her power to forgive and reconcile and be church, and disappeared just as quickly.
Pentecost Day in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, was perhaps the original Flash Mob, except they didn’t disperse quickly! We, the church, the people of God, are still here, putting our lives on the line. We intentionally don’t disperse, but remain, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, receive the breath of Jesus, and be empowered for our service out there in the world, and in our lives everyday.