As we celebrate the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit in the church calendar. This year it is marked with disruption of all sorts. From Protests and Covid-19 to Violence. It may seem like the world is falling apart. I have been overwhelmed with much of what is going on and I found it difficult to offer any meaningful reflection that wasn’t steeped in anger or frustration. Some of you may feel the same way. I have been focusing on listening and observing so that I can respond with grace and wisdom.
The most difficult thing to witness these past few weeks has been seeing the lack of compassion and understanding from our fellow citizens. From people getting violent or angry about wearing masks, the stay at home order, the continued violence against minorities from Asian folks being blamed for the COVID-19, and then the incidents of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. This is not the country I want to live in or thought we lived in. It is certainly not the Kingdom of God.
As Lutherans in our Baptismal Liturgy asks us to profess our faith, reject sin, and confess the faith fo the church.
One part in particular states:
Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God? We renounce them
Do you renounce the parts of the world that rebel against God? We renounce them.
Do you renounce the way so sin that draws you from God? We renounce them.ELW Affirmation of Baptism Liturgy
Given all the racism, violence, and other sins we see around us TODAY. We cannot remain silent. We must Renounce Sin when we see it. We must take an active role in renouncing racism, violence, and greed.
We must also confess that we have been a part of it. That maybe we have done a poor job of living up to our promise to renounce the Devil and all the things that defy and draw us away from God. I know I certainly have. There are subtle ways in which I discriminate or judge my neighbor based on appearance or prejudice. I get stuck in the trap of greed and hoping more money will solve all my problems or thinking violence and anger is the only way forward.
But despite our failures as Lutherans, we are also reminded of God’s grace. Martin Luther’s explanation of the third article fo the Creed. In the Small Catechism states:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.Luther’s Small Catechism
We are continually called to Grace and given the Gift of Grace. The church is the place we are daily called, gathered, forgiven, sanctified, and sent out. And it is the stirring up of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible. One of my Franciscan brothers gave the wonderful image of a glass of milk with chocolate sauce sitting at the bottom. We have been given the wonderful gift of grace and it needs to be stirred up. Just like that syrup needs to be stirred up to make Chocolate milk. It seems that the Holy Spirit is stirring things up in us and in the world around us. We are asking ourselves some difficult and challenging questions. What things are stirring up in you? Discomfort, pain, new ways of looking at things, excitement, or more questions than answers.
I will share with you just a few questions I have been pondering lately:
Given all that is happening? Do I have a vision for what God’s Kingdom might look like? What do I do with my anger and frustration so that I can love my neighbor instead of being suspicious? Am I part of the problem? Am I racist? If people can worship online, why come to church? How do we respond to racism in way that is grace-filled? How do we as a mostly white congregation listen to the experiences of minorities? How might this shape our worship or understanding of scripture? What does meaningful worship look like? How can we use the technology we are using to be better connected? How have we let money get in the way of loving others? Personally and in the church. Where are you, God?