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…. All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
-from the Acts of the Apostles
I love that a group’s response to this infusion of people by the Holy Spirit of God is, “They’re drunk.” It’s a logical response, no doubt.
Lest we get all high and mighty, thinking we would most certainly NOT be the ones sneering at this Holy rabble rousing, we should think again. Truthfully, if I were walking down the street in Lexington, Kentucky and stumbled upon a group of Episcopalians I knew speaking eloquently in languages of every kind, I’d probably think they were drunk. After all, less kind things have been said about communities as they, guided by the Holy Spirit, did something new and radical in the name of love and community.
Because when something radical, new, and shocking crashes into our lives, upending all that has been, we rarely look at it and think, “Oh, look at this holy event of God.” We are rarely able to see the presence of the Holy in massive change. Instead, we often bewail the change, lament the discomfort, and talk about how wonderful all things were BEFORE.
Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the church! Many congregations with gather and wear red, have Holy Scripture read in various languages, and celebrate the official beginning of what has come to be the organized church. We celebrate yet another Holy Change of God. The small group of men and women who followed Jesus, who broke bread with him and laughed and cried with him, are now changed by the Holy Spirit to begin something new.
No longer will we be only followers of Christ; we will be leaders of sharing the Gospel. No longer will we speak the old language of hierarchy, power, and shame; we will share holy words of equality, love, and welcome. No longer will we live in division based upon race, ethnicity, language, and custom; we will be united as children of God.
The Greek word that is translated into church is ekklesia, which means assembly or gathering as well as church. It literally means, “to call out.” Living in a community of God calls us out. We are humans. We all have prejudices, ideas that aren’t too helpful, and practices that need to be improved. We like stasis, the way things have always been.
God, however, is a God of movement and life. The Holy Spirit is always adding new words to our souls, new understandings to our human experience. God, through our assembly of Chrisitial love, calls us out of stasis and division. God calls us out of the old into the new. God calls us out of our fears and stubbornness. God calls us out of what has been to dream what will be.
Trust me, when we are called out to proclaim the love of God to all people and to respect the dignity of every human being, regardless of his or her choices and place in life; when we are called out to open the institution of the church to all people regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or whatever dividing line we create to include and exclude; when we are called out to forgive those who have wounded and hurt us; when we are called out to proclaim love and acceptance from the deep valleys and high mountaintops, people may sneer and say we are drunk or crazy.
And we will be in very good company.