Oh my. I thought we’d all stretched about as far as we could with this global pandemic. It has come with loads of fear, lashing out, grief over losses, disconnection. It has caused businesses to close, our economy to falter, families be apart. Schools and churches have closed. It has come with the pointing of fingers and blame. We are all on the edge. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what a simple loss of power over one weekend did to me…it was shocking to me what a fine line I was walking in trying to cope.
And then last week, more tragedy. George Floyd lost his life, on video. No one can deny how horrible this is and that it is not just a one off. This is generations in the making. There are badly formed systems wrapped around this and layer after layer of anger, fear and suspicion. We are all a part of it.
As of last night, protests erupted in at least 140 cities across the US and in some other countries as well. Some of the protests turned violent, prompting the activation of the National Guard in at least 21 states. It feels like everything is coming apart.
The Jesus Calling devotional for today seemed on point, Because the world is in a fallen condition, things always seem to be unraveling around the edges. Expect to find trouble in this day. Yes, it definitely feels like everything is unraveling. Yes, we have trouble.
Yesterday as cities burned and hearts were breaking and in racial turmoil, still under the cloud of this virus, the Christian church marked the day of Pentecost. It was a strange celebration as most church buildings are still closed. The day of Pentecost is considered the day the church was born. In the past I’ve been in churches where we’ve acted like it was a big birthday party. Sometimes we’ve even had cake. We like to talk about the spirit of God on that day because the biblical account of what happened then is filled with images of wind, fire and other strangeness.
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force–no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. (Acts 2 The Message) Despite their different languages, everyone could understand each other. Chaos ruled the day.
Peter stood up to preach, quoting scripture from the prophet Joel, …In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit on every kind of people….I’ll set wonders in the sky and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red. (Act 2 The Message)
And then this, a call to change. Peter said, change your life. People did and the church was born. And then we spent about 2000 years getting things wrong and probably doing a great deal of things God never imagined we would do.
Fast forward to Pentecost 2020, the day we recognize God’s breath breathing life into the church while in the streets, our homes and in our hearts we are trying to make sense of one man in the street face down, knee on neck, saying I can’t breathe.
Compare the tongues of flame described in the book of Acts and the fire and the billowing smoke of Joel’s prophecy to our streets and landmarks burning here.
Listen to those different languages through God’s Spirit suddenly being understood while here our experiences as blacks and whites, Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, protester and law enforcement seem so vast and different and unintelligible to us, one to another. We shake our head at looters or police and yet we do not stand in their shoes. We can’t understand each other’s experiences.
Listen to Peter’s words, change your life. Don’t those words seem as timely as ever? In this chaos, repentance is being called for. We wrongly assume the one who needs to repent is the other one–the officer, the window breaker, the one using force or the one arrested. But what if it is me? Maybe I am the one who needs to change my life.
Everything is unraveling. Strangely, the next line of Jesus Calling from today’s entry reminds us, My way (God’s) is perfect, even in the midst of such messy imperfection.
Now, it seems like the birthday cake Pentecost was not ever what God was asking of us. Is it possible God always wanted a more drastic upending of the people of faith? God pulled out all the stops and brought breath, wind, fire, the sudden ability to understand each other and an invitation to change to each one of us.
Amazingly, it is still that day. It is still that day, what will you do?
God, of breath and flame, forgive us for missing the point. Help us see your demand that we change now. In the unraveling are you asking us to speak up or stand with a brother or sister? Do you want us to understand each other or hear each other in new ways? Today, we literally find ourselves in a world on fire, the wind of your Spirit whirling around us. We feel vulnerable, afraid and unsure about how to move forward. Our times are in your hands. It is still that day. Amen.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. See http://www.drcindyryryanblog.com for upcoming events, sermons, other blog entries and how to join the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts each week. You can dial in live on Tuesdays at 7 a.m. CST to hear scripture, a devotion, words from Dr. Ryan and have a time of prayer with others across our nation.