When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples 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. (Acts 2)
The followers of Jesus had been gathered together since the Ascension- women and men - about 120 of them as it says earlier in Acts. They are waiting - they do not know for what but Jesus told them to wait. They wait in hope as Paul says in Romans:
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.They waited in hope not knowing. They shared the stories of their time with Jesus and prayed and broke bread together. For 10 days they kept hoping. Suddenly they were so filled by the Spirit they overcame their fears and burst out in the streets - unable to contain that which they knew - it had to be shared. Some in the streets thought they had been drinking all night and into the morning - and in a way they were drunk - drunk on the Spirit. They shared their faith in such a way that all heard it in their own language.
Lately there have been many surveys that show the fastest growing faith group is the "none" group. When asked about faith traditions, denominations or churches - a growing percentage of respondents say "none."
So how did we get from the early church with its enthusiasm for sharing the gospel in the languages of their day to today when so many do not know the story nor see why it might be something for them? Why do we come to church - why did you come today when there are so many other things you could be doing? Obviously we have some small flame of the Spirit that we come to tend here. But it seems to stop there. This is not a guilt trip - I am just curious as to what it would take for us to share the good news that we know with others? Not just to make Episcopalians but to share that which sustains us so others might know about it.
Some time ago I was in a group where we studied the scriptures, prayed, and shared our stories of faith with one another. It was a safe place to practice our stories. One day she came bursting into our group saying I have a ministry! She meant she realized that ministry was more than what people dressed up in vestments do on Sunday or only ordained people can do. Her ministry was being a checker in a local variety store. She discovered that living her faith as she checked out people and their items could change the lives of most all who came through her line. You know how it is - someone has stress and anger - it is so easy to return that anger with anger. But she would return anger with love and concern. Pretty soon, because we live in a small town - people began to ask her what it was that helped her stay centered and spread love to each person? And there was the opening for her to share what it was - her commitment to following Christ and the work of the Spirit in her life. Because she had been practicing her story with the small safe group - she could burst out of our small meeting into the world. Her fears were gone - she had the confidence of God within her.
This summer at the Episcopal every 3 year national convention - we will be learning more about sharing our faith stories - testifying as Jesus says in our Gospel today. It is not about knocking on doors or passing out pamphlets in the city squares - but about knowing where we have encountered God and telling others about it where we live and work. We will practice our testimony -- even though the news reports may be that all we talk about is sex (sometimes it seems easier to talk about than faith) - we will be learning about sharing our faith.
The other part of sharing our faith is talking about it so others can hear it (as the early disciples spoke in the many languages). How are we to learn other languages that we encounter? Of course we can take Spanish or another language but how are we to speak across generations - speak to people who are becoming the "none" church. Learning to listen deeply to their hopes and dreams and their way of connecting to something greater than themselves is one way. By listening to how they speak of God or the Holy or Creation - we can begin the conversation. Our goal is not to make Episcopalians (although we would like that!) but to open up the dialogue of faith and how it supports and challenges our way of living.
As we go out to listen and share our story -- I read this last week --
"Easter makes me not afraid to die. Pentecost makes me not afraid to
live." h/t to Fran I am
Easter gives us the assurance that we will live forever - death is not the end - nor are the metaphorical deaths of embarrassing ourselves in public nor our fear of failure that feels like death. But Pentecost is what frees us to really live - live in the power of the Spirit - who came this day to get us up and out into the world.