Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind” (Acts 2:2)…”splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of God, but God was not in the wind.” (Kings 19:11)
After the wind—an earthquake; but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake—fire” … “divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them”…but God was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft murmuring sound…a still small voice…a murmuring of speech…different languages…different tongues…”
Epiphanies—encounters with the living God—are often similar…wind…fire…silence…speech. Whether it’s Moses or Elijah on Mt. Horeb…the apostles in the upper room…or us standing awestruck…by all the news of recent weeks…gobsmacked by grace…in the midst of our lives… God appears…often unbidden…and speaks…in wind and silence…in light and shadow…earthly tremors and the beating of hearts…God appears and bids us follow…into the unknown…into the…whatever is next…into a new realm of justice that God is building…Calling us to join in the work of reconciliation.
And every time an epiphany happens we are…what does it say again…oh, yes, “amazed and perplexed”… I’ve been amazed and perplexed a lot in the last few days and weeks…Isn’t that where we always start? And restart…
Remember where we were 50 days ago? Standing in “fear and amazement” at the mouth of that cracked open tomb…standing in front that empty void where we pour “the hopes and fears of all the years”…and which only echos back the words, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5), he is not here…he is risen…Go and see.”(Mark 16:6-7). 50 days ago…
62 weeks ago, where were we? Sitting at home and watching our first ever thrown together livestream church service…perplexed and fearful of this novel virus that shut down our lives…locked us into our homes…cast us into the unknown…perplexed…afraid…
I looked back at the sermon I preached on March 8th of 2020…the last time we were all gathered together here. And the lesson that day was God telling Abraham to “Go…get out…leave your country…your father’s house…and go to a place I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)…We didn’t know what was going to happen that week…had no idea…but before the next Sunday we too had been told…”Go”…and we went…we left…in fear and amazement.
62 weeks ago we left this place…Now we never stopped doing ministry…never stopped being the church…We never stopped reaching out…we just did it individually and sequentially rather than all together. We never stopped being in communion—in community— with one another…we just did it with the help of some pretty amazing technology (technology many of us would like to see a whole lot less of very soon), but for which we are still deeply grateful. We never stopped singing praises to God (we just couldn’t hear one another while we were doing it)…and next week…next week…we will return. Can you believe it? I hardly can…it’s so hopeful…and also perplexing…and amazing…and a little fearful too. It’s very Pentecosty…a murmur of voices…a rush of something (maybe it’s wind)…a glow of something (is that the light of the sun, or a heart flame newly rekindled)…it might have even felt like the earth trembled a bit and the Spirit’s voice (again)…”Go!” It feels almost like we’re being thrown out again…bursting out of our locked rooms…thrown back out into the world…thrown back together. Don’t you imagine that’s how Pentecost felt. Perplexed…amazed…some even disbelieving.
It’s exciting…and scary…and uncertain…and it will take time to adjust…we are not over the pandemic…but we are moving into a new phase…There’s going to be a period where we’re not quite sure what we can and can’t do…What we feel comfortable doing…do I keep wearing a mask? Do I take it off? Do I feel comfortable getting close to others again?
As we discussed all this on Wednesday night at the vestry, one of our wise, faithful lay leaders reminded us of Paul’s counsel in Romans…”let us resolve not to put a stumbling block or hinderance in the way of another,” … “Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding,” (Romans 14:13, 20)… We want to keep that in the foreground in this Pentecost moment as the Spirit calls us out of our rooms and into the world. Let’s give ourselves, and one another time and space to come together again in ways that are supportive of each other.
The CDC’s guidance (that the Commonwealth, the Town, the diocese, and we are all following) is based on scientific data that continues to come in…and it pretty clearly and compellingly says, the vaccines work…amazingly well…in many ways even better than expected. And the more people who are vaccinated the safer everyone is. Not everyone will be able to be vaccinated, but if you are able, please do so. As we regather we will continue to livestream the service, and Zoom social hours so that anyone who is not able to be here—for any reason—will be able to be part of the community. If you do choose to come, and you feel more comfortable wearing a mask and distancing from others…you are welcome to do so. If you are fully vaccinated, and as you feel comfortable taking your mask off you are welcome to do that as well. All of the clergy and staff here are fully vaccinated. If you have questions I encourage you to come to the Zoom social hour today where I will do my best to answer them.
Pentecost is part of that great resurrection reclamation project which is ongoing. Pentecost continues to happen and we continue to be perplexed and amazed by what the Spirit can do…is doing. It does feel like Pentecost…something earthshaking is going on…a great work…God’s work…and we are part of it. We are no where close to being done…not with the work that God needs us to do…the reconciling work we are to be about…but we are further along the road…and Jesus is still up ahead, beckoning us on…with the Spirit urging us on. The doors are open…the world awaits…let’s take the next step, shall we?