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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pentecost: What do you hear?

5/15/16


celebrating new elders


Leila and Pat have decorated the chapel in red for Pentecost…
Martha Kato is our musical guest…

It’s been another one of those weeks…so Donald Trump has selected New Jersey Governor Chris  Christie to head his transition team. Last Friday night, my rabbi friend Steve Blane shared with me his fear: y’know, he might actually  get elected…and that he was beginning to understand how, well, the unimaginable happens.. It starts to be sadi…well, he’s not that bad….there are good points….he doesn’t really mean it, once he’s elected…we’ve been there before, Steve says.

I went to an interesting exhibit. Civil courage in difficult times. At Gallery MC. The little known (at least here) story of the Macedonian Jewish community and how the Macedonian people shepherded so many to safety in Albania, and yes, how Albania became a safe haven for Jews from southern and eastern Europe.

I went to two weddings yesterday. A Fools Wedding as one of our Theatre Dzieci friends got married at 2nd Presbyterian. And a wedding of friends from Union Seminary filled with  bright, (shining?) young people. Hmmm. Pentecost is about hearing voices…I’m hearing lots of voices…what voices have you been hearing? And too, who is hearing your voice?

Pentecost…it’s a day about speaking….and hearing…and understanding…a Christian holiday…the birthday of the church, actually…my friend Palestinian Christian Naim Atik when speaking in the United States is always asked…when did your family become Christian? And his answer, on Pentecost…. Our day set on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, the festival of weeks, or as it was known in Greek, Pentecost, counting 50…

The Jewish festival celebrates Moses receiving the law on Mt. Sinai, amidst fire and smoke…and here the visitation of tongues of fire… what exactly did they hear? See?
If you hang out in the sanctuary, you’ll hear music that pulsates and throbs like rock music, higher and higher, people running and jumping and even falling out…and yes, ecstatic speech…I’d never heard that before…sometimes  I wish I could feel that…

But that’s not how we understand it…let's go back to Babel…we spoke last week about being one…that's kind of what they were about in Babel…but my friend and colleague Regi used to refer to as an enforced oneness, an authoritarian project…ONE tongue, ONE language…a joint project of seeking to have equal authority with God…like the German Christian movement in the 30’s …church and fuehrer, one….

Pentecost is …and is not….the reversal of Babel…it is in that unity is restored…it is NOT in that the distinct voices remain DISTINCT…the miracle is not a miracle of speaking but a miracle of hearing…a miracle of understanding…

It’s not just languages…God, Gott, dieu, dios, hashem, allah…I’ll never forget sitting in a Christian service in East Jerusalem and hearing God referred to as Allah…did you realize that? Palestinian and other Arab Christians pray to Allah?

We’ve got other languages. Cultures. Professions. Classes…How do we hear one another? Understand one another? I hear some fellow Americans speak and I feel we are not speaking the same language…

Bathrooms are in the news…I have a friend from North Carolina…she’s as progressive as you get…but she loves her people…she wondered how the southern wedding guests were handling the wedding scene, complete with trans friends.. ….you know most of us have never even met a trans person, she says…it feels like northern liberals who look down on us, see us  as inferior, telling us what to do…I don’t think my northern friends understand how arrogant we liberals can sound sometimes…The longer I live in New York City, the more sensitive I become to the class consciousness of the liberal elite…Couldn’t we just begin with conversation? She asks…

Do you know how we finally won gay ordination in our church? Well yeah, society was headed that way, but….It had passed 2 previous General Assembly’s only to be defeated at the local presbytery level.  After the second defeat, when a new opportunity arose, the grassroots lgbtq folks decided to change strategies. To pledge to no longer engage in dialectical partisan debate but instead to pledge to holding 1000 conversations in 2 years. Each of us had to promise what number we could lead.  Follow up was done 1000 conversations were held. Gay ordination passed, (even when the tall steeple liberals said it was too soon…)

We wondered…what if our pro-choice advocates could hold 1000 conversations?
(COW after Kent State…)One of the things that happens is that when people really open themselves up to other people, issues become personed…cognitive dissonance arises…and a person has to resolve that either in behalf of the principle or the person…most, (clearly not all) go with the person..

As a member of a church I pastored in Pittsburgh said, explaining why they fully welcomed a young gay man who had grown up in the congregation: Pastor, sometimes you just have to set principle aside and do what’s right…

It’s not a miracle of speaking but of hearing…who hears our voice? Who understands us? Who do we need to listen to?  I struggle with that in the Micah Instititute all the time, accepting my Pentecostal brothers..…and there are people in any congregation who just do not hear each other…

The message of Pentecost takes it beyond our personal capacities…another force enters …another reality…the Holy Spirit…it is the work of the Holy Spirit to enter into the places where we intersect and help us to hear each other…

What conversations do we need to have?
Come Holy Spirit, come…

Today during our offertory, I sing Blowin’ in the Wind..remembering how when I was a kid our preacher connected the song  to Pentecost…how the wind and the Holy Spirit were similar, if not the same..and the answer is indeed Blowin’ in the Wind..(although my long ago Pastor called him Bob DY –lan)


As part of our celebration today, we are ordaining two new elders, Russ Jennings and Pat Klein. 
New Elders Pat and Russ
I want to make it special. Because it is.  Their ordinations are as important as mine. In our tradition, they are ordained to rule, I’m ordained to teach. We share with them the hand woven stoles that for years stood a silent protest in our GA's. Represnting all the ministries, turned away, buried, denied. Today, with that battle over, they symbolize WELCOME. I am wearing the red stole given tp me by my friend TK when I celebrated with him the Buddhist day commemorating the giving of the light... Fitting....red the Holy Spirit color...I explain how they stand in a long line that goes all the way back to Peter. And when we do the laying on of hands, there are centuries of hands touching our hands as we pray. A long, long line, a great cloud of witnesses.  We sing Everytime I feel the Spirit…..and our worship is over…

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