"They were all together in one place"COVID-19
|Rev. Kandace Brooks|
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
It took fourteen words of the traditional Pentecost text to catch in my throat and in my heart in a moment of despair. How quickly I had hastened through those words in past years; how unimportant they seemed at the time... they were all together in one place.
I received my struggle as an invitation to contemplate the significance of these words and the challenge they present.
We were not together in one place. In my immediate ministry context we are a congregation struggling with recent necessary staff changes and leadership decisions which were difficult for our community. I serve a diverse community theologically and politically that had begun to make a subtle, but perilous shift.
Reflecting the contentious nature of our current culture, a community once adept at holding in healthy tension different theology, ideology, and politic began settling with some familiarity into divisive rhetoric at home in the world and already invading the denominational conversation around the issue of human sexuality. We were not all together in one place, and as a leader, that reality weighed heavily.
And now - we are not physically all together in one place - not by our own choice; but as a result of a global pandemic that has affected every corner of our lives. Like the early church, I suspect that this time of great vulnerability in our community has revealed to us the depth and clarity of our human need; one that can only be sated by the divine.
For the early church, Pentecost provided an unmistakable awareness of the already-work of the Holy Spirit in bringing the community together, and a supernatural and visible invitation to claim the power of that same Spirit to move forward in the confidence it provides.
As one who thinks in images, I find myself asking, "What will be the visible symbol of our Pentecost this year?" I like to imagine it will be the outstretched hand - to praise and pray; to reconcile and bless; to give and to receive. A hand that we need not reject in fear but clasp in faith.
As we approach Pentecost, I sense already the stirring of the Holy Spirit uncovering a rebirthing harmony; a unity strong enough to transcend physical location, politics, ideology, generational differences, even ecclesiology.
What holds us together is a shared compassionate care for the vulnerable in our community that has called us to expand our generosity rather than to contract into scarcity;
What holds us together is an uncovered empathy and appreciation for the needs and contributions of generations different than our own, and lifestyles other than our own;
What holds us together is a simple form of worship that invites us to recognize the presence of God in the ordinary; to hear the Word of God without distraction; and to respond nimbly and immediately to that Word in mission to the world at our doorstep, hungry in body, mind and spirit.
What holds us together is love; love incarnate in Christ that calls us to daily walk in the way of Christ; to be the heart, hands and feet of Christ so that all people come to know the love of God.
And we are discovering, together, the unity of the Holy Spirit to be far more precious and more life-giving than any of our human-made divisions; one worth guarding with the same fierceness as we once pointed out our differences.
So we celebrate Pentecost this year with a fullness of joy and appreciation; with open hands and open hearts ready to receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, because
We are altogether in one place...
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Kandace Brooks is the Senior Pastor at Saint Paul's UMC in Tallahassee
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