So I wrote another sermon this week…For Pentecost…And you know, it’s fine. I come up with stuff, and there are maybe a few ideas and it’s on line and you can check it out if you want and maybe it will help you to think about things but in this context, given the events that took place this weekend, my heart isn’t in it to preach it today and I don’t think you’ll get much from it right now.
Pentecost, right. We should celebrate the coming together of all people – tongues and nations, united in the power of the Holy Spirit – but what happened this week is that we’ve just been witnessing all this hate and division in our society, white people threatening, humiliating and murdering African Americans – or white people just being bystanders, approving by a criminal indifference and silence.
It sickens me.
I was texting yesterday with a friend of mine from seminary who is now a priest in Memphis – He’s an African American. And he wasn’t saying a thing about the situation you know – He was just texting to send me pictures of his two beautiful kids playing together in his living room, but when I saw his kids, his four years old daughter and one year old son, it made me want to cry, it made me want to cry thinking about them so innocent and joyful growing up in this society. And I thought, I need to say something to my friend, and I didn’t know what to say. And I had this back and forth in my mind: “I need to say something, I don’t know what to say” and you see, I didn’t know what to say because I don’t know much about races in America, I am not American as you know, I am not Black obviously, but this only thing I know is that this situation sickens me and so that’s what I told to my friend: I don’t know what to say about all this s…ituation (I didn’t say “situation”) going on, it makes me sick. And when I wrote that to my friend, that’s what he answered me:
That’s exactly the right description for this nation. It is sick! And I said Yes, maybe it is even sicker on the inside than it is on the outside.
Today, we’re looking for cure, medicines and vaccines against the virus and yes we need to put all our efforts in it. Yet we also need to remember, urgently, that’s it’s on the inside we also need to be cured. It’s on the inside that we need to be healed and maybe it’s not that bad after all that today we think about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit, because here’s the thing: Our hearts need to be changed. Life is not only about our bodies. It’s important to be healthy in our bodies, but now it’s not only our bodies that are threatened. It’s our hearts that are dying, it’s our souls that are in danger.
We need the Holy Spirit more than ever. To change the hearts of those who commit and support such hatred. And we also need the Holy Spirit to mend the broken hearts of those who endure this hatred, those who have been enduring this hatred for so long. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen them, comfort them, restore them.
I don’t know what to say because I don’t feel I have the right to say something: I am not American, I don’t know much about races, but I know that most days I am ashamed to be white and I would like to apologize for all white people, and in the same time I feel it’s even more shameful to think white people could get away with an apology and mostly I don’t want to burden you with my white people feelings, so I won’t say anything.
But as your priest, there is something I can tell you. I can tell you that we need the Holy Spirit more than ever and although the Holy Spirit is like the wind and blows wherever the Spirit wants to blow, we are reminded today that the Spirit chose Jesus’s disciples and the Spirit continues to choose the church and you are the church.
And maybe we don’t have much at Christ Church. For now, we don’t even have our building! And we’re not the youngest, the fittest, or the richest, but we have each other and even if it’s not perfect, we have managed to find a way to live together and to worship together between races. Oh, it’s not perfect, I am sure there are some hurt feelings, misunderstandings and prejudices – we make mistakes, we fail, but we try again. We try and we’re still here. And maybe we’re not a fancy church, but you see, we have that. We have each other and we try to be together. And we love each other.
And it’s so important. It’s so important right now not only to be the church, but to be our church. To be us. A church where we try to love each other coming all from different places, backgrounds and races.
When you read the Scriptures, really, this is all there is to it – the Church, the Holy Spirit. People coming together in love, in peace, in reconciliation. And the world needs this testimony.
We hear a lot today that church, it’s not that important. You can just stay home and believe in God. But it is important. Church is important. Because God is just not a Spirit up above, God’s Spirit visits God’s people. God’s Spirit holds people together. We need to be the church. Just to show them. Just to show them it’s possible to be us.
But better than showing them, maybe we need to tell them. I don’t know what to say, but what I can say is that I know a lot of you would know what to say. Or even if you don’t know what to say, the Spirit will tell you what to say. The Spirit will lead you out of weariness, fear and pain to speak your truth and your reality and to carry on the mission to change the world and even harder, to change the hearts of those who wouldn’t listen – a mission the Apostles started two thousands years ago when they left their house to meet the people out there, people who didn’t want them, people who were their enemies, people who killed their friend.
The world needs you and the world needs Christ Church. The world needs to hear us, as a church, and the world needs us to preach, all of us, not just me! Each in our own voices, we need to preach about the Kingdom of God and denounce the absurd violence and hatred of this world. The world needs the Church and needs Christ Church because the world needs to be healed and we can be an example of this healing / strive to be an example. Together.
I am sure a lot of you today are angry. I am not going to tell you not to be angry. Yesterday, I came across this beautiful quotation from Maya Angelou: “If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone, or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger, yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”
Don’t be a stone and to be too sick to talk about it – as I have felt these past days. We can be angry yes, and we can use our anger – not as they want everybody to believe to bring more violence and destruction in the world, but to heal the world – we need to use our anger to claim the justice of God’s kingdom and to do something good for God’s children who suffer and to do something redemptive for those who persecute them. We need to let the Spirit act through us. The Spirit set the disciples on fire. Let the Spirit set a fire inside of you. Speak your truth and your reality. Never stop talking it. By your individual testimony, by our collective testimony.
And when it’s too much and you’re weary, remember, we still have each other. And God is with each one of us. Today is Sunday, and it’s the Feast of the Pentecost. Take some time for God – seriously. Unplug from the news, TV, social medias. Put down your phone. Just stop for a few hours. Go out if you can. Take a walk, pray. Ask God to fill your heart with God’s Spirit, ask God to give you peace, healing and comfort and then what God wants from you, in this situation. What you can do, what you can say, how you can use your sadness, your anger and your pain to bring a little more of God’s Spirit into this broken world. And God will certainly show us the way. God wants this to change even more than we do.