PASTOR'S MESSAGE: Blown Away
Season of Pentecost- Preached May 20, 2018 by Pastor Sally Ankerfelt
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you, peace to you from God
our creator, Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit – our possibility-maker.
The other day, I was at a beautiful wedding. It was there, at
the reception, that I started meeting other wedding guests. There was a guy
sitting alone at his table so my husband and I waved him over. We asked the
usual question: “So how are you connected to the couple?” “The groom,” he said. He went on to say that he actually had never met the
groom in person. They were online gamers and became friends through the
internet. This guy received an invitation to the wedding, so he came. He came
alone- all the way from Arizona, in fact, to be there for his friend. He
indicated that this was his first non-relative wedding invitation.
I was blown away. This would have been me, if my
husband-to-be were telling me who he wanted to invite. I would say, “You
haven’t even met him in person. He’s all the way down there in Arizona. He’s by himself.
He won’t come. Why even send him an invitation?” Knowing the bride, she would not have said this.
She would have said, “Go for it!”
And he came. He came.
In the paper on Saturday (Star Tribune Inspire section), there was an article about students
from a high school in North Minneapolis - a high school that, couple of years
ago, was in danger of closing due to the low enrollment rates and other
challenges. The local community spoke and out and challenged the district to
keep it open. So, here they are a few year later, still going and starting to
thrive. They have a teacher, who happens to be a former student from this high
school, who has challenged her students to achieve greater heights. They are
doing college level work. She has a phrase
that she repeats to her students, “You are not what society tells you you are.” When they go to their presentations, they wear t-shirts that say, “More than a student. I am a SCHOLAR.”
These students are not allowing themselves to being limited
by what their culture thinks of them. They are living in possibility.
Just yesterday, there was another wedding in England. This
wedding broke away from tradition and brought newness. First, an American
married a British royalty. Second, this American was from the middle class.
Third, the middle class woman was African American. Into the tradition of the
royalty of England, alongside the trumpets and boys’ choir, was a black
cellist, and a Gospel choir. Seated next to the presiding British priest was a US bishop of the
Episcopal church who was African American.
This bishop started a conversation, a conversation about
becoming one family; a conversation about being one and how that oneness brings new life. He talked about the love of God in Christ that goes well beyond what
we can do or imagine. He said, “There is
power in love. Love can help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in
love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.”
For many, this was groundbreaking. Can you see our American
founders looking at this? Could they ever have imagined it? I think not. They
would be blown away.
Also, just this last week, our own ELCA elected two women bishops who are African American. This has been a long time coming. The new bishop of the South Central Synod of Wisconsin, The Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, spoke about her hope that the ELCA can be more open to change. She says, "I think that, sometimes, our beloved ELCA is stuck on just being, 'Oh, this is the way it is.' There's a reason we look the way we look. It's because we have not valued those who don't look like us." (Star Tribune 5/18/2018, section B.)
Look at our first reading for today. It’s the story of
Pentecost, where God’s Spirit came to followers of Christ. These followers originally had
come from many different places, yet all were now Galileans Each group had spoken different languages at one point in time. Each group probably looked different and acted
different. Yet, there commitment and curiosity called them there to that place.
And in that place, The Spirit came – like the rush of a
mighty wind, it says. It came and descended on them like tongues of fire, it
says. And something amazing happened. They all began to speak in their native tongue. Yet, they were speaking the same good news! They became one – not all the same, mind
you, but one. They were changed.
Now, who could have imagine THAT?! I imagine that they were blown away, too.
Friends in Christ, there is no limit to what The Spirit can
do. In our baptisms, we received that very spirit. In Holy Communion, that Spirit comes
again. Each day, that Spirit is with YOU.
And The Spirit changes things.
So, instead of saying, “Oh, they won’t come” God's Spirit gives us the
curiosity to say, “Why not invite them? You never know.”
Instead of thinking, “We can’t do it that way.” We can say,
“This actually might be good for us.” We remain open to the changes The Spirit
Instead of giving up on diversity within our worshiping communities and saying, "It's just the way it is." We can say, "Let us notice and value all people and be open to their presence among us, for The Spirit moves in them, too. "
And if we ever say, “Nothing is going to change in this society of ours,” think again. The Spirit is there, breaking stereotypes, turning students into scholars, uniting different cultures and colors, bringing fire to the tongues of many.
So, today, is a day of possibility. The Spirit gives creates. Who are we to say what God’s spirit can or cannot do, in our personal lives, – in this place , in this community, in our country, in our world.
Instead of saying, “I don’t think they will ever listen to
me, let alone understand what I’m saying,” we are encouraged by The Spirit to
give it a try. For, as we hear in our second reading, our words ride on the
wings of the Spirit. You never know what can happen. Anything is possible.
So, go ahead, make the invitation, have the conversation,
engage in something new, be a voice for inclusion and change, join the movement
– the movement of the Spirit. You will be blown away when you do. AMEN