Monday, June 20, 2011

Pentecost and Pride

Pentecost is one of my favorite celebrations in the church. I have been singing the words "Holy Spirit Rain Down" in my head over and over again during the last seven days. I have pondered the gift of being present when people started speaking in many different languages with a central message understood by those who did not know the language. I have imagined the incredible diversity present in Jerusalem on that day. And, I have given thanks for seeing this diversity following our Pentecost worship last Sunday.

It was a typical June day. A bit of steam was rising from the sidewalks. Vendors selling water were stationed on each street corner. The sun was beating down upon Pennsylvania Avenue as people filled every corner of the popular street.

I walked down the city block in search of familiar faces and soon found the table from which members of our church were telling others about our unique community of faith. Armed with a fresh dose of the Spirit and a powerful reading of the scripture passages in which diversity is central and the Spirit falls upon all people, I could not wait to tell others about our church.

If I heard it once I heard it 50 times, "Are you really a gay friendly church?" or "Are you sure that I am welcome in your church?" A one word response, "Yes," was not enough to satisfy some of the visitors stopping for a rainbow cross or cold bottle of water. We had more convincing to do as a group representing Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church.

As I read the story of Pentecost found in Acts, I see a community in which everyone is a candidate for a fresh anointing of God's Spirit - the Advocate whom Jesus promised to be with us. I notice how God did not anoint only one type of person or only one group of people from a particular place. Instead, I see God's Spirit powerfully falling upon all who are present in real, tangible and transformational ways.

How has the church come to believe that it has the authority to discern who can receive the Spirit and who cannot? How has the church come to believe that diversity is something we should keep in our schools or other institutions but not a key mark towards which every Christian community should passionately work? How has our church come to pride itself on keeping some people in while keeping other people out?

As I stood on the street with the sun scorching my feet, I prayed for our church. I prayed for our church to look more like the crowd I saw at Pride - old people and young people, people with a lot of clothing and people with not very much clothing, people filled with confidence and people clearly afraid of being seen, people with dark skin and people with light skin, gay people and straight people, people aware of God's presence in their lives and people who have sought to lock God in the closet because the only God they have ever been told about is a God of judgment, people who were alive and well last Sunday afternoon because they were in a community in which they were fully accepted and valued - just as they are.

Holy Spirit rain down!