In high school I once wrote an article for the school newspaper on immigration. My mom was always one to write articles for the local newspaper so she encouraged me to write this article for my school paper. It started with, “They’re illegal, not American. They raise crime rates and lower statistics on education. They’re stealing our jobs and destroying our country.” Let’s just say it didn’t go over very well.
An Assistant Principal escorted me for two months from class to class because I had people threatening to hurt me. It never made much sense to me that people wanted to hurt me, I was only telling the truth. I was living into the Christian faith, speaking truth, of course, to those who needed it most.
At 17 I really had some things figured out. I mean I didn’t actually know the statistics… those I had made up. I also didn’t know one person who could be considered illegal. I didn’t know the names of the other students who were most affected by the issue, and I didn’t really care. But even still, I had the audacity to write the article and stood by it amidst the trouble it stirred.
I was taught from day one in my Southern Baptist church and around my family dinner table, that referring to some people as “illegal aliens” was not only normal but expected. I’m not sure how we thought this made any sense after reading the life and teachings of Jesus – he was always found in the religious and culture margins, with women, the poor and people of other cultures. Jesus included them in the Beloved Community every time.
After Jesus’ ascension, Spirit was sent to animate and guide the followers of The Way. The first outbreak of the Spirit is what Christians have come to call, Pentecost. It’s the liturgical season we have been focusing our attention on these past few months (note the red flames and red “wild goose feathers” in our church as the décor recently).
A sound like the rush of a violent wind, filled the entire house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke the author of this text in Acts is making a clear point; he wants the world to know the time of confusion and separation is over. We are no longer separated by the confusion of tongues but in Christ we are able to understand one another amidst our differences. Dis-unity is no longer viable. Unity through the resurrecting Spirit, the Spirit that leads, draws, and lures us into the life giving love of God is now the new order!
The metaphor Luke uses is “tongues of fire” which makes perfect sense as a consistent biblical metaphor. God has often appeared in a burning bush and even in pillars of fire. The burning love of God in Jesus has overcome our confusion and separation, not from God but from one another. We now are able to become little burning bushes. It should be forever in our nature as Christians to overcome sin: that which causes separation and confusion.
The miracle of Pentecost was in the eruption of unity. The working class citizens sat together with venture capitalists. The previously classified sinners were speaking the language of the elitist religious and wealthy folk. People who didn’t even know what class they belonged to, found themselves caught up in this amazing moment when love shattered glass ceilings and pummeled walls of separation. Now that’s a miracle.
Pentecost didn’t start with one people group, it started with the Parthians, Medes, Elmaites, and Mesopotamians. The Asians didn’t have privleage and power over the Pamphylia. The gospel started with all of them, and they all were sent out to share a message of inclusion for all people or as the Gospel of Matthew says, a message that “will reach the ends of the Earth.”
On September 11th, we have the opportunity to venture out of these four church walls, much like the Spirit of Pentecost, proclaiming the gospel of inclusive love alongside our entire city! The 911 Multi-Faith Peace Walk and Gathering Events begin at 2pm with awesome fun kids activities at Congregation Etz Chayim. Please carpool — or bike or take the train if that works for you.
I cannot wait to see you there!