It’s May 31 and we’re still holding zoom services. It’s likely we will continue these zoom services long after we will have returned to our sanctuary or the church lawn just to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to worship. We want to be back in our sanctuary, singing hymns, and giving hugs. Sharing real handshakes and not fist and elbow bumps during the passing of the peace, and yet here we are – worshipping in our homes, wanting to get back to normal, but pretty sure normal will never be normal again!
It was 50 days after Passover, and the Jewish community was celebrating the summer harvest. Only a few days before, Jesus had turned over the keys to his ministry to the women and men who were his closest followers. They weren’t sure what to do – they were still in seclusion, learning and praying, and waiting for guidance for the next steps of their ministry. They had no church buildings and like us they were worshipping in their homes.
Then it hit them with full force. Sheltering in place, keeping their message to themselves, without warning the fire and wind blew through their dwelling place and pushed them outdoors and into the streets to share the good news of Jesus the Risen One.
Everyone was filled with amazement. Jesus’ followers spoke their native tongue, Aramaic, but everyone could hear them in their own language. The divisions of race, class, gender, nationality, and economics dissolved. Difference no longer led to division but to spiritual harmony.
Filled with divine inspiration, Peter begins to preach: Now is the right time. Now is the day of salvation. What the prophets foretold has come to pass.
In the last days, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
There will be signs in the heavens and on earth and they will unify rather than destroy. There will no longer be barriers to grace for everyone who calls on God’s name will be saved.
We are a Pentecost people and we are also living in a pandemic. We are a gospel people but we are concerned about the Coronavirus, catching it and unknowingly spreading it to others. Many, like myself, rationally know we are doing the right thing by our congregation’s shuttering the doors, but we also feel regret at not going out into the streets to share the good news or at least returning to our sanctuary. Our prudence is right, despite the protests of a minority of pastors who are throwing open the doors of their churches, risking their congregants and neighbors, and seeing any governmental involvement as a threat to religious freedom.
Pentecost Sunday, the church went out into the streets. We are going out on Zoom. We are not wimping out as Christians because we stay home. God wants us to be faithful but also safe. God wants us to reach out but also care for our neighbor and ensure the wellbeing of the most vulnerable among us. God wants bells and hymns and hugs but also rational decision making. God wants us to use the science and technology available to us to share the good news. For God is revealed in the sanctuary, the laboratory, and on social media.
Ironically, I have grown closer to many of you in this time of pandemic. I have gotten to know some of you a lot better, and perhaps you know me better too. If God is present everywhere, then every place can be the gateway to God. Every home a sanctuary of the spirit. If God’s spirit is universal, then no place is excluded, and zoom can be the holy of holies, just as significant in God’s realm as our sanctuary.
On Pentecost Jesus’ followers poured into the streets. Today, we carefully go out with gloves, hand sanitizer, and masks. We are not less faithful, especially as we reach out with the gifts we have, as we love the ones under our roofs, and as we pray for the world or those who pass by our homes. Our adult faith formation reaches out to persons in Colorado, Oregon, New York, Maryland…our daily devotionals and midweek meditations touch people across the globe and are in even quoted by pastors in the United Kingdom.
Pentecost in a time of pandemic. Community in a time of crisis. Healing and hospitality sheltered at home. God is here: this is God’s gateway and home, right now, right where we are….God’s spirit has fallen on us, young and old, male and female, gay and straight, white and black, and we are blessed with inspiration, love, and mission.