Rev. Lyle McKenzie Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Acts 2:1-21 Ps 104:24-34,35b Rom 8:22-27 John 15:26-27 16:4b-15
Blessed Pentecost! Day of God’s Spirit, Spirit of Jesus, Spirit in you, in us together, moving us, toward others, God, the world.
A reminder or introduction, this is the fiftieth day of Easter. This is what the word Pentecost means – the fiftieth day. And everything we celebrate on this “day of the Spirit” is connected to Easter, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, fifty days before.
The original Pentecost, the scene in Acts, was the Jewish festival, celebrating God’s giving the Law to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai in thunder and lightning, fifty days after Passover.
The Christian Pentecost means the giving of God’s Spirit to followers of the risen Jesus “and on all flesh,” in wind and fire fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection; and the good news of what God has done in Jesus crucified and risen, proclaimed in the many languages of all the diverse peoples of the known world, so that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Blessed Pentecost/day of the Spirit!
I was at an ecumenical university chaplains’ conference this past week, sponsored primarily by the United Church of Canada (for which we were very grateful) and with the Anglican Church of Canada sharing in some of the funding, and the ELCIC adding a little too. About 30 of us, 6 Lutheran chaplains, United, Anglican, 1 Baptist and a non-religious chaplain, gathered at the Five Oaks Centre, just outside Paris, Ontario, at the forks of the Grand River and Whiteman’s Creek, near the Six Nations reserve
It was good. We have not had an ecumenical gathering for many years, maybe 15 years ago. In ministries that are more on the fringes, isolated and lonely, it was good to be together again, even if now it is clear I am among the elders of campus ministry.
They were long and full days, with three lectures by a guest presenter who is researching the impact of campus ministries on university student outcomes like retention, engagement, satisfaction, success, and graduation – concerns that are very important to universities, and encouraging us to understand and speak the language of the university in conveying a message that campus ministries are critical to student success; and universities need to invest more for the benefit of the students and the universities, and ultimately, our societies/world.
We also had presentations on racism and white privilege, on gender based violence on campuses, and truth and reconciliation and new directions and priorities in churches. And Bishop Mark McDonald, Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, our chaplain and worship leader, as before, gifted us with his teaching and spirit. As I said it was a full week.
And it was a Spirit filled week. To hear how campus ministries continue across the country in interesting, responsive, caring and creative ways, around food and community, drumming circles and mediation, Pet Cafe’s like at UVic and “Third Spaces” of worship, in conversation and spiritual direction, theological, social and political connections, “queering religion” to “sacred ecology,” and more, engaging students and faculties and staff in this dialogue of religious, spiritual and secular identities with learning, the academy and the university community was inspiring and challenging; and so also the chaplains, their passion and concern, their struggles and challenges, their faith and failings, joy and sorrow, their connection to the church but often on the margins; all of it so much how the Spirit moves.
As Lutherans we stayed on for two more days to have a little time together, and on the first morning, with the wind blowing strongly, we sat in the living room of the 70’s house we were staying in that looked out on the large trees that bordered the Grand River. As we read the Pentecost story from Acts as part of our Holy Communion to begin the morning, I noticed how the trees were bending in the wind, not just the tall branches, but the thick trunks themselves and therefore the whole tree bending back and forth by the invisible force of that strong wind. It was quite a sight as we read the words, “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” In our case a door or windows didn’t blow open, but we could hear the wind and certainly feel its effects, and it made me smile at the Pentecost power of the Spirit moving all around us as we gathered together.
There were no visible tongues, as of fire, that appeared or that I could see, but fire in bellies and enthusiasm for creative and innovative ministries and work with others, especially the students, that was clearly evident to me. And so also in personal cost and challenge and a kind of refining fire of learning and failures and fears and trying again, something different, something new, to engage and support and encourage students and others in university contexts, that was also evident in what people shared about their ministries that morning. The power of the Spirit moving these ministries, these communities, God’s people, toward something, toward one another and all others, toward God and the world God loves. The Spirit moving…
Part of what the gathering reminded me of was the origins of our campus/student ministries, the Lutheran Student Movement, which I know some of you were a part of in earlier times – guess who was the first president of LSM Canada? – Don Storch. LSM is still active, with fewer official chapters or groups, the lone remaining in Canada is in Edmonton, with others still active in the US. It was a student based movement, often on the front lines of issues of ecumenism and interfaith relations, racism, feminism, indigenous concerns, sexual and gender diversity and inclusion, anti violence and anti war, justice and environmental concerns, antiestablishment and critical of institutions, and in favour of greater freedoms and fulfillment. The LSM was all this and more and less depending on the era and context along with similar parallel organizations like the Student Christian Movement (SCM) that still continues. The Spirit at work and moving God’s young people together, and through and with them, moving the church, engaging the world… The Spirit moving…
These examples reminded me, remind us of how the Spirit continues to move in the church and our lives, in contexts that are the church in mission like education, social service and protest and change, and in you and me right where we are.
How! the Spirit is moving you, moving us, together, on this Pentecost Sunday, is the question, not if! But how!…
We can be assured she is, as Jesus promised, as loving Advocate and guide, in all truth and hope, in everything, from groaning in grief and loss, in personal and immediate ways, to societal and global, in pain and fear, overwhelmed and sad, God’s Spirit moving us with hope, hope in what we cannot see but wait for with patience, the Spirit interceding for us with sighs too deep for words, and moving us into possibilities for us and for this world we cannot yet “ask or imagine,” to quote the Anglican communion liturgy, but trust in, in the Spirit, the Advocate’s guiding us and this world in Jesus’ ways of God’s love; to quote Bishop Michael Curry, African American preacher at a British royal wedding, in “the power of love, the redemptive power of love, the fire of love, love that is the way,” of the Spirit moving…
How! do we know the Spirit’s moving? Like the first followers of Jesus, we gather “all together in one place.” Again and again, Sunday by Sunday, and countless weekdays by weekdays, we gather all together in one place, with words and water, bread and wine, in prayers and pleading, in praise and singing, work and worry, trust and hope, grace and faith in the promised Spirit of God in Jesus moving in and among and through us and others… for God’s love, Jesus’ love, the Spirit’s love of you, of us, of this world, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from that same wedding sermon, “this old world, a new world, for love is the only way.” Blessed Pentecost! Amen.