Today we have gathered in the best ways that we can to celebrate God’s Spirit that wells
up deep within us creating new life and new beginnings. We celebrate the breath of God’s Spirit, breathing life into all of us and infusing us with hope. We celebrate the Creator Spirit who gives birth to our whole creation in all its wonder and mystery, constantly creating new life. We give thanks that God’s Spirit is given so freely and generously to draw all creation into God’s loving embrace. Today, we join millions of people around the world to celebrate the life creating, reconciling presence of God’s Spirit.
Yet, today’s Pentecost is different from any that I have ever experienced. Our world has been upended by the Covid19 pandemic. Deep cracks and fissures, long present in our society, are exposed in its glaring light. This week our national pandemic death toll crossed a terrible threshold with more than 100,000 dead: grandparents, siblings, dear friends and neighbors have died, often suffering alone. And researchers estimate that the death rate for Black Americans is 2.4 times higher than Whites, while our worst outbreak is in the Navaho nation, and it is our elders and most vulnerable who are most at risk. The pandemic has exposed cracks and inequities in our health system so wide that our elders, our most vulnerable, and thousands of our black and brown neighbors have been simply swallowed up. At the same time, the gap between those of us who possess wealth, connections and power and the vast majority of our nation’s workers is exposed in plain view, as meat plant workers, farm laborers, and low-wage essential workers continue to die. And now, the deep racial divisions and demons that have haunted our nation are exposed again in the searing light of hand held cameras as yet another unarmed black man cries out, “I can’t breathe”, as he lay dying under the knee of a white policeman.” The divisions, the gaps and cracks in our society are exposed in ways that few of us could have imagined just a few weeks ago.
As I thought about celebrating Pentecost this week with all the pain and trauma that has been unleashed, I recalled psalm 137, composed by Jewish poets after they were violently uprooted from their familiar homes and driven into exile in Babylon. “By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and we wept. On the willows there we hung up our harps. How could we sing the Lord’s song in this foreign land?”
Yet… Pentecost has come round again this year with all the greening life and bird songs of Springtime all around us. This Pentecost, we are called to live fully in our cultural moment — at the same time that we think of God’s Spirit who is continually creating new life, new hope, new beginnings – even in the most painful circumstances. Celebrating Pentecost this year, I imagine a wise elder with a tear glistening in her eye as she, nonetheless, looks upward and outward toward a clear blue horizon – pain and hope mingled in her gaze.
None of us knows how the uncertainty of this time will unfold, when our deepest divisions have been laid bare. Yet, anyone who has lived long enough and honestly enough knows that we each must face hard truths about ourselves at times that are difficult and painful to see. And it is only by facing these realities as honestly as we can that we can begin to discover real release and new freedom — the new beginnings that the season of Pentecost promises.
As I thought about the cracks and dark realities exposed in our nation and communities today, I found myself dwelling on an image in a poem written by the beloved 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi. This image resonates so powerfully that has found its way into the work of many writers and spiritual leaders since Rumi wrote his poem. Rumi wrote about a wounded young person, whose wound is bandaged by her teacher. One translation is: “Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place – your wound. That is where the light enters you. And don’t believe for a moment that you are healing yourself.” Leonard Cohen anchored his beloved folksong, Anthem, with this same image. He sings: “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack — a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. That’s how the light gets in.”
Maybe this Pentecost season is not only a time to celebrate. Maybe it is also a time to pray when we can find the grace, even with a knot of fear in our stomach, to look a bit more honestly at our wounds and pray that these wounds may become cracks that will let in the healing light of God’s Spirit. Maybe we can pray that God’s Spirit will heal our deep wounds — and liberate us from the demons of division and hatred that have haunted our land for so long. Maybe we can pray with new fervor that God’s Spirit who is always creating life — will fill our hearts with new hope and new resolve to search for signs of God’s life and love all around us. Even the smallest signs, like a little dandelion in the Springtime pushing up through cracks in the pavement under our feet.
So… today, we thank God for the life giving Spirit at the heart of our own little community of St. Peters and flowing through our whole, wondrous creation. We celebrate life and creativity with the painting on the wall behind us, inspired by our children and brought together out of many physically separated contributors by Marie. We celebrate as we share a spiritual communion that keeps us safe and unites us in our shared desire to be transformed by God’s Spirit. We celebrate the flower beds at our church kept beautifully by generous community members, and the vegetables growing in our St. Peter’s garden plot. And today, we will celebrate with another procession of our cars colorfully decorated with messages of love that we will share with our members who are still isolated at home, unable to get out as we drive by, make noise and wave to them. Today and all of this Pentecost season, we will celebrate all of the million ways that God’s Spirit can transform our imperfect lives into channels of God’s peace and healing; forgiveness and release, reconciliation and new beginnings, as God’s Spirit of love flows freely and visibly into our world, as St. Francis sang so beautifully.
I want to leave you with a poem by Seemi Ghazi — about the wondrous ways that God’s Spirit can flow through broken places to heal and create new life.
I don’t know about the levels and layers of heaven, but I do know about tenderness
about the curves of a baby’s bottom
about the touch of a loved one
about dirt… about sunshine
about wild geese
about waterfalls…. about mountains
and about a God who is here with us…
God who is intimate with those whose brokenness
has become an opening for God’s Spirit to enter.