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Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

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Pentecost and Graduation

May 20, 2018

PENTECOST AND GRADUATION

May 20, 2018 (Day of Pentecost)

New Millennium Church

Little Rock, Arkansas

 

Acts 2:1-21

 

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 

 


17 “In the last days it will be, 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. 
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy. 
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

 

Creator Spirit and Giver of life,
make the dry, bleached bones of our lives
live and breathe and grow again
as you did of old.
Pour out your Spirit upon the whole creation.
Come in rushing wind and flashing fire
to turn the sin and sorrow within us
into faith, power, and delight. Amen.

 

Pentecost is the event about the powerful story of how followers of Jesus came out of hiding from self-imposed seclusion to publicly declare their allegiance to Jesus as God’s Messiah of love and justice to the world.  They left their private prayer and fellowship space and declared – publicly and without apology or hesitation – the amazing news about the resurrection of Jesus.  

Their bold public testimony about the resurrection of Jesus started a new mood in the world.  Ordinary men and women stood up in Jerusalem, the place where Jesus had been falsely accused, tried, wrongly convicted of insurrection against the Roman Empire, crucified, declared dead, and buried.  Ordinary men and women declared the amazing news that they Jesus lived, again.  Despite everything that Roman colonizers, Zionist religious sympathizers, and self-serving schemers had done, Jesus lived, again.   These ordinary men and women came out of hiding on the Day of Pentecost to say so.  

And when they spoke, their message was heard by people from different places, languages, and ethnic backgrounds.  The news that Jesus was alive – again – was heard and understood clearly by people from beyond Galilee.  It was declared, heard, and understood by people from many backgrounds.  Pentecost was the day that the resurrection of Jesus stopped being whispered about.  Instead, Pentecost was the day news about the resurrection of Jesus went public because the followers of Jesus – ordinary men and women – came out of hiding and started publicly telling the world this news:  The Roman Empire is not the greatest force in the world.  God’s love and truth involves much more than Zionist nationalism.  God’s love and truth cannot be stopped.  

 And in this sense, Pentecost can be thought of as like Graduation Day for the religion of Jesus.  Like Pentecost, Graduation Day is an event where those who have labored in the secluded atmosphere  of academic life step out into the open to declare themselves ready to do more, be more, and say more.  Like Pentecost, Graduation Day is a “coming out” event, so to speak.  

As New Millennium celebrates Pentecost Day, three persons from our faith community are “stepping out.”  

Jedidiah McAllister is graduating from Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Magnet Elementary School, named after the first black municipal court judge in the United States.  Jedidiah’s 5th Grade teachers selected him to receive the Hobbs Peace Prize award based on his compassion, generosity, and keen insight about living with others in the world.  

 

LaVante Pettigrew graduated last week from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas.  In the face of physical, social, and learning challenges that are often considered insurmountable, LaVante Pettigrew is a college graduate.  

Aja Nia Hearne, youngest child of Garbo Hearne and Dr. Archie Hearne, graduated yesterday from the University of Arkansas for Medical Science with degrees in medicine (M.D.) and public health (M.P.H.).  Like Jedidiah and LaVante, Aja Nia has overcome challenges and now is “coming out” to begin a new phase of knowing, doing, and growing.  

And, our faith community celebrates the “coming out” events for these young and hopeful people as the world rejoices in the royal wedding of Prince Harry of England and Meaghan Markle, an biracial U.S. actress on yesterday at  Windsor Castle.  Their wedding ceremony, like the graduation of Jedidiah, LaVante, and Aja Nia, was a “coming out” event.  Although the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex – the title the royal couple now hold by order of Queen Elizabeth – have not been secluded persons by any notion, their wedding bristled with a Pentecostal-like affirmation a liberating challenge to age-old notions of empire.  The bride entered St. George’s Chapel alone, rather than on the arm of her father or any other man.  She is the descendant on her mother’s side from African slaves in the United States.  That a woman of color would stand, with dignity and radiant joy, in such a setting and have her wedding openly defined by the presence and voices of black liberation was a historic moment, whatever else one may think about notions of monarchy and royalty.  

 

These events occurred, however, as our world continues to shudder and weep.  As many as sixty (60) unarmed Palestinians who protested the U.S. decision to move the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem were massacred by soldiers from the Israeli Defense Force several days ago.  Ten (10) people – most of them high school students – were slaughtered at Santa Fe High School south of Houston, Texas on Friday.  The suspected killer is seventeen (17) years old.  Now, as on the first Pentecost, the liberating message of resurrection and divine love is declared in the face of oppression, violence, and death.  

The mystery and message of Pentecost is that the Spirit of God is at work in the world, and in ordinary people as well as celebrities, despite all that operates to oppress, wound, and cause despair.  God’s Spirit is loose in the world!  God’s people have message of resurrection hope and joy to proclaim!  That message must not be secluded.  It must be proclaimed, openly, triumphantly, and intentionally.  The message of God’s resurrection power, love, hope, and peace is not meant to be shut up, held in, or restricted to a select minority of souls because it is God’s message to the world!  

The wonder of Pentecost is that God’s great message has been entrusted to us.  As Peter announced to the startled crowd who marveled that they were hearing and understanding ordinary folks from Galilee talking about the power of God to overcome empire, religious nationalism, greed, hypocrisy, deceit, fear, and even death, the Holy Spirit empowers people do great things.  Yes, the Holy Spirit empowers people like us to do the unexpected.   We are God’s instruments for extraordinary living, extraordinary loving, extraordinary hope, extraordinary courage, extraordinary sacrifice, and extraordinary joy is a world challenged every day by death, hate, despair, fear, self-centeredness, and sorrow.

And that means God empowers us to be about the subversive work of changing the world!  Do not miss this truth!  The Holy Spirit empowers us to love in a world where hatefulness has not only been militarized and “weaponized” by tyrants, bigots, psychopaths, and sociopaths.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to bold living for justice in a world where greed, fear, deceit, hypocrisy, and violence work to oppress men, women, and children in every community and every society.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to work together in a world where division has become the defining standard for life.  The Holy Spirit has been poured out so that you and I can get involved with God in changing the world!  

That is not secluded work.  That is not work and living to be done behind closed doors.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to come out of our hiding places.  Pentecost reminds us that life in God is not sacred versus social, but that sacred life is always social.  We are always called to love God.  We are always called to love our neighbors.  We are always called to love ourselves.  We are always called to love and live in this way, everywhere, openly, and boldly.  

This is the power that enables us to be messengers of resurrection hope.   It is the power that lifts us when we suffer setbacks.  This is the power that equips and enables us to truly be followers of Jesus.  

Pentecost and graduation signal that we are here on a mission from God!  Jedidiah, LaVante, Aja Nia, Prince Harry, Duchess Meaghan, Sisters, Brothers, God’s Spirit is at work in us.  Let’s show the world what God can do! 

Amen.  

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2018