Pentecost is coming.

The Holy Spirit Is on the move. Where will she find you?

Growing up I sang this children’s song and all its verses inside and outside of the church building. It was in my grandparents’ lullaby repertoire and I can remember struggling with my preschool sized fingers to get the hand movements that turn the church building inside out and let loose all the people. This song is written on my heart and has shaped my pastoral identity as well as my theology of what it means to be church as much as any church doctrine that was instilled in Sunday School or any theologian I encountered in seminary.

It’s been ringing in my ears since the first Sunday we moved to online worship gathering and began re-imaging how to be the church for such a time as this, and like our ancestors who were thrust into moments that required prophetic voice and vivid theological imagination so has this pandemic thrust upon us a great and challenging responsibility.

If not now, when can we sing such lyrics as this?

The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people.

Refrain:
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!

 At Friendship Presbyterian Church we’ve not closed, we’ve been flung open wider and wider still with every passing day. And while worship continues to be central and a source of comfort and joy we are gathering online to protect and care for one another and we’ve learned that the interwebs are as sacred a space as any other with a new capacity for inclusion and accessibility we hadn’t previously imagined:

And when the people gather,
there’s singing and there’s praying;
there’s laughing and there’s crying sometimes,
all of it saying:

Refrain:
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!


Instead of marching we’ve found ourselves called to drive in public rallies and to join online protests, adding our voices and our numbers to direct actions and legislative measures when the most vulnerable in our communities are ignored, under resourced, continue to go unhoused and over-policed. We are not resting, we are learning, and  working for justice and reaching, always reaching towards hope just as those whose shoulders we stand on join us in singing:

Sometimes the church is marching;
sometimes it’s bravely burning,
sometimes it’s riding, sometimes hiding;
always it’s learning.

Refrain:
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!

The reality is the mainline denominations have sang songs that report a value of diversity, inclusion and justice that we still, in the year 2020, struggle to learn how to truly live. This pandemic has lifted the veil once again on the ways in which our actions do not match our song. It has laid bare the stark realities and deathly consequences of unjust systems and the legacy of racial injustice and white supremacy at the heart of institutional policies, structures and practices. If we choose to sing this song with integrity than we must also refuse the rhetoric of “returning to normal.” Normal was designed to kill, and we are called to find a new way to live so that our world is just and sustainable for all of us:

We’re many kinds of people,
with many kinds of faces,
all colours and all ages, too
from all times and places.


Refrain:
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!

In the early days of the pandemic we were in shock and denial, “let’s postpone Easter,” we thought for a minute, as if we could keep Christ in the tomb. As the days fell away we remembered that Easter wasn’t the anniversary of resurrection, it was the DAY of resurrection. We remembered that we are always dying and living and that new life could not be delayed or postponed but that this year and maybe forever, new life would look different, but it would find a way. And now we find ourselves approaching Pentecost, many of us still grieving and searching. Like those first followers of Jesus we are still stunned by recent events, we feel the weight of all we know and don’t know. We are waiting and wrestling with the right next step. We want desperately to live and so we are isolated and doing everything we can to protect one another even though it makes some of us feel overwhelmed and others so very much alone.

If we ever needed a Holy Spirit breath of fresh, cleansing air, it is this moment.

If we ever needed to see, with our own eyes, God’s burning fire of creative and life-giving force, it is this moment.

Thank God the Holy Spirit has never been one to be contained, she blew the walls off of that upper room and transported Jesus’ disciples and friends to the public square, can you even imagine what she might do to bind us together and send us into the world this Pentecost?

Let us set aside the voices of the arrogant and fearmongers who would have us believe that she can only find us in a singular place when she has the power to be in all places and in every space. The Holy Spirit is on the move and she will come alongside us, wherever we are, she will breathe life into us and pour out the fiery blessing of Pentecost on us whether we are inside or out, whether we are in our backyard or around our kitchen table, whether we are alone or among family, whether we have shelter or are without, whether we are at work or working from home. The Holy Spirit travels at the speed air and light and internet communication and if we cannot gather in person she will bind us together and send us into the world as bearers of good news in ways we have yet to imagine:

At Pentecost some people
received the Holy Spirit
and told the Good News through the world
to all who would hear it.

Refrain:
I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!

This hymn was written by a Presbyterian duo, Avery and Marsh in the 60’s. Marsh died in 2010 and Avery died this year in March, his memorial is still pending due to the pandemic. Together they have contributed many songs meant to be written on our hearts first by their publishing company Proclamation Productions and later by Hope Publishing.

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