I’m currently reading For the Hurt, the Blessed, and the Damned by the Rev. Bradley Sullivan. Full disclosure, I initially added the book to my Kindle because Brad is a friend from seminary and I love reading books published by people I know. The reason I kept reading For the Hurt is because it’s exactly what I needed to be reading right now. Brad articulates responses to so many questions my 14 year old currently has about God and Christianity. As soon as I finish reading, the book will be handed over to him.
It also feels like a very appropriate to book to read in the days leading up to Pentecost. In chapter six, Brad writes,
The story of scripture is a story of God creating humanity out of love. The story of scripture is a story of humanity being hurt by all of the challenges of life, as we will know. The story of scripture is then a story of God healing humanity through continually bringing us unity to God and each other. The story of scripture is not one of sin, anger, fear, and extremely limited grace and forgiveness. The story of scripture is one of healing, connection, belonging, and love for all.
Healing. Connection. Belonging. Love. These are the words of Pentecost.
Jews from all over the Mediterranean world have gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot. It is a joyful harvest festival in which the first fruits of the late spring are given to God in thanksgiving for divine grace and mercy. It’s here at this festival when the gift of the Spirit Jesus promised his disciples finally arrives. The book of Acts tells us that everyone present is filled with the Holy Spirit and they begin speaking in various languages as the Spirit enabled them to do so.
In this act, the Holy Spirit blesses the languages of the world so that the gospel can be shared in every language of the world. There is no single ‘language of God.’ God instead chooses to meet people where they are, embracing their diversity rather than erasing it.
All those people gathered together when the howling wind of the Spirit blows through are considered outsiders of the Jesus Movement. And yet, the Holy Spirit blows through them, too. A new faith is born, one for everyone. The Holy Spirit reaches outside the immediate circle of the 11 disciples and pulls them in to create a bigger circle. No one is an outsider.
At Pentecost, God through the Spirit does not erase our differences, but instead embraces the fact that God created us all so wonderfully different. And the church grows because of this understanding. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit himself, speaks to the masses who not only hear with their ears, but are ‘cut to their hearts’ by Peter’s words. After Peter’s sermon, 3,000 people come forward to be baptized!
It’s a really big circle.
Who do you know that feels like there is no room for them in the Jesus Movement?
Who feels like an outsider?
Who needs to know that they are a beloved child of God?
[Image Credit: Kossowski, Adam. Veni Sancti Spiritus, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/8750321716 – Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.]