The Rev. Carolyn H. Eklund
Year B; Pentecost Sunday; 5.20.2018; Acts 2:1-21
“And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?…in our own language we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power. All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’”
A few days ago, just prior to the royal wedding, our Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby gave a video recorded interview. They sat next to each other on a bench and you could see that Michael was quite animated and Justin was clearly more reserved.
One of the questions directed to Michael Curry was, as an American how he felt about coming to England to preach at Harry and Meghan’s wedding. In his animated, extroverted way he said, “Oh we are in communion with the Church of England. We consider her ‘Mother Church’ so it feels a bit like coming to family…you know, like I’m, (then he paused and said), like I’m comin’ to ‘Momma’s House!’” Justin Welby lit up with a smile and said, “I can’t believe you just said that!”
He was “amazed and perplexed” as if to say, ‘what does this mean?’”
It has been said that “the Americans are identical to the British in all respects except, of course, language.”
Yesterday, our own Episcopal primate, the Most Reverend Michael Curry delivered a message to probably the world’s richest, most famous audience of our time…It was received world-wide as a refreshing and honest sermon on love.
But there were complaints. Yes, there were complaints from a few of the staid British guests at the wedding. Yes, that Michael Curry’s sermon was too long (14 minutes!) and too religious; that weddings are not supposed to be overtly religious! As if to say, “What IS the meaning of this?!”
Now WE know that Michael Curry knew exactly to whom he was preaching and what he wanted to say. And it was all about the love of God, the love of Jesus, the Great Commandment, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two hang all the laws and the prophets.” That was too religious! But Michael Curry didn’t stop there. He went on to expand the meaning of love beyond romantic love to love that is sacrificial.
Michael Curry indeed was in “Momma’s house,” and he called on every single person sitting in that “house,” and you and me, and all those around the world who were watching, to imagine the kind of love that Dr. Martin Luther King called the world to imagine 50 years ago,
“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.”
We were called to imagine…imagine a world where love is the way. Where love is the way in homes, families, neighborhoods, communities, governments, nations, businesses and commerce. We were called to imagine love in all places where love is the only way.
By Michael Curry’s standards, it was an unusually short sermon. At 14 minutes, he was really just getting started! One person tweeted, “This preacher is doing 50 in a 30 mile-an-hour zone, and it’s brilliant.” Millions of people around the world watched the wedding and heard his sermon on the power and possibility of love – and I imagine it was translated to their own language. Someone rejoiced and wrote, “Michael Curry took the world to church!”
That day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, was the first day of “Church.” The fire of the Spirit lit up each of the disciples that had gathered in the upper room, and took the disciples from a sleepy post resurrection mood of 30 miles an hour to over 50 for the rest of their lives!
Immediately the Spirit ignited the disciples with tongues of fire alighting their heads. The Spirit was busy that day inspiring the gathered pilgrims from foreign lands who were in Jerusalem for the Holy Feast of Pentecost. The Spirit gave each of them the ability in their own language to share God’s deeds of power with other pilgrims – and they understood each other!
With crazy energy, the Spirit grabbed them and gave voice in their own language to the promise of God’s redemptive power of love
All in different languages. All being understood. All being joyfully ecstatic about this good news.
And, don’t you just know, this very public and dramatic demonstration of joy and power caught the attention of the critics. “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are crazy drunk. They must be crazy drunk because this is going on too long and it is too spirited.’”
Peter steps forward to defend them and said, “Folks, it’s only 9am in the morning. They aren’t drunk. They are filled with God’s Spirit. God promised to pour out God’s Spirit upon all flesh; that means ALL flesh who wish to receive God’s Spirit: men, women, young, old, slaves, free, black, white, rich, poor. They are NOT drunk. They are filled with God’s Spirit.”
Bible scholar Donald McKim writes, “The roll call of nations and languages points to the universality of the Spirit’s work for the whole world….and whenever we see signs of the coming age – in works of love, peace and justice – we know God’s Spirit is at work.”
THEY ARE NOT DRUNK. THEY ARE FILLED WITH GOD’S SPIRIT.
This Day of Pentecost the church celebrates the unifying force of God’s Spirit, the initiation of the Church. Today, we rejoice in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to give life and love and movement to our lives and to our Church. As a body we stand and claim our baptismal vows repeating them together. The color of the day is red: the color of love, the color of power, of energy, of light and of fire.
In a not-so-subtle way, at least to Christians, Michael Curry preached a Pentecost Sunday sermon yesterday at that wedding. It was about fire. He introduced the possibility of love as important as the discovery of fire.
Invoking the late Jesuit, mystic scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Michael Curry spoke on the power of fire. Every time I say “fire” you could insert the word, “Power” or “Spirit.”
And so, I quote our Episcopal Presiding Bishop,
“[Pierre Teilhard de Chardin] suggested that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great technological discoveries of human history. Fire made it possible to cook food, thereby reducing the spread of disease. Fire made it possible to stay warm in cold climates, thereby making human migration possible. Fire made the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Revolution possible. If you drove here [to the wedding], it’s because of fire. I flew here. That’s because fire powered the jet. Fire is involved in broadcasting this wedding around the world. And we can text, tweet, email and otherwise socially engage one another due to fire…de Chardin said that if human beings ever harness the energies of LOVE, then for the SECOND time in the history of the world, we will have discovered FIRE. LOVE is the very fire and energy of real life!”
Let’s give it a try! Let’s call upon the Spirit to kindle the fire of love in us and let us share the power of love with the world. And if that love makes us look drunk with joy, well then, may we love all the more!