I am tired—I am not sure what time it is right now—my brain is still in the Eastern Time Zone and my body is here on the west coast. I’m a little confused too. I don’t know if it’s just about time to have breakfast or lunch, and now I am preaching about Pentecost, a story when Jesus’ disciples are accused of being drunk at nine o’clock in the morning. I might not make a ton of sense this morning, but
To be clear I have not had anything to drink this morning.
When the disciples begin to talk at once in a variety of languages, a crowd comes to watch the spectacle. In Jerusalem during the Second Temple, there would have been Jewish people from all over the ancient world living in the city—and they would have already struggled to understand each other across a variety of language barriers. And yet, here they were all gathered together listening to a group of people speaking and then hearing their own languages out of nowhere.
It’s like traveling to a foreign country and hearing your own language spoken. It reminds me of when I was in Nicaragua last summer and spent the whole trip navigating in Spanish. My brain got tired from working in the language that was not native to me and then when I met a woman from New York who spoke English to me, I breathed a sigh of relief at simply being understood and being able to understand.
I’ve thought a lot about Nicaragua these last few weeks as their dictator Daniel Ortega, a “president “ who was once thought to be a liberator of the people “has cut pensions and social security, the community responded with protests, and then over 50 people were killed. Negotiations continue—and I’ve watched videos of the protests, trying to understand how a government could support the killings of protestors. Such violence is hard to understand.
There have been a lot of hard, confusing, and unbelievable things happening in the world in the last few weeks.
Last week, the US embassy in Jerusalem opened and Palestinian people protested. “The protests had been dubbed the Great March of Return, in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to land they or their ancestors fled from or were forced to leave in the war which followed Israel's founding in 1948.
The Israeli government, which has long ruled out a mass return of Palestinians, said terrorists wanted to use the protests as cover to cross into its territory and carry out attacks.
While most Palestinians have demonstrated at a distance from the border, others threw rocks and incendiary devices towards the fence and tried to break through.” More than 60 people were killed and the United Nations has opened an independent investigation to determine if the state of Israel responded with more force than necessary and how to hold the nation state accountable.
And just days ago, there were two school shootings—one at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, where ten people died and one in Georgia at a graduation, where one person died. There have been 22 school shootings this year in the United States—and mostly I wonder how any student can go to school in the United States without being terrified.
This week I finished my coursework in climate change and theology—which means I have spent the last two years thinking about the reality of global climate crises. The process of icecaps melting in the Arctic is now irreversible, heat waves are killing people around the world, and we can expect that global temperatures will rise another five or six degrees by the end of the century. And that means that thirty-six percent of people will face some kind of water scarcity. Climate change will effect communities that are already marginalized hardest. Wen Stephenson writes in What We’re Fighting For Now is Ourselves that “catastrophic warming, by any humane definition, is virtually certain—indeed, already happening … [and] even in the very near term, what’s “catastrophic” depends on where you live, and how poor you are, and more often than not the color of your skin.”
I was finishing course work when I got two emails from our Pescadero community—that Kathy had died, leaving us her poetry and her spirit of words…. And that Don Lupe, a dear farmworker in the ESL classes at Puente, was killed in a car crash. And so there are these great big heartaches around the world and then these heartbreaks in our community—these people who touched our lives and brought creativity and joy into our worlds.
Grief and violence do not make sense. It’s hard to know what to do in response.
But other things have happened too.
In these last few weeks, the New Poor People’s Campaign was launched on Mother’s Day. “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.” Communities have gathered around the country to dismantle the systems and circumstances that separate us from each other.
And so I’ve found that I’m grateful for the capacity of communities to respond to the struggles and heartache of our world.
The story of Pentecost—this story of the spirit of God reaching out like tongues of fire onto the gathered disciples—is also the defining story of the church. They are gathered together in one place, in the days just after Jesus has left them. They have lived through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus—and now he’s really gone. And so they’re gathered together, confused by the mystery of who Jesus is in the world, because he is like no other teacher they have known.
God reaches out and calls them to be the church to the world—to dream dreams, and see visions, and prophessy a new world that is governed by the love and justice of God’s new kingdom. God calls them in their grief, exhaustion, and confusion to live with courage.
What will we do in the face of the hard reality of the world? Part of the gift of the Holy Spirit is that it descends on all of us gathered in this place—calling each of us into this work of the church with courage. What courage will we use to respond to the violence, suffering, grief, racism, and ecological devastation in our world?
The trick, love bugs, is figuring out how to respond when our courage to do new things in the world makes us seem like we have lost our minds.
“When the day of #Pentecost had arrived, they were all gathered together in one place. Suddenly, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind – they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking...in different languages!
Now, at that time, there were people from every nation living in Jerusalem. And at this sound, they were amazed and astonished, saying,
"Aren't all of these people...ya know...Galileans? How is it that we hear in our own native tongue? Méxicans, Venezuelans, Cherokee, Sioux, and residents of Brazil –– Iceland and Finland, Nigeria and Burundi, Iraq and Mongolia, Japan, Taiwan, and the parts belonging to the United Nations –– and visitors from all over: Hmong and Somali, members of the African and Jewish diasporas –– in our languages, we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power!"
But...there were some who grumbled, saying, "These maniacs are drunk, and should go back to where they came from.”
But the people stood their ground, raising their heads and saying, "We're not drunk, y'all. It's 9:00 a.m., and we got stuff to do.”
We have stuff to do.
In the church calendar, from here to Advent is what is called Ordinary Time. From Pentecost to waiting for Jesus’ birth, we are called to be the church in ways that change just what ordinary means, to change the narrative of heartache to something else—to love the stranger, to dismantle racism, to love each other radically, to care for creation, to be moved by God in ways that will make other think we have lost our minds or at least had a little bit too much to drink.
In a moment, we will practice through prayer stations, but I want to end with excerpts from a poem from the farmer-poet Wendell Berry:
Every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
 Feasting on the Word 5
 Ibid., 20. Stephenson, What We’re Fighting for Now is Ourselves, x.
 Ibid., x.
 Jason Chesnut