Signs

 WISDOM READINGS:          

Buddhism. Dhammapada 282

Verily, from meditation arises wisdom. Without meditation wisdom wanes.

Acts 2:1-21

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

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

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. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “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.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

John 20:21-22

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

 Message – “Signs…”

It was the summer after my Freshman year in high school. I had taken wood shop and built a round table for my mom. I failed to complete the project in the allotted time and so brought the table home and put it in the garage. On a Saturday afternoon I went to work on it so I could finish the project. I was sanding rather vigorously, and managed to run a rather large splinter deep under my thumbnail. I recoiled and rattled off not a few choice words as I held one hand in the other in pain. As I twisted around squeezing my injury, I realized my dad was standing just behind me. My mind went directly to the string of words I had just put together thinking I was the only one in the garage at the time of my mishap. My heart sank, the pain in my thumb suddenly seemed secondary, as I settled down and looked sheepishly at my father standing there in the doorway… silent. He finally said, “Feel better?” I replied, “Not really.” He then said, “Well, I’ve learned, sometimes, those are the only words that fit a particular occasion.” And with that he went into the house.

There are times when we encounter and experience pain, grief, uncertainty, fear, and anger we say and do things we might not otherwise do. However, there are times when those actions and words in the midst of our pain, grief, uncertainty, fear, and anger are simply the way we are able to articulate the depth of what we feel and experience. In the midst of the struggle, to some degree, we are the only ones who can communicate for ourselves what we are going through, no one else can understand, or for that matter interpret or judge our own experience… because they do not have facts, the experience, the historical understanding with which to speak or advise… though sometimes that fact does not stop them.

Last week I suggested we need some time to perhaps, sit in silence with, be immersed in, embrace the pain, grief, anger, and struggle we are experiencing through these difficult times in order to know them and at some point perhaps be able to release those things that burden us and take in those things that nourish our hearts and souls,  rather than continuing to find and create ways to distract ourselves with the busyness of life and work. I still believe we need this.

This week I would encourage us to continue that practice, yet be mindful of those opportunities presenting themselves to us in the midst of our considering. I want to encourage us to look for those signs of God at work in the world inviting us to participate in the just work of the common good. Take some time to listen for the Spirit of God moving in and through us… calling us out and forward into a world needing healing and hope.

The passage from Acts we read this morning speaks to this listening, speaking, calling, and movement of the Spirit. The author of Acts says the Spirit came like the sound of a rushing wind and fire! A spectacle that caused those gathered together… “sitting” and perhaps “listening” for a sign… and according to the story they began saying words that only they could imagine, words perhaps that only fit their experience, words perhaps that only fit that particular occasion… and yet… others understood and caught a glimpse of what it was they were talking about… and… some others… mocked them, and did not… or refused to… understand. Peter stood up in their midst and said… Listen… this is a sign… if you will pay attention… a sign of God at work in the world if you will listen and be awake to what the Spirit is doing within and around you!

“Portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire, and smoky mist.” People gathered, in the streets?? and hearing the disciples… and Peter… fire… and smoky mist. Signs. Listening… or not. It could sound a little like 72nd and Dodge if we are awake and aware to the signs in our midst, could it not? Or the passage from John… another “Pentecost” story… another coming of the Spirit… only this one is about breath… “And he breathed on them and said… “Receive the Holy Spirit…” Breathe… an expression of life… a cry for help from a child of God… George Floyd’s … “I can’t breathe!” Gasping for the Spirit of God who grieves at the continued racism, disregard for black lives, and cruelty in our world.

Continued signs in our midst from God to do something… especially to we who carry so much privilege due to the white color of our skin. Educate ourselves about white privilege, racism, being anti-racist, learning how to speak up, and stand with our siblings of color. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself… it is a constant unending task and sometimes I do it better than other times… to read about and listen to my siblings of color, to be called out when I misspeak and misstep while I work at being an ally. To speak out of understanding and facts as I know them, rather than ignorance and bias… however, more importantly that I listen more than I speak. It is a constant and never-ending task because I recognize I have spent 61 years in a society and culture steeped in racism and as a white man… I am continually influenced by that reality…

As I see the images of the unrest and racism so rampant in our country… and listen, stand with, speak up, continue to educate, and strive to do better… be better… the opportunity… the signs are here again… the Sprit is calling me… all of us… again like a rushing wind… like a consuming fire… like smoky mist… like the breath of the Spirit… the breath of our brothers and sisters…  May we continue seek the opportunities to participate with the Spirit … and may we continue to listen.

Amen.

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