Sunday, May 23, 2010

RCL - Feast of Pentecost - May 23, 2010

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Andrew Colquhoun, OHC

Acts 2:1-21
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17(25-27)

A few weeks ago I led a Celtic retreat for the spouses and partners of the clergy of the Diocese of New York. I had a great time. I love talking and celebrating my heritage and telling stories. The Celtic people lived by the story. For them the story holds the meaning - the story expresses the truth much more fully for us than data could. And it’s more important that the story be a good one than a factual one. Facts to the Celt are incidental. The Native American traditions are the same – their story tellers often begin by saying, “Now, it may not have happen just like this but this is the truth!” Same with Semitic people. In Africa everyone understood this, too. Simple people around the world live by the story.

Scripture is a story- and I think when we forget that we kill the truth told in the Bible. When we turn Scripture into a law library or a textbook we lose the story of God’s seeking love and our longing to rest in the heart of that loving heart of God.

This account from Acts is a story – not a recitation of factual things – not to be photographed and put on the front page of USA Today or Time and Newsweek.

It’s a happening that can only be grasped if we are willing to forget the propositions and definitions. It is a story and as with most stories, its purpose is to take us beyond the happenings to something more.

We have been listening to The Wind in the Willows in the refectory and I love it. And yet the facts are that rats don’t talk, they’re not even nice; moles are creepy wee things with slits for eyes; toads give you warts… well, maybe that’s not a fact. But we listen with our breaths catching as Mole senses his home in Dulce Domum and his small heart breaks; we thrill when Rat hears the pipes of the divine at dawn; we chuckle guiltily at Toad’s overweening arrogance because in his goings on we recognize our own crazy ways.

And now we have just heard another story – a most dramatic one. But we have changed this story, too, I’m afraid. We have altered it to make it palatable, respectable. We would much rather have a nice Holy Spirit who leads us into still waters and gives us quiet pasture. We want to be enlightened. We want to be guided into peaceful places and fulfilling comfort. We want a Holy Spirit who will make me “spiritual”; we like – some of us – to feel just that bit superior to those who don’t express Pentecostal experiences, who don’t speak in tongues. Or we consider that we are beyond such behaviors – especially if we come from the top drawer, so to speak. It has been said that a grand lady once exclaimed, “We Episcopalians don’t ‘Praise the Lord!’”
But this story tells us of a Spirit that comes to frightened people and drives them out of their comfort and safety into the maelstrom of the marketplace and makes them act like drunks!
And Peter - Peter who a couple of days ago couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge Jesus to a servant girl, gets his dander up, confronts the crowd and tells them that they are missing something wonderful - something they had read without understanding for generations… about God at work in a new way, about a promised time when things will be turned upside down and strange and wonderful events will take place. And God’s salvation, God’s love, will be freely poured out.

Jesus tells his disciples about this in our Gospel passage. He says you don’t and won’t understand now but you will. And you will learn what it is to be my followers. What a promise! What an offering of peace! What an opportunity to live!

Unfortunately, I’m afraid we hesitate to step into that conversion. That story is too hard to take. Our brains can’t get beyond the facts… we don’t have the resources, there’s too much to tackle, the way isn’t clear.

Brothers and sisters, I feel that the lesson of this day for the Church, if we will listen to the story, is that we don’t need our own resources, we can tackle anything, and we don’t really need to see the way.

God’s expectation of us is courage to go ahead… to step into the marketplace and be people of truth and doers of justice; merciful people who don’t act out of fear or discouragement but have the bravery of the drunk who can take on the world.

It’s not our message we proclaim. It is the story of a love that dies for longing; a love that restores and renews. It’s the Gospel!

No comments: