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Sunday, May 9, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

This Sunday we get a preview of Pentecost, which we’ll celebrate in a couple of weeks on May 23rd.  While the Scripture lessons for Pentecost take place in Acts Chapter 2, the lectionary takes us deeper into Acts in these weeks following Easter.  This Sunday, the Apostle Peter learns that God’s Spirit is already way out ahead of him.  While the first Christians were basically a sect of Judaism, Peter learns that God’s Spirit is also meant for and present in the Gentiles.  He declares, “God shows no partiality.” 

Given that most of us are “the Gentiles,” it’s a good reminder that the rules were changed for us, so that we could come in; who are we, then, to prevent God from blessing the whole human family?  Who are we to stand in the way of God’s love?  Who are we to say, “These are the rules about who is welcome, and they always will be”?  Peter thought he knew the rules.  They were right there in Scripture.  But the movement of the Holy Spirit, present in us and among us and between us even now, trumps everything. 

Part of this story is that Peter had a vision that redefined, even revoked what was understood from the Old Testament.  Did God change God’s mind about dietary laws and Gentiles?  Or maybe, just maybe, did people misunderstand what God meant all along?  It took the Holy Spirit to clear this up, a Spirit that constantly surprises and inspires.  A Spirit that falls on the very people we may have thought were living against God’s will.  A Spirit that lifts up and sanctifies all people through the grace of Jesus Christ. 

Like many pastors, I’ve done a number of children’s sermons that describe Pentecost as the church’s “birthday,” including serving birthday cake at coffee hour.  But this story tells us that as fun as that is, the metaphor isn’t quite right.  Pentecost is less of a birthday, and more of a block party.  It does more than celebrate a single historical event; it breaks into the street and redefines the neighborhood.  And every time that happens, it remakes our understanding of ourselves.  Pentecost brings an ongoing, mysterious movement of God into view.  And that movement is still at work in the world, stretching our identity, loyalties, and love in response to a resurrection God.

Our calling is to expect to be surprised.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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