“Spiritual and Religious”
Day of Pentecost B
May 27, 2012
An old Chinese proverb says, “May you be cursed to live in interesting times.” We don’t have to go too far to find the curse of the interesting. Our upcoming elections give us enough material. We are also dealing with increased polarization in our society and fragmentation. It’s not much different in the church. Mainline churches, the ELCA included, are struggling. Churches are also becoming polarized and more fragmented. The fast growing category of religious affiliation is the “nones,” not to be confused with Catholic religious. “Nothing in particular” is the choice of 12% of our populations, with another 4% being agnostic or atheist. If that isn’t cursing-ly interesting enough, a large segment considers themselves “spiritual, but not religious,” with dueling YouTube videos going viral back and forth.
Here’s a video called “It’s Pentecost,” that has a different take on our situation today.
Indeed, we have a story to tell, a story that takes us outside of ourselves into God’s world. In the curse of interesting times, we often find ourselves either giving up on the church altogether or feeling we have to defend it. I don’t find either option to be helpful or life-giving. I gave up on the church once, and that didn’t work. As for the other option, we don’t need to defend the church, not because it is perfect, but because it is God, through the Holy Spirit, that brings the community of faith together. God has a mission to love and bless the world, and for that mission God gathers you, me, and others to join in that mission, to tell the story of God’s love in Christ.
Even so, what is often missing from God’s gathered communities is a lively conversation about what God is up to in their communities and where it is that God is blowing us to join in that work. The Spirit may blow wherever and whenever it wills, but it does blow with intentionality and purpose. A community without the Spirit is dead. The Spirit without community is, well, not the Spirit at all. The Spirit of Pentecost is found wherever boundaries are broken down, just as they were at that first Pentecost when people from the known world are reunited into a singular group.
The Spirit of Pentecost is present wherever people as questions about meaning and purpose, no matter how perplexing and difficult. The Spirit is present where men and women, old and young, free or not, share dreams and visions of what God’s world could be. I believe that the Spirit of Pentecost is blowing through Grace as we seek to join God’s work to walk with families of all ages in our congregation and our community. Exciting and, yes, even interesting things are happening. We are making some major additions to our Wednesday night programming: a community meal, informal worship, and faith formation for all ages.
Like those early disciples, we may not always be clear about where we are going, and we’ll probably stumble along the way, but the Holy Spirit will be guiding us every step of the way. With God’s help, we are going to be spiritual and religious, a community of faith guided by the Spirit. That’s a blessing, not a curse. Amen.