A Pentecost Reflection

Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21

"Holy Spirit Coming",He Qi.

“Holy Spirit Coming”,He Qi.

We sat in a circle fidgeting,  staring at each other.

The question: “What is your dream?”  Cutting through the multitude of voices from the other groups, I heard the words, “Social justice…world peace…ending racism.”  The perfect answers.  Of course we should all want those things.   It is also the response that almost guarantees that your listeners will reverently nod and not probe too much into your personal space.  They certainly won’t share anything afterward that might sound selfish.

Only able to take a few moments of awkward silence, our group began to speak. “To build  a building at camp for our church to use.”  “For my children to be happy and successful.”  “To live in community.” “To write a book.”   “I don’t know…this is a hard question.”

It was a hard question.  Most of us were grasping to find what to say and then carefully, timidly, sharing with the group.  These were all great dreams, but it felt more like we were trying to pass an exam than telling each other what we most wanted in life.

It wasn’t any easier when we were asked what our dreams were as a community.  A few people spoke, but mostly there was strained silence.

I can’t help but wonder, “Has the church forgotten how to dream?”

Intoxicated by the Holy Spirit, a motley crew of fisherman, tax collectors and women dreamed that Jesus’ death did not kill his presence or his movement.  That God was within all of us.  That grace and forgiveness carried the day.  That the rich and poor could share with each other.  That God spoke all the languages of the world.

The most radical dream was this:

God’s vision was not something that could be fully-known  today to be passed word for word to the next generation, but a reality that would continue to develop in surprising, shocking, unexpected ways.  That God would continue to create, expanding our imaginations,  infusing us with new ideas and new ways of being in the world.

Is this what your church looks like?

Sometimes we embrace the newness and creativity of God’s sustaining presence.  Sometimes we sneer with the teetotaling heckler, “Y’all sound like a bunch of drunks.”  But most of the time we don’t respond at all.

It’s hard to dream new dreams with a shrinking budget, waning attendance, and a building that has grown too large.  When the millennials walk past your steeple to the hip warehouse church down the street.

It’s hard to dream new dreams, when you fear that you will be dismissed again.  Derisively called  a “liberal” or told that you are “compromising” with the culture.  “That’s a beautiful idea, but what’s our return on investment?”

It seems damn near impossible to dream new dreams, when you have been hurt so many times before when things didn’t work out.

And so we focus on survival.  We fixate on filling our own needs.  We fear risk.

But in doing so we miss out on the vitality and energy of The Holy Spirit in our midst.

 In doing so our souls, and our communities gradually die.  

I pray for a church that is willing to put faith in it’s dreams.  To be “wrong.”  To “fail.”  To start without having everything figured out.  To be carried by the unexpected blowing of the spirit without needing to know where it will land.

I pray that we will be intentional about practicing dreams.  Sharing our hopes.  Vocalizing the visions that God gives each and every one of us.  And taking these things seriously. Letting them shape who we are and what we do in reckless ways.

As Bishop John Shelby Spong explains,  “The church will die of boredom long before it dies from controversy.”

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