And thus the world changes again.
On Sunday evening, the evening of Pentecost, helicopters and drones circled over the island of Palm Beach. Protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police continued nearby. Conflicts raged in cities across the land. Fires burned.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Pentecost is a day of fire, a day of change. As the hymn puts it: “Lo, in the likeness of fire, on those who await his appearing, he whom the Lord foretold suddenly, swiftly descends.” [Hymn 225]
At Bethesda, most of us do our best to steer clear of partisan politics. We know that we’re divided, as our country is divided, and we don’t want to risk hurt feelings or further division.
We may disagree on many issues, but as Christians, we should be united on one point. We might not agree about how to accomplish it, but every one of us has vowed to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” [BCP p. 305] We renew that promise every time we renew our Baptismal vows.
The undeniable truth is that we have not yet achieved our nation’s founding ambition to be a place where “all men are created equal.” As Americans, we claim that ideal as our goal. As Christians, our goal is even more ambitious: to build the kingdom of God—a place where all are loved, where all are recognized as what they truly are: beloved children of God.
What can we do to help bring about that kingdom? To begin with, listen. We can listen to the black men who fear to walk in their own neighborhoods because so many reflexively see them as a threat. We can listen even to those who speak today from a place of anger, knowing that their anger is born of a lifetime of injustice. We can use whatever privileges we have to protect those who lament today, and we can work with them to build a more just world.
As followers of Jesus, we do not have the luxury of turning away from suffering and injustice. We do not have the luxury of turning away from those who are strangers to us—because Jesus taught us that strangers too are our neighbors.
I’m not exactly sure what it will look like for Bethesda to live into our Baptismal Covenant in this way, but I am certain that it’s a task to which our faith calls us.
On this Tuesday after Pentecost, I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our steps and fill our hearts with wisdom, courage, and compassion.
Come, Holy Spirit. Come.