Man it’s only Thursday and I am getting fired up for Pentecost…. I think, in fact, that Pentecost is one of my favorite celebrations of the church. And this year, it has been made all the more meaningful through the conversations that I have had the privilege of being a part of.
One conversation that sticks out for me most strongly is really a conversation that I have had with many folks that I care about, and for whatever reason they have clustered this week. And that conversation has to do with community and belonging. As I was reminded this week, the consequence of blogging about one’s loneliness is that suddenly one is likely to receive a lot of phone calls, emails, and personal check ins from people that care making sure that a person is alright. Some of those check ins have become important conversations about the experience of true belonging to a place or a people. Moreover, many conversations have also dealt with the importance of invitation to a person’s sense of belonging.
And as someone who spends her days as a pastor, all this talk about belonging and invitation, of course, got me thinking about the church. Because ultimately, what is the gospel other than an invitation to community? What does Christ do, if he does not welcome outsiders into the family? Consider Pentecost. The way I read it this week, the Holy Spirit’s appearance on the scene is primarily a radical invitation to all people. Scripture says in Acts 2 that every person who was in the room, no matter what their native tongue, heard and understood the words of the disciples as they spoke through the power of the Spirit. Every person was acknowledged by the Spirit’s presence; no one was left out. How often does that happen in our daily lives? More often than not, our common experience is one of being left out rather than brought in, and yet the Spirit makes a space in which the exact opposite is what is possible. That invitation, the offering of the gospel to all people regardless of their language, shifts the conversation from one where the focus is inward to one where the focus is outward. All those people have heard the invitation: how will they respond?
Ultimately, what I take away is the following: we cannot control how people will respond to our message, what they will decide to do with it. That is between them and God. But if Pentecost teaches us anything, it is that we are called as the church to offer the invitation that is the Gospel to everyone who has ears to hear, no matter what divides or separates us, to give them the chance to accept or reject the invitation. This work will take us out of our comfort zone, but the HOly Spirit will be with us. We will not be alone. And what’s more, what we offer is so important, because it essentially amounts to us saying, “You don’t have to be alone. We can be a community, together. We can work out our differences. Our language may be different, but the gospel is the same. The good news is for all of us.”
Not a bad antidote to a lonely few days.