Figuring Out The Blueprint
Deuteronomy 4:9-14 Acts 2:1-21 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Chilmark Community Church
June 9, 2019
Rev. Vicky Hanjian
I love the story of Pentecost. What drama! The early band of followers of the Way all gathered together in one place 50 days after the resurrection when all heaven breaks loose with roaring wind and blazing flames – and a mixture of languages that everyone understood in their own tongue. And the Holy Spirit is poured out on all who are gathered – – and a new movement called the church is born. Among other things, the story gives us an image of a radical unity in the midst of incredible diversity – – people from the middle east -Parthians and Medes -Mesopotamians – -people from North Africa – Egypt and Libya – – people from Europe – represented by Rome – – mixed religions – – Jews and proselytes – – all hearing and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in their own way – in their own language – together in a united diversity.
The story is not unlike the traditions that have accrued around the giving of the law at Sinai. The text in Deuteronomy tells us that the revelation of God was given to all who were there -in all their diversity – and it was also given to all who were not there – -the multitudes of generations yet to come. The wisdom of the rabbis has long argued that all human beings who have ever been or ever will be were present at Sinai when the mount roared and blazed and the voice of God was heard. They also have argued that each person heard that revelation in words they could understand no matter how old or young they were or where they came from. The people of God were in a state of unity in their diversity as they received God’s revelation. This morning, members of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center are gathering at the beach to celebrate Shavuot – the giving of the law on Sinai . It is a big day of celebration for both traditions.
More than at any time in our history, it is important to pay attention to these stories of diverse peoples being together – receiving the divine revelation as one – living it in the world in a multitude of ways.
The day of Pentecost, the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit, formally introduces the complexity of the Trinity into the early church’s consciousness. In some sense, of course, the willingness of God to make Godself known in many ways has always been part of the process of revelation – fire and smoke, thundering mountains, a still small voice – – God has always chosen to reveal Godself in ways that would most readily get human attention.
With the day of Pentecost, the young church receives its own central form of revelation in tongues of fire and rushing wind and strange, multifluid languages that everyone can understand.
It seems to me that God wants everyone under the tent – regardless of where we come from, what language we speak, what color we are or whom we choose to love.
But, of course, being the human receivers of this revelation of unity, we have a hard time living it out in its fullness. We work quite hard at separating ourselves out by color, gender, religious belief, political preferences, and a myriad of other social constructs that prevent us from the knowledge that we are, indeed, one people in the sight of God. We seem to need to create an “other” in order to maintain our own identities – – and in the process we create a separation that God did not intend for God’s people.
In his daily meditations this week, Richard Rohr, referred to author and activist Adrienne Maree Brown who writes:
Separation weakens. It is the main way we are kept (and keep each other) in conditions of oppression. . . . Where we are born into privilege, we are charged with dismantling any myth of supremacy. Where we are born into struggle, we are charged with claiming our dignity, joy and liberation. . . . From that deep place of belonging to ourselves, we can understand that we are inherently worthy of each other. Even when we make mistakes, harm each other, lose our way, we are worthy.
In the same meditation last Monday, Rohr wrote: It seems every generation must be newly converted. While we seek to transform individual hearts and minds we must also work to create change throughout systems. Until a full vision of equity is realized, we must continue naming and resisting the ways in which so many people are excluded and oppressed.
With the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost comes the Holy and paradoxical vision of unity in diversity. God’s own self becomes the blueprint for how that looks. Three very different manifestations of the Holy One – – in traditional language -Father – Son – Holy Spirit -and yet the affirmation that there is only the One….. A challenging complexity for a monotheistic people. How can three be one? On the surface, unexamined, it seems an impossibility. The notion of three different ways of knowing God sparked one church council after another right through the 4th century in an attempt formulate what Christians should affirm as true – – councils that frequently resulted in excommunication and some times even death for those who could not align themselves with the conclusions of a particular body of church leaders. The Body of Christ that came into being with such color and drama and hope on Pentecost witnessed schism after schism. Indeed, 2000 years later we continue to live with that brokenness – witness the fracture in the United Methodist Church as Methodists are in conflict about how to live out the life of Christ in our midst – embracing our diversity – and facing the possibility of schism once again.
Again from Richard Rohr: I’m convinced that beneath the ugly manifestations of our present evils—political corruption, ecological devastation, warring against one another, hating each other based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality—the greatest dis-ease facing humanity right now is our profound and painful sense of disconnection. We feel disconnected from God, certainly, but also from ourselves, from each other, and from our world. Our sense of this fourfold isolation is plunging our species into increasingly destructive behavior and much mental illness.
The isolation of which Rohr speaks was part of the conversation last Sunday as more than a hundred Islanders gathered at the Hebrew Center to hear what gun violence is doing to our land and what we might do to heal it. A diverse group of people for sure, from across the spectrum of opinion – manifesting a remarkable unity around one of the most troubling public health issues we face in this country today.
Somewhere in one of his reflections, Rohr offered an image for understanding the Trinity as a metaphor for relationship – self emptying relationship. He described three buckets on a moving waterwheel. Each bucket fills and empties out, then swings back to be filled again. The Father empties into the Son, nothing held back. The Son empties into the Spirit, nothing held back. The Spirit empties into the Father, nothing held back. The reason they can empty themselves out is they know they will be filled again. They know that the center of the universe is infinite love.
So, in the notion of the Trinity, the blueprint for us as God’s people is an image of flowing interrelationship – one of allowing ourselves to be emptied in loving care and service to one another and the world in the confidence that we will be continually filled in order to continue the relationship – – and we are to sustain and maintain this relationship in our differences and our diversity.
From Richard Rohr again: With the endless diversity in creation, it is clear that God is not at all committed to uniformity but instead desires unity—which is the great work of the Spirit—diversity nurtured and nourished by love. Uniformity is mere conformity and obedience to law and custom; whereas spiritual unity is that very diversity embraced and protected by an infinitely generous love.
The gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost results in the “mad logic” of the Trinity and the Trinity is all about relationship and connection. We know the Trinity through experiencing the flow itself, which dissolves our sense of disconnection. God is not a being among other beings, but rather the Ground of Being itself which then flows through all beings.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that “…the Lord is spirit, and where the spirit of the lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” What Paul was seeing – – and what we must struggle and learn to see, is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is one that guides us into understanding that we – – each one of us – – reflects the face of God – when the holy one “sees us” we are as reflection in a mirror. The “face” of God is as diverse as all creation. Showing itself in everything we see, in every relationship in which we engage.
It is taking a long time for the church -the body of Christ -to read and interpret the blueprint set forth in the Day of Pentecost -and to live it out. May we be blessed with strength and courage, and above all, with the unconditional love we need for one another and the world as we seek to create a world built on the Master Blueprint. AMENFigur