Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hopers and Dreamers



This week a line of kindergartners 68 children long snaked its way up the sidewalk and through our front doors, and down into the basement of this building.  I stood with the door open welcoming them, and they looked up at me with bright curious faces and said Hi!- nearly every single one.  They were here to visit their new school, being renovated across the street, and I was invited to join a small group of them for a tour.  I took my place at the end of the line, and looked ahead at a dozen bobbing dark heads as we crossed the street, a dozen tiny bodies in bright orange and dark navy t-shirts that read on a dozen small backs, “Ask me about my hopes and dreams.”


Our session dreamed some dreams last March. We sat in a room and laid out in front of us everything we could think of that was happening in the life of our congregation. We read and absorbed all the congregations’ shared observations. We had pages and pages of lists on sticky newsprint on the walls and the floor.  We held it all up before God and asked what was next.  We talked and prayed, and then we waited. And waited. And we left the retreat without answers, but a clear sense that we were to keep holding these things and keep waiting.

And I couldn’t help but think of that as I oohed and ahhed the new windows and sanded classroom floors along with my tour-mates, standing in a space of hopes and dreams, and thinking about how all that is happening around in the life of this congregation, including being there with these little ones, was opening up of hope and stepping towards realizing some dreams of our own. 

Hospitality. Jan and I sat on the basement floor eating bagged lunches with them that day and imagined a bit into the future.
What will happen to us in the Fall?  Who will we be then? Because we will be different than we are today.  To them we will be: the church across from my school!  (We are already, I was told by one of the little girls, “The church I went to once for a party.”) Will we be: the church where I wait for my dad to pick me up? The church where I go for help with math? The people that come and read to my class?

Who are we to the kids at St. Joe’s? The people who make space for my prayer? The people that listen to me? The people that share books with us, or helped us build our labyrinth where I go when I need to quiet my insides?

Who are we to our neighbors? The folks whose garden I water? The people who helped me with rent? The people who give lemonade and bathroom breaks to the playground building volunteers?

Who are we in the Church? The people who honor and value the gifts of all? The people who seek to follow Jesus alongside others? The people not afraid to risk, and gentle with each other in the bumpy places? The congregation that offers rest, and permission to stop, and a place to explore the gifts of peace and sabbath?  The people who are not afraid of differences and stand with others in honesty and love?

Pentecost is the beginning of the church, yes, but it really is the moment when the Spirit gets out ahead of the disciples, pulling them forward into the future that God desires for them, for the world.  When all the dreams of those who’d gone before and the lessons learned and the prayers prayed and the experiences experienced seem to be pointing to something that isn’t a conclusion or a summary or a regret or even a gratitude. 
It’s a calling.  It’s movement.  It’s motion. 
The Holy Spirit is out ahead of us, pulling us forward into the future that God desires for us. 
We once said of ourselves “God is doing something here that incorporates the past and leads us into the future.”  Pentecost invites us to that future, it compels us to have visions and dream dreams and in the process opens possibilities we never envisioned and dreams we didn’t even know to dream.

What is the Spirit doing ahead of us?  What is the Spirit doing ahead of you?  How are you being called forward into the newness breaking forth in the world? Which is to say, where are the surprising moments that make you feel like you are part of something bigger – even little moments, like walking unexpectedly one lunch time in a line of tiny hopers and dreamers toward their future, wondering how it will change the trajectory of our future?

You know it's the Spirit when you’re blown as if by wind from the places you’re hiding in safety into the place where you risk being known by others. 
You know God is going out in front of you and calling you forward when others are welcomed in whom you wouldn’t seek out.
It’s the Spirit when it’s messy and a little out of your control.
It’s the Spirit when you find yourself living into gifts and using language you didn’t know you had, or maybe that you that you’ve never been brave enough to test out. 
It’s the Spirit when it makes you want to love the world more, and helps you see Jesus there.
When it’s the hope and dreams that move front and center, instead of the fears and worries, that is the Spirit of God.

The disciples didn’t manufacture Pentecost. They didn’t produce it or strategically plan it.  They gathered together in prayer and waited for the power of the Spirit. And when it came it wasn’t what they expected. But they were ready nonetheless.
And the Spirit gave them the languages – all different – to speak the hope and love of God in many different ways to many different people, one message with many voices – Jesus, still meeting people exactly how they need to be met and telling them just what they need to hear to bring them to life. 

And then all together they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

And Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. Living into this blessing that has grabbed hold of them and propelled them forward.

Here’s one thing

you must understand

about this blessing:

it is not

for you alone.
It is stubborn

about this;

do not even try

to lay hold of it

if you are by yourself,

thinking you can carry it

on your own.
To bear this blessing,

you must first take yourself

to a place where everyone

does not look like you

or think like you,

a place where they do not

believe precisely as you believe,

where their thoughts

and ideas and gestures

are not exact echoes

of your own.
Bring your sorrow.
Bring your grief.

Bring your fear.
Bring your weariness,

your pain,
your disgust at how broken

the world is, how fractured,

how fragmented

by its fighting, its wars,

its hungers,
its penchant for power,

its ceaseless repetition

of the history it refuses

to rise above.
I will not tell you

this blessing will fix all that.
But in the place

where you have gathered,

wait.

Watch.

Listen.

Lay aside your inability

to be surprised,

your resistance to what you

do not understand.
See then whether this blessing

turns to flame on your tongue,

sets you to speaking

what you cannot fathom
or opens your ear

to a language

beyond your imagining

that comes as a knowing

in your bones

a clarity

in your heart

that tells you
this is the reason

we were made,

for this ache

that finally opens us,
for this struggle, this grace

that scorches us

toward one another

and into

the blazing day.

We are a Pentecost people, and this blessing is not for us alone.  We are hopers and dreamers, pulled by scorching grace toward a world filled with people longing to be asked about their hopes and dreams.  We are watchers and listeners, noticers in waiting.  May we be ready for the Spirit to pull us into the future.

 Amen.

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