Hello everyone and welcome to Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and, essentially, the birth of the church. It’s no coincidence that one of today’s Collects is a Collect for Hospitality. It begins with the words, “Welcome, welcome, welcome . . . .” — the perfect sentiment to recognize God’s intentional act of giving the apostles the ability to speak the language of every nation under heaven. The church was born to be diverse. The apostles’ mission was to preach the Good News to all people across all cultures – to welcome men and women, young and old, regardless of class or social status – into Jesus Christ’s church. Into Jesus Christ’s family.
In today’s reading from Acts, we see Peter — who only a few weeks earlier denied even knowing Jesus—stand up and become the leader Jesus chose him to be. To those who doubt God’s intentions, and who doubt the apostles’ abilities, Peter quotes the prophet Joel: “God declares that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
Peter said, “Your young shall see visions.” Oh, to have the vision and the outlook of the young. They want to change the world and make it better. And they believe they can. Sometimes their idealism is born of naivete, and that’s wonderful, but sometimes their optimism is the product of lessons learned the hard way.
Take, for example, Sameer Jha. When they were 14, their experiences with bullying caused Sameer to establish The Empathy Alliance to “educate the educators” on LGBTQ+ topics, and to help create more inclusive classrooms. They also published a teacher’s guide for creating safer classrooms. For this work, Sameer received the Congressional Silver Medal.
Amanda Gorman became the first Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate when she was 16, and the first National Youth Poet Laureate when she was 19. As you may remember, she read her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration. Standing proudly, in bright and hopeful yellow she said,
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.Amanda Gorman
It’s never too early to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
And it’s never too late.
Peter also said, “Your old shall dream dreams.” What a beautiful gift—to still be able to dream despite life’s inevitable challenges, losses, and disappointments. To dream dreams when, as Yeats said, you are old enough to comb gray hair.
Verna Dozier was a leading African American theologian. When she was 74, she wrote a book titled ‘The Dream of God— A Call To Return’, and this book was focused on answering God’s personal invitation to be something new in the world. As the lesson of Pentecost reminds us, we too are called to the present possibility – not just the future possibility – of living in the kingdom of God, right now. God calls us – all of us – to be with him and to return to him if we may have lost touch. And we don’t have to travel this journey alone. As today’s lesson from John reminds us, we have each other and we have the Advocate God sent us; the spirit of truth; the light of his Holy Spirit.
When those of us who comb grey hair dream dreams, let us not only dream of what the present kingdom of God can be, but—working together with the young—let’s make the present kingdom of God a place where all are called. Where all are celebrated. And where all celebrate the wonder of God’s love, which knows no limits and has no boundaries.
Welcome, welcome, welcome. What a great sentiment, especially so as we begin Pride Month.
It’s hard to put into words how wonderful and affirming it is to be part of the Episcopal church and this extraordinary parish. In fact, Emmanuel is so welcoming it can be easy to take inclusion for granted for those of us who weren’t part of the Episcopal church’s 50-year journey toward equality and inclusion. But when – as we see in the daily news cycles – members of the LGBTQ community fear losing rights and protections as proposed new laws gain traction, we should recognize and treasure just how welcoming our church is, and always be prepared to stand for love and inclusion and against fear and division.
Pentecost Sunday is a time for us to remember that the Holy Spirit comes to all and welcomes all. The Spirit empowers us for the mission of God’s church. For the Good News. For good. The Holy Spirit empowers all of us and God is revealed in our goodness and in our diversity.
Welcome, welcome, welcome!
— Nan DeRenzi
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog