[This reflection was offered on Pentecost Sunday in Wesley United, St Andrews. That day we also dedicated and blessed our new renovations, as well as celebrating communion. That afternoon, we had a huge Open House, attended by many well beyond our congregation, who wanted to take a look around and hear/see the story of our renovations. We had the chairs moved to the side so that the floor labyrinth was displayed. April 16 was our soft reopening- today was the Grand Reopening.]
Pentecost did not just happen out of the blue, you know. Here’s some backstory.
Easter happened first- and you know what happened before Easter- Holy Saturday- the day of watching and waiting, with not the foggiest idea what was next. And then, Easter- the day, not just the day, 40 days-40 days of Mystery breaking into the Jesus- followers’ world . One way or another, they experienced Jesus among them – amazingly. What should have been the end was a new beginning. But what kind of beginning- and where was it going- what was coming next?
Then- it seemed- another ending. Pictured as Jesus ascending into heaven. You don’t have to picture it this way. That ‘s just one metaphor, one image , to describe what Jesus’ friends experienced . Their hearts felt – Jesus is really gone – he’s absent – this is all over. But was it?
Not knowing what was next, they waited. and they waited some more, Waiting feels like forever. Especially when you are clueless- what are you waiting for?
Suddenly the waiting is over- it’s Pentecost. Jesus’ friends find they can speak what’s in them and more that they did not even know was in them. They can speak to anyone- no more barriers. They pull in the crowd- or perhaps the crowd pulls them out of the house And then, anything can happen. Even a world-wide movement.
Now they are launched!
No more looking wistfully up at the sky, wondering where Jesus has gone. They are so busy doing and being the Jesus-movement 24/7/360. They’ve got a lot of living to do. They’ve shaken off fear and worry and anxiety. What’s to stop them now?
This Pentecost story is your story too. Our story.
Goodness knows, we at Wesley have waited a long time for a day like today. I’ve been with you the last 9 years.- within months of my arrival, it became clear. To do things as we’d always done them would be the end of us. We might love the old ways but the life was going out of them.
But what to do? Sometimes you’ve got to wait it out-
Not that we did nothing. We did all the stuff churches usually do. But alongside, we’ve done a lot of visioning – when I first came, and then the last few years- exploring, discerning, questioning. Who were we now? What were we still doing here? What next?
As we discerned, as we explored, as we questioned, Spirit nudged us . There was a longing for contemplative spiritual gatherings, And so they began and continue. We wanted a more open, more relaxed, more eclectic Sunday morning- and we’re still evolving that. There were the cutbacks to the Biological Station- many of us wrote letters and spoke up and/or showed up at that big photo-op with some 600 people who cared. We started hosting the December 6 observance here, along with the Charlotte County Abuse Prevention Network- yes, it started here, though it’s migrated to the college, and we are still involved. There were hungry children- our UCW (United Church Women) got Coins for Kids going and that’s been huge (not always just coins , either! )
And the Spirit drew us out of ourselves- as the Spirit often does – to build relationships: with the Open Door (St Andrews equivalent of food bank, doing gift cards instead of food) , when they needed a space; with St James, when cooperative ministry was the way to go; with others engaged in refugee sponsorship; and increasingly, even more so, with the Arts Council and other community arts endeavours; other churches on ecumenical endeavours, more and more; with our Quaker friends who’ve helped us deepen our contemplative ways.
With all these Spirit nudgings, by the time we got to our building’s 150th anniversary in 2017, we were not so much wanting to go back over our history, We were wanting to know- what’s next?
Next came the unexpected gift- a generous bequest- we never saw that coming. What was Spirit saying to us now?
That took more visioning expressing values, and discerning- do we just leave all the money in the bank or do we do what we could not otherwise do? And well -you know where this went. You can see it. You are in the middle of it.
To me, this has Pentecost written all over it. Spirit inviting us to break free, to see visions, to dream dreams, to let go of fears. And- those first Pentecost people could tell you- once you see the visions, and dream the dreams., you’ve got to act on them. And act on them we did. Making visions and dreams happen takes work, patience, trust, cooperation, community building. One person can’t just walk in and make it happen- it has to be owned, it has to be practised. We have to commit to a common purpose, and we have to do it out of love. Otherwise we’ll never stay the course.
And now, we’re here, this amazing space is here- you should see the effect on those who walk in and have not seen it before. They are blown away. And it’s like Spirit to blow us away with a mighty wind!
Is this the end of a story? A story of watching and praying and visioning and working?
No, it’s not the end. Now begins a new chapter. Now we see what Spirit is up to among us. What persons, what community partners is the Spirit going to blow into our sanctuary? What Spirit-energy is going to catch them up and catch us up?
It’s a little scary- we can’t put a lid on it- it’s like when you start a new job or get married or have a new baby or move across the country. Who knows what we are in for?
But, I’d say, cast fear to the winds, Open the doors, Open our hearts. And let’s see together. What’s going to be born here? Who are our people going to be? Where’s all this going next?
What’s the next chapter? I can hardly wait. Can you?