Can you imagine being in the room on the day when the church got born?
Imagine if we were living in Jerusalem, even though all of us were originally from Everywhere Else. We were just in the city for the time being, and we were just in this room, on this day, all together.
Now everybody was shaken by what had happened! You could still smell smoke in the back of your throat. You could hear the wind rattling the shutters. The debate in the room started to rise, and so did the tension. You might have thought there was going to be a fight.
Once Peter stood up and began to speak, the room went quiet, except for the wind:
In the last days, says the LORD. I will pour out my Spirit. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. The young ones will see visions. The old ones will dream dreams. I will pour out my Spirit, says the LORD, and you will have to speak up.
This is how Peter begins his sermon to the crowd. And reading the rest of it, as the writer of Luke lays it out in Acts, I will tell you, I have some concerns. Peter’s striving to prove that salvation comes from Christ who is the Messiah. But he does this by setting the story of Jesus right inside the larger story of David, as though David had predicted Jesus in the Psalms, as though all of Christ’s life, and death, and resurrection were inevitable, as though all of Judaism is leading to Jesus. And that’s not true.
Peter calls out the people in the room for their role in crucifying Jesus then he calls on them to repent. And first of all, for their role, Peter? Really? You were there too. Remember all the denying and the rooster?
Second of all, in more recent years, Christians have grabbed onto this sermon and used it to blame the Jewish people for killing Jesus. Christians have misheard this sermon for generations, and that might not be Peter’s fault. It does give us reason to repent.
If I were going to make a sermon on the saving power of Jesus, I would take a different approach in telling the story, and you might too, and that’s okay. Just because Peter is prophesying, that doesn’t make him inerrant. We are free to hear what he’s saying and disagree. That’s easy for me to do when I’m reading this in English, in our world, all these years later.
It is also the case that when Peter was in the room on the day the church was born, while he was preaching, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and so was the whole crowd hearing him. Imagine being in the room on that day!
There was a shining of fire in his eyes, and a rising of rhythm in his speech, and when Peter looked at us and talked about Jesus whom we crucified, it absolutely got me. His words cut me right to the heart.
We were there to hear the borning cry of the church. We were there when all the people got baptized. The Spirit of the LORD was pronouncing the promise of love, and we knew that’s what it was. We absolutely knew it.
Here’s something I can tell you about the people of Church of Peace. We allow our hearts to be moved by what is happening in the world, particularly who is suffering and what could be done to help.
I can’t even count the number of times I have visited someone in the hospital or at home, and when I ask, What is most on your mind right now? You’ve told me how you are concerned about war. Drug addiction. The poverty in this neighborhood. Kids we love who are experiencing transphobia. Challenges faced by refugees. (Now please don’t feel like you have to do this! If I’m visiting you, I really do want to hear about you!)
But something you’ve been teaching me is that what’s happening to us and what’s happening in the world are bound up together, and it might be that we have to talk about it. It might be that our need to say something comes from the Holy Spirit. This can be scary.
We know that right now, we might be sitting by someone who’s on the opposite side of the political spectrum, and look, nobody wants a fight! There’s a reasonable impulse that makes us want to avoid talking about anything that could be divisive. You can understand why we might be tempted to make a policy that goes: At church, we don’t talk about political issues.
The Disney movie, Encanto, is fantastic. It’s about a loving, magical family learning how to become a more loving, magical family. Early on, they have one rejected brother. On account of him, they adopt the official family policy: We don’t talk about Bruno.
I won’t spoil the movie for you, but as it turns out, they do need to talk about Bruno. They actually need to talk *to* Bruno and listen to him. And it’s the same thing for us.
As a church, one of our best gifts is that we know we’re a people who hold different political commitments. We don’t all get our news from the same sources. When it comes to gun control, or abortion, or the role of police, we don’t share the same opinions, and yet. We still like each other! In fact, we care deeply for each other. That’s not because the differences don’t matter, they definitely matter. It’s because we know. We’re all doing our best to speak the truth in love.
If I know it is my faith that’s calling me to take a particular stand, then I get it. I can absolutely believe someone else’s faith is calling them to speak up and take a stand, even if we are both praying to the same God for guidance, even if we both find ourselves taking opposite sides. Just because our passion comes from the Holy Spirit, that doesn’t make us inerrant. It doesn’t mean we’re right. It also doesn’t mean we’re wrong.
If the first miracle of Pentecost is that all the people began to speak up, the next miracle is they could understand what the others were saying. They began to realize— what they were hearing is God.
As we continue into this season of transition, something we’ll be doing is sitting down together and imagining who we are as a church. If we do this well, we’ll find that our differences in political affiliation, our different world views and values, these will be laid bare. They’re all going to come out! And that’s just the first miracle. The next miracle is we’re not afraid to listen to each other prophetically.
If you ask me, the trick is to listen for the compassion in what the other person is saying. Once you try that, what you will hear is the Holy Spirit.
When someone you don’t agree with starts talking, we might consider: How is their heart being moved by mercy? What is really at stake for them? Where is the tenderness in their concern?
If we can attune our hearing to detect these hallmarks of the Spirit, by listening to each other, we will hear something of the truth that lives at the heart of God. We will hear the saving power of Jesus who made it his mission to go around bravely listening to women and children, and soldiers, and liberals, and conservatives, and Peter.
You might have heard me share this quote before. David Augsburger reminds us that “being heard is so close to being loved, for the average person they are practically indistinguishable.” Being heard is so close to being loved, we can’t even tell the difference.
You remember that day when we were in the room when the church got born? We were all together when the rush of wind poured through the windows and shook all of heaven and earth. The fire came down in pieces resting on each of us, and you could smell the smoke in the back of your throat.
Then we saw the other people sitting around the tables, and everybody started talking. It sounded like a crowded concourse in the airport! Everyone was speaking different languages, but that’s just the first miracle. The next one is that we understood what you were trying to tell us. We finally got it!
That’s when we knew the fire was God. The wind was the breath of life. That’s when we knew exactly what the prophets have been trying to tell us. We saw the tears in their eyes and heard the compassion in what they were imagining. It cut us to the heart!
This is how the whole church got born and baptized. The people began to listen to each other. And what they heard was the love of God. Now look at us. May we be a people who listen to you. Amen.