The Invasion Has Begun
Pentecost is the celebration of God's Spirit coming to empower the apostles and the Church to do the will of Christ. We mark the day this year, not merely as a the birthday of the Church but, like D-Day, as a commemoration of the Holy Spirit's invasion to liberate people living under the oppressive regime of sin, death, and fear.
Acts 2 (selected), Romans 8:1-14, Ephesians 6:10-20
Notes from the Preacher
Pentecost is often celebrated as the "birthday of the church," a point to which I make reference in the sermon. This is because, in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, it was the day the Holy Spirit propelled the apostles out of hiding and into the streets to proclaim Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah. As I also mentioned in the sermon, it was my intention to do a "birthday" sermon, but things started piling up in the news and in stories from friends and acquaintances in such a way that I felt like there was something deeper that needed to be said. Using the D-Day invasion anniversary as a metaphor, I suggested that Pentecost was the beginning of God's expeditionary force to retake the world from the powers of oppression.
I had so many stories to illustrate the powers of oppression that it was a bit oppressive to try to choose what to use. I settled on a report from a friend and colleague who is both a Presbyterian minister and a law student. She is working in the public defenders office this summer and reported some of the conditions of misery that she found in the prison system in her area, which struck a cord with me. It included the practice of holding both adults and juveniles who had not been convicted of any crime in solitary confinement in maximum security facilities. Let me say that again: adults and juveniles who had been charged but not convicted being held in solitary confinement in the United States of America. That, dear ones, is a system filled with evil, the oppression of human beings by human beings, driven by what Paul refers to as "blood and flesh, but … the rulers, … the authorities, … the cosmic powers of this present darkness, … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 6:12)."
Here's a link to an article about the situation that appeared last year at tennessean.com.
Such systems operate in every culture on the globe at some level, and often are hidden from public view or scrutiny. Sometimes people who work in those systems aren't even aware of their participation in such evil. This is, of course, on top of the more obvious and insidious plagues like poverty, racism, sexism, and violence that we all know about but simply choose to live with.
Well, the Church is being called upon to re-enlist in the battle against these forces. We cannot afford to sit back and wring our hands about membership numbers or who didn't clean up the kitchen when the lives of God's children are being destroyed day by day. I admit that it seems overwhelming, and there are days when I would rather hide, and I often do. But the call of Christ remains: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, set the prisoner free. How will we answer our Lord?