2022 06 05 Alan Storey
Yes, today is Pentecost. If you didn’t know this, don’t feel bad – I can understand why. You see, there is zero advertising for this day. Unlike Christmas and Easter, Pentecost is yet to be used by marketing managers to get us to buy more stuff.
It seems Pentecost is too hot to handle and therefore unwise to cover in chocolate and uncomfortable to dress in a red jump suit. Besides, Cardies has not figured out how to come up with an equivalent to cute bunnies or red-nosed reindeer to mark the day. Most thankfully, Boney M has not written a song about Pentecost. But regardless of whether you know it or not, today is Pentecost.
Pentecost is the Greek name for the Jewish harvest festival (Shavuot), a prominent feast in the calendar of the ancient Hebrews, celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses at Sinai. Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Hellenistic Jews gave it the name Pentecost (fiftieth day). Years later, it marked the day when a bunch of discouraged and defeated followers of Jesus were set on fire to live out his dream of justice and mercy for the world. A great wind swept their fear away and set them free to speak truthfully and live justly.
This resulted in a radically new community that we are told “had all things in common”. “They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds … and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common … [and] there was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold … it was distributed to each as any had need.” [Extracts from Acts 2 and 4].
In other words on this 50th day after Passover, these Spirit inspired disciples began to fulfil the Year of Jubilee – the year of economic redistribution to reset society on an equal footing. This economic Sabbath is recorded in Leviticus 25: “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.” [Lev. 25:10]
A truly Pentecostal people practice Jubilee and petition for its implementation within society. This means that the issue of landlessness and inequality are Pentecostal issues. “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, says the Lord, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.” [Lev 25:23]. In other words, long before Section 25 of our Bill of Rights calls for “land reforms”, the Spirit of Pentecost calls for reparations through the redistribution of land. The year of Jubilee lived into being at Pentecost reminds us that the land belongs to God and not to us, and God longs for all to share in its hospitality and nourishment.
If we are not moved by the Spirit of justice and healing to address the issue of landlessness in SA, we will ultimately be moved by the Spirit of resentment and rage. If we are not moved by the fire of the Spirit, we will be moved by the fire of burning tyres. If we do not address this voluntarily, it will be addressed violently. A nation that has bricks to build high walls to insulate the wealthy but has no bricks to build houses to shelter the poor, can only collapse.
Come Holy Spirit and set us on fire for justice and Jubilee.
Vandana Shiva: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest
By now you would have heard that President Ramaphosa announced that places of worship may reopen with a limit of 50 people or less when the country moves into Level 3 on 1st June 2020.
I know that we have all missed gathering together during the Covid-19 Lockdown. It will certainly be a wonderful celebration when we do gather together under one roof. I look forward to that day as much as you do, but at CMM we will not be doing so just yet.
At this time, the most Christ-like (life-giving) thing we can do as CMM, is to continue not to gather in person.
There is still much we do not know about Covid-19, but what we do know is that increased gatherings of people, increase the potential for the virus to spread. Therefore, if meeting as a congregation endangers people’s lives, we will not meet. “There is life and death before you, choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
We are very fortunate not to be faced with the ethical conundrum that many sectors are faced with at the moment. For many the continued Lockdown means economic collapse and family hunger and therefore for them choosing life involves a painfully difficult decision. They are stalked by both disease and hunger. Whatever they decide carries high risk. Therefore, all the more reason why those sectors with less painful choices, make the least risky decisions. Our continued aim is surely to spare the health services as much as we can.
It is worth repeating that we are not deciding whether to open the Church or not. The Church, as a community, was never closed under Lockdown and therefore does not require opening. We are deciding about opening a building and as many have said, we do not need a building to pray or praise.
The question, “is now the time we are reopening CMM?” sounds very much like the question that the disciples asked Jesus in last week’s scripture reading (Acts 1:9). Jesus told them that there were more important things to focus on than dates and times. Instead he invited them to be witnesses to his life-giving ways wherever they were. Similarly, we are invited to witness to justice, mercy and humility wherever we are. When we do this, we are an open church. When we don’t do this, even if the doors of our building are open, we are a closed church.
An open church opens others to life. A small example of this may include CMM’s decision this past week to assist all the traders outside our office block in Church Street to re-open. We will be assisting them with “seed finance” as well as helping them meet the Level 3 regulations. In this regard, let me tell you about Max. Over the years I have watched Max grow his fruit selling business. He began with a few bananas and apples a couple of years ago. As his business has grown, he arrives to set up his stall every morning at around 05h30 and packs up after dark each evening. He is the inspirational epitome of hard work. Just before Lockdown his fruit stall was a beautiful rainbow of nourishing colours shading under two umbrellas. Sadly, fruit doesn’t last too long. Max lost around R6000 of stock due to the Lockdown. Next week we help Max open again. Wherever we are, may we look for opportunities to help people like Max to open again. An open Church opens others to life.
An open Church opens us to the dignity of all. I hope that our very brief experience of not being able to gather together will sensitise us to the pain of those who have seldom experienced the Church as open. To this day LGBQTI people are not fully accepted in many churches. The building is open, but the community is closed, resulting in fearful and closeted Lockdown for years if not forever. An open Church is a radically welcoming community that celebrates the sacred worth of everyone. An open Church opens us to the dignity of all.
Let us reflect more on what it means to be a church that is open. I hope that by using the lens of Pentecost, we can continue this conversation on Sunday at 11h11 during our CMM Chat via zoom. If you would like to be part of this, please email: email@example.com for the link.
Grace and peace to you and through you
Today we celebrate Pentecost. Today we celebrate the searching Spirit of God seeking out a dis-spirited bunch of fearful and failed disciples. We watch them being set on fire, burning with resurrected conviction and courage to live out the radical teachings of Jesus as their chosen way of life. The most radical of all Jesus’ teachings involved the love of enemies and the sharing of possessions with all who had need. Empowered by the Spirit the disciples forgave as they had been forgiven and they generously gave as they had generously received. In this a new community was formed. It was a community of mercy and justice. In other words it was a Pentecostal community. May we at CMM endlessly grow into being an authentic Pentecostal community.
Today we also celebrate Holy Communion. Holy Communion is the dramatic reminder of how we need to mercifully and justly share the ingredients of life with all, in order for all to have life in all its fullness. In other words Holy Communion reminds us to be a truly Pentecostal community.
Today we will be celebrating Holy Communion with bread and water – rather than wine/juice. In our drought-stricken context we do so to acknowledge that water is sacred. Water is priceless. Water is the basis for life. Without water nothing would exist. We would not exist. In his memoir, Speak Memory, novelist Vladimir Nobokov recalls his Great Aunt Pascha’s final words: “Now I understand. Everything is water.” 70% of the human person is made up of water – just like 70% of this planet is water. Yet less than 1% of earth’s water is drinkable. The paper and ink of this leaflet would not exist without water. The water that watered the seed that grew into a tree that was cut into logs that could be smashed into pulp etc., etc. Every aspect of the process from seed to paper was dependent on water. Indeed everything is water.
Water is a gift and not just another commodity. Perhaps only when we have a reverent or sacramental relationship with water will we cherish every drop, curbing our wastefulness and preventing our pollution of it. And perhaps only then will we passionately work for the just sharing of water, for some of us have multiple water inlets into our home, while some have none. As we partake in Holy Communion today may it strengthen us to work for the day where all experience Holy Communion. As we celebrate Pentecost today may we be inspired to give of ourselves towards a Pentecostal future of mercy and justice for all.
Lord, give us the strength to listen to the whispers of the abandoned, the pleas of the afraid and the anguish of those without hope.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
This coming Wednesday we will be having our quarterly Congregational Meeting at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend — whether you have been at CMM for years, or have just arrived. This is an opportunity for us to discuss anything and everything that is on our hearts and minds with one another. It is also an opportunity to be “filled in” about things taking place in and through CMM, and the broader Circuit (group of churches) that we form part of: like the Youth and Sunday School Developments, Finance, Maintenance, Sunday Lunches with the Homeless, Sunday Worship, the Jesus School and “As it is in Heaven Coffee” e.g. “Are we now like the money changers in the temple?”
Last week we heard that Pentecost is not only the birth of Church but the birth of authentic conversation. Or maybe we could say that Pentecost is the birth of the Church because it was the birth of authentic conversation. I say this because for there to be authentic community (the Church) there must be authentic conversation. Authentic conversation neither denies nor is determined by power relationships. The result of Pentecost is the powerless speaking and the powerful listening.
A helpful acronym that should make us pause is: W-A-I-T — Why-Am-I–Talking?
Do my conversations bring life? Do they bring freedom and joy for all? Are they true? Are they gentle and merciful? Who am I afraid to speak to? Who may be afraid to speak to me?
A few questions to live with … Alan