It’s not about us. Pentecost isn’t a first century episode of “This Is Us”. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that’s a huge problem with church right now: we make everything about us. These buildings we inhabit, fund with apportionment dollars, and pretend to be the front lines in the culture war are hatcheries for spiritual narcissism. That’s not a church. Churches, like the Pentecost act, are outwardly focused on the work of God, not self-contained study groups of God’s hand-picked elite.
Pentecost is about God and our response to God. Pentecost isn’t about us, our feelings, plans, or best intentions. The frightening immediacy of the Pentecost moment reveals God’s primal urgency. This isn’t our show. Suddenness of the Holy Spirit’s arrival offers no time for debate or airing of opinions. We are either in or out. God’s grand Pentecost design demands a response. Press releases, studies, commissions, and Upper Room based prayer meetings will not suffice. We can either participate in the dramatic act of inclusion God is about to perform or we can debate ourselves into oblivion, which, is the same as telling God no. We can argue that Pentecost and the future of our brand of Christianity is about us: our ideas, structures, and decision making are superior to those which shaped and formed the cosmos. With raised hands and eloquent turns of phrase we can speak by and about God. Will our crowd funded dissolution conference be about us or God? Who knows?
If we opt for the former, we will be most decidedly wrong. Now if God chooses against being in partnership with the United Methodists, we’re really up the creek. Anybody seen Abraham Lincoln lately to ask him what happens when both sides in a civil war pray to the same God? People get hurt. It’s never pretty or as righteous as anyone is led to believe.
Richard Lowell Bryant