‘In the last days it will be,God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.’ –Acts 2:17
Pentecost is a ‘high holy day’ in my book—and not because it is the anniversary of my ordination ;-). We celebrate the festival as the “birthday of the church” when according to the story told in the book of Acts the wind whipped up, the Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire over a crowd, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. ‘Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in [their] own languages [heard] them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ (Acts 2:9-11) Peter preached, and Jesus’s motley crew of eleven disciples became a church of 3000 followers who were astonished and amazing—and ready to dream!
The Acts 2 text that we always read on Pentecost is rich with possibilities for preaching and reflection – but as we step out from our Bold Decision to plant something new, I am drawn to verse seventeen—“your sons and daughters shall prophesy…see visions… and…dream dreams.”
Beloved the miraculous story of this humble beginning of what we like to call the Church of Jesus Christ is replete with a demand for absolute inclusion (everybody gets to be a part), a charge to be prophetic about what is expected of we children of God, and the encouragement to envision and make real the kind of kin-dom and beloved community that God expects from us and about which Jesus taught. It also commissions us to dream and to dream big — amazing, bold, outrageous, colorful, crazy, we-couldn’t-do-this-without-the-help-of-the-Holy Spirit dreams!
As your pastor, I could not be more proud of your courage in envisioning a new way for us to be church. Scary as it has been, risky as it is – you are responding to this call to love all of your neighbors; you are taking on the mantle of this commission. You are dreaming big dreams and placing yourself in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
Let me remind you of a few of the things about which we have been dreaming:
- We are and will be a progressive, Christian community that experiences the sacred in everyday, ordinary moments;
- We will build loving relationships with God and each other;
- We will discover old and new spiritual practices that leave us refreshed and inspired;
- We are a rag tag, wildly diverse group of questioners and believers (and everything in between) who are forming faith at home and together through worship, ritual, prayer, practice, service, and study;
- We will make a difference in the lives of people who would not ordinarily come to “Church” but who will find “church” in us;
- We will create threshold moments where the stuff of our regular lives becomes the stuff of holiness and grace;
- We will experience joyous, heartfelt, intelligent and participatory worship that challenges and amazes and puts us in touch with God;
- We will be a community that is called to care—about everyone;
- We will be place where there are no barriers to entry and where the table of hospitality is set with love and forgiveness and grace and you can’t help but want to sit down and be fed;
- We will sometimes offer classic forms of worship where we will go to a sanctuary somewhere and have an order of worship and pray the way we love to pray and sing hymns and hear “The Word”;
- We will create new ways of praising God—through new forms of worship, grounded in old liturgy and our story, with music and singing and expressions that are organic to who we are–and other new forms like online practices, drop in meditation, experiences of faith through Art and Nature and Literature; and spiritual study groups that do not look like church as we know it, but that bring us in touch with our Creator;
- We will move out of our big, beautiful building and building bold, beautiful big-ness on the move;
- We will have a welcoming ministry center in the public square that offers hospitality seven days a week–where people can drop in to laugh and cry and find a faith that works for them;
- We will act in many ways that expresses what we stand for—we will be “those Christians” that advocate for justice and make a difference in the lives of people in need, that feed the hungry and clothe the naked and take seriously Jesus’ call to love our neighbor;
- We will be a people so blessed, so transformed by our experience of being a part of this vision – that we cannot help but invite others to join us on the journey!
Beloved, I am confident that people will want to join us because they want what we have and want to be like us. But more significantly, I am confident about the future because the Holy spirit has come upon us like tongues of fire and she will be with us, guiding, encouraging, emboldening us to the ends of the age!
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade