Preached on 31 May 2020 for Pentecost Sunday. Glade Church, Walkersville, MD
This morning, the preacher is tired, and this lethargy is not just from this morning. The preacher is tired because, if he is honest with himself, it’s time to tell the truth. He’s burned out from everything going on in the world.
I mean, let’s look at what’s going on. I really don’t have to remind you of all that has happened in our world since March 15. We’ve been quarantined. More than 100,000 people in this country have died at the hands of a virus that we cannot seem to get out of our mouths. We have to use one -way traffic techniques to navigate grocery stores.
Schools have been closed until, well, whenever. Just this past week, I went to clean out my spouse’s classroom, bringing nearly a fifty year career in education to a sputtering end. On his date board was the last day he was in his classroom with his students – March 11 – and it seems that time had stood still since 4:00 of that Thursday afternoon. Graduation celebrations have become viewing parties or impromptu parades around neighborhoods where residents peek at the spectacle, unable to join in with family, friends, and neighbors.
Offices have been empty. Folks have not been in their workspaces for more than 10 weeks, and if I tell some more truth, many people are lucky to still have jobs. We’ve seen massive unemployment become the norm.
Oh! There’s more. We have more cases of police interactions with black people being black people. Just this week, a black man had the unmitigated call to tell someone to follow the rules in a park over leashing her dog, and the woman, WHILE BEING RECORDED, called the police and made a false claim that the black man was threatening her life. She has since lost her job, her anonymity, and said dog. Not to be outdone, a man in Minneapolis threatened to call the police on a group of black men using the gym in the office building where they all rent space. Their infraction – not proving to him that they belonged in the building. They did, by way. They are still there, he’s been evicted.
But I’m not done: in the midst of all of this, we’ve had more state sanctioned executions of black people. We’ve added, at a minimum, three new names to the list of black folks killed in interactions with law enforcement or pseudo-law enforcement:
- Ahmaude Arbery, killed while jogging and killed by two people who decided to handle a man they called a robber, despite no evidence of him stealing anything in that incident;
- Brianna Taylor, killed while sleeping in her own bed, in her own house, because the officers who breeched her front door decided the person had to be in the residence, despite having the suspect they were looking for in custody ALREADY, and
- George Floyd, whose death, it seems, was over a “forgery in progress”, which I am STILL trying to decipher. The forgery? Allegedly a counterfeit $20 bill. And just so we are clear about this death, a police officer kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes, with nearly three of those minutes occurring AFTER Mr. Floyd stopped moving, Oh! And let me tell you what ELSE makes this especially egregious: three other police officers stood around and assisted with this “arrest”, one of the officers being the charged officer’s brother-in-law.
You would think that, with all of this going on, there would be a response of some sort from the people in positions of leadership, not only in society, but in the church as well. Both institutions, it appears, have lost their ability to speak about injustices against people who would be considered “the least of these.” We’ve heard discussions about how horrible the property losses have been, how the protestors are criminals, but only after a cursory statement of how the acts that started these reactions are “immoral”.
So, like I said, I’m tired, I’m hurt. I’m weary. I’m thirsty. I know that today is Pentecost Sunday, and that we should be celebrating the birth of the church, but as one who prepares for Sunday worship with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, I realized that I have to look to the one who can handle whatever I am going through to help me out, because I can’t celebrate when I’m tired, hurt, weary and thirsty. But wouldn’t you know it, there is a word from the Lord, and it is found in John, chapter 7.
Before we can get to our gospel reading this morning, we find Jesus being publicly accused by some folks of deception, while others praise him. There are folks who have made false accusations, rebuttals, and questions of signs. We know where “this one” comes from, but where does the Messiah come from? Jesus replied , “You don’t know him. You don’t know what you think you know.” There are more questions – will the Messiah perform more signs than Jesus?
Ah. But this is not over. The leadership of the temple hear these mutterings, the false accusations, and send the temple police to arrest Jesus. Sounds familiar. And here is where we arrive at verse 37, and Jesus tells his listeners, “If you’re thirsty, come to me, and if you believe in me, drink. “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Let’s me just pause here for a minute – many of us don’t have any water flowing from us, because we’re dry. But that is why we need to come to Jesus, because he is the one who gives us that water that we need. And what is that water?
Look at the text – it’s the spirit, which was released on this day when Peter preached. A sound like a violent wind came through, and we are reminded of the words of the prophet Joel:
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 will prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
Doesn’t that sound familiar.
The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
So, my friends, I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I’m weary. But it’s time for me to be refreshed and refilled. It’s time for me, and all of us, to look to Jesus. And in doing so, maybe, just maybe, we can get some of the healing, and rest, and love, and compassion, and empathy, and understanding we need, because right now, it’s missing.