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The Pursuit of Love Act 2

May 19, 2024

By Rev. Alice Hanson

Acts 2: 1-21

The season of Easter has been/ is the story of love’s pursuit (persistence, faithfulness) – Divine LOVE for each and all, individual and communal / all-encompassing - Holy presence, wholly love coming to us in the story of the One who came as Yeshua. Filled with Spirit, and empowered as he walked along the dusty paths and hillsides of the country and in bustling urban centers, Jesus healed, taught, challenged, invited. As he lived among and with the people, Jesus offered them a new identity, a new purpose, a whole new way of being in and with all creation, creatures, self and others. He referred to the birds of the air, the flowers in the field, the farmer’s seeds, the little children, the woman at the well, the paralyzed man by the pool. He made love tangible, visible – you could touch, feel, taste, see it. He invited all to be a part of love, crossing barriers of race, class, culture and gender, always teaching, and practicing unconditional love…love of God, love of neighbours, love of friend and love of enemy. No one was left out.

Those who encountered this man along the way were never the same again; the way they understood the world around them shifted; the way they responded to others was not what it was before they experienced Jesus. They were a different people, called into a transformative relationship with the Divine and one another. Meeting this Jesus was a transformative experience, a turning point, a curve along their journey that often led to new, unexpected, and surprising directions. You might look at it as act 1, this Easter story we have been engaged with over the last 6 weeks. And now, today we move into the next act – act two you could say, yet, like most of stories, both acts, acts one and two, are in the middle of God’s story.

Here in the second act, which is really the first act of the Christian church, the followers of Jesus were being fuelled, filled, and formed by love, invited to be an alternate people. This story we call Pentecost we as the church revisit on the 6th Sunday after Easter every year and then move forward into the long green Season of Pentecost (nurturing, growing), with many continued acts in an ongoing love story.

The day this story begins the streets of Jerusalem were filled with Jewish pilgrims from many regions, all excitedly speaking in their own languages, all celebrating the Feast of Weeks as it is still known in Judaism. This was an important celebration, marking the anniversary of God giving the Torah to the faithful people at Mount Sinai. Many came from far and near…like our Easter celebrations to this day, when family and friends come together to celebrate the arrival of spring after a long winter, to celebrate resurrection.

Amid all this hustle and bustle, commotion, traffic, Jesus’ friends were gathered in one place, just like we are today, here, in this place, now. Suddenly, without any warning, those gathered heard a violent, rushing wind, a noise that filled the entire house where they were sitting. Where did it come from? What was going on? And then they saw what appeared to be tongues of fire resting above each one of them. Note: Each one of them – no one was missed out – every one of them! Here too, in this community, each one of us is included, part of the Spirit’s activity – you too! Hard to explain what was happening to the first community when they got home to their family and friends! When have you heard or tried to share an experience that held a sacred presence, and you just couldn’t find the words to explain it? Holy encounters are not easy to explain!

Name walks slowly, almost painfully as she leaves the church. I meet her going out to our cars and start a conversation. Soon she is sharing the challenges she was going through, caused by a blood disorder that required frequent transfusions. Then she looked at me and began to share how one morning she knew she was given the choice of staying here and or leaving, her words. I waited as she sought the needed words for something she wasn’t sure how to explain. And then she clarified; she knew she was being invited to leave this earth life. She felt so peaceful, so ready, but her Samoyed-Lab cross kept barking and nudging her. Trying to hold her back, to stay. She stayed of course, to deal with this and she pointed to the signs of her illness in various parts of her legs and arms. She said it with a peaceful smile of both resignation and acceptance, as well as wonder, and I sensed this was a transformative life event for her.

Back to today’s story…

Pretty soon the people outside in the crowds heard the noise and they came running. And then, a multitude of languages were heard that started to make sense, to be understood! What the crowds heard were the mighty works of God being described, as scripture tells us. The Jesus followers were talking about the Spirit coming to be with them. Bewildered, the crowds wondered: How could this be? In their search for what this meant, they came up with possibilities, attempts to excuse what was happening. This is such a human response, isn’t it. We try to come up with something logical to explain what we cannot understand, what just doesn’t feel comfortable. Just maybe, could this confusion of languages and then the understanding that followed be the recognition of each person’s belovedness in God’s sight, regardless of culture, language, gender or nationality? Could it be a foretaste of the oneness with the Divine within and all around us, with all creatures/ people in and through the Spirit, together as one?

It was Peter who stood and explained it this way: Listen carefully. Get the story right! What is happening now is what the prophet Joel said would happen. The Spirit of God is being poured out upon every kind of people. …and I note, those significant words of inclusion – “every kind of people”. The church has too often excluded (we still do in our own particular ways) yet the very nature of the Holy, of the Spirit is all inclusive.

Some will see visions. Others will dream dreams. It was a hopeful time. Something new was happening; it was the day of the Lord and it is marvelous. Here in these few sentences, we can read delight, joy, excitement, possibility.

Can we still hold this hope in our times? Can we still dream for the sake of our grandchildren and the generations to come?

Peter’s message in Acts 2 continues beyond our reading for today, but if you wanted to read further you would hear verbs like – speaking confidently – the outpouring of the promise – receiving the gift of Spirit presence to all yet to come –the breaking of bread and the prayers, sharing and caring with joyful and sincere hearts – the follow-up to Act 2.

Today we are invited to keep this new thing going, to be open to the Spirit in our midst…to encounter the Christ Mystery that will be a turning point, a transformation from our 21st century self-centered lives into a new center in the Christ Mystery, Spirit centered. We may know significant life altering moments as they were in the first Pentecost story; it may well be about more subtle shifts that happen within us over a period of time, over a lifetime maybe, as we respond to the still, small voice within us, as we slowly grow in this new life and way of being in Christ/

In our present context, a world facing climate crises, war in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, poverty, drought and conflict in Africa, racial and gender issues here in North America we need new visions; we long for renewed hope. Can a new thing really happen among us and in all these tough places of the world? We long to trust that the pouring out of the Spirit will still happen, new visions and dreams be offered, lived, even here among us.

The persistent pursuit of love is what the Pentecost event was about, is about in our lives, and will continue to be about in our lives together as the people of God. Radical transformation that may turn our lives upside down, disturbing our comfortable lifestyles or gently, persistently, move us towards a more God centered way of being and living with each - towards right relations with earth, with all peoples, towards a spirit of Oneness – towards peace with justice – is Love’s story. And such a story will be both delight and disturbance!

We are sent out, as individuals, and together as a faith community, to respond to the Spirit’s continuing presence in the world. Who knows, but maybe we too can be a turning point in the lives of others, in this community, faithful in our time and place. Remember, especially when discouraged, Peter’s message promises that in the days to come – the spirit will be poured out on all humankind – even on the most insignificant of my people, both women and men, I will pour out my spirit! It is this verse that we can lean into when the challenges seem overwhelming, when we feel small and the task so big, that somehow the Spirit can yet move through us that we might be love and this love, and this love a witness to hope and possibility. I am convinced that our witness calls on us to work together, in community, as One. We are stronger together. The early church as it came together, became a stronger, living presence of Christ love. We come together to be a stronger, living presence

of Christ’s love - working together to restore what is broken; we will slowly make all things new, building communities of care, respect, inclusion, working together cooperatively, collaboratively, a transformative shift that is so badly need in today’s world.

This transformative story is always LOVE and this story is not yet done! Love’s pursuit continues through you and me, and we together, for many generations yet to come.

May you grow and delight in the disruptions of the Spirit, may you experience the Spirit in ways that surprise you and may you discover the Spirit of Holy love in wilderness times as well as abundance!

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