Gospel: John 20:19-23
1st Reading: Acts 2:1-21
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
When I was Graduating from High School, our class song was “It’s the End of the World as we Know It (And I feel fine).” It is basically a stream of consciousness list until you get to the chorus, which is just the title of the song repeated over and over. That song has been running through my head.
The theme of “Endings and Beginnings” has been with me all week. It started with the news that Auntie Mae had passed away. I remember her from the day I came to this church, sitting downstairs with the sewers, sitting in the back pew, laughing and visiting with friends here. Beginnings and endings come to mind as I am anticipating Mildred’s death as she is placed on hospice. She’s a charter member here, part of King of Kings for almost 50 years, since the very beginning. I think of where she sat. She went to the second service because she didn’t like to get up too early. The way she always expressed appreciation, always noticed and thanked people for the things they did whether big or little. I also attended my nephew’s graduation on Friday. I was there at his birth, so amazed to see a person come into this world. I played with him as a baby, looked after him the day his sister was born, listened to him tell me how to drive when he was 4 years old, watched him grow up into this young man, trumpet player, valedictorian. Beginnings and endings. It is the theme of the week.
In the Acts Reading this morning, it is the ending of 50 days. Pentecost has the word “pente” meaning 5, like pentagram has 5 points. It is the end of Jesus’ physical time on earth. He is about to ascend to heaven and leave the Disciples. It is also the end of the tower of Babel story that you might remember from Bible School, that explained how we all got speaking different languages and couldn’t understand each other anymore. It was part of the “last days” prophecy from Joel. This was a time when everything the followers of Jesus knew would change.
In 1 Corinthians, this is the end of divisions. This is the end of selfishness and individualism. This is the end of hierarchy and holding power one over the other. This is the end of pride, because only God gets the credit for giving everyone gifts that are good for the whole group.
In the Gospel, this is the beginning of the end of the paralyzing fear of the disciples. This is the end of death. This is all about ending.
With all endings, there is grief. There is letting go. There is the unknown toward which we step. There is pain, anticipation, reviewing life up to that point, assessing next steps, discerning where to go from here. There is relief. There is release.
When something ends, there is a release of energy. All the time and effort and energy that went into the old, is then freed up to be put to use in a new way.
Sometimes we make that transition smoothly from the end of one thing to the beginning of another. Sometimes it is clear where to put that energy and time. Sometimes the transition is messier. It would seem God does not have a problem with messy.
In Acts, the new energy released went first to the Disciples. It gave them the ability to communicate with people of all nationalities and languages. These people caught the energy of the Holy Spirit, too. The promise was that it would go out even further, to family members not present, to the next generation, to elderly people, to the lower classes, and even to slaves. Everyone would receive this fire, this energy, this life. Everyone would have the chance to hear about God’s deeds of power and experience them, first hand. Everyone would be saved, that is everyone would have the experience of the health and wholeness that God offers.
The transition, this beginning wasn’t just for the Disciples, it was for all people and all creation. It was energy and warmth and light and life for all people, all nations, all genders, all economic groups. It was the beginning of hope. It was the beginning of true community. It was the beginning of understanding each other and communicating with each other. And it was windy and it was loud and it was dramatic.
Not everybody liked it. Some scoffed. Some sneered. They were probably scared. Or maybe they were just jealous.
Today we celebrate the Birthday of the church, when the Holy Spirit came among us so that we could become the body of Christ for the world. Do you take your Birthday as an opportunity to reflect? We look back at all our endings and beginnings, those first steps of the early church, the mistakes Christians have made throughout our history, our dismay at what some of the members of the body still do that causes damage, the times we have responded well to emergencies and human need, all that we’ve learned, the times of rapid growth and other times when we’ve felt our advanced age. We ask ourselves what we need to let go of, as a congregation, as a church, as a Christian. What needs to end to free up new life and energy to begin something else? What needs to die so that something wild and unknown can be born, so that the Spirit can be released and freed to move in new ways? Do we have the faith to let go and place our future in God’s hands to guide us through our transitions to new life?
After meeting with Auntie Mae’s daughter on Wednesday, I came back to the church with 3 coats for JOIN, several Bibles to give away, and a hymnal. She is no longer walking with us on this part of the journey, but some of her things were released back into the neighborhood to help other people. The stories of her life give us energy and motivation to follow our life path of faith through good times and difficult ones. She never expected to outlive her nieces Judith, or Darelyn, or Jackie. She didn’t expect that she would have to give up cooking, or gardening, or pinochle or the other things she loved. Yet she held on to her faith, praying for people around her and ministering to them the best she could. And Mildred: She reminds me to thank people. She had a thank you note or a compliment to give every single week she was here—and there were years she never missed church. The way she cared for her sister will always remind us to help and care for people in need. What seems like an ending, is only another beginning of new life for them and a chance to look over what has been so far, let go of what we don’t need to cling to anymore, reassess the future, and take leap of faith, knowing that the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of God will take us places we didn’t expect, but places of blessing, and healing and wholeness and power. My nephew will start at Pacific University this fall, a new chapter, a new beginning in a young life.
Daily, hourly, every moment, something is ending. Daily, hourly, something is beginning. May we learn individually what needs to die and to end, what we need to let go of. May we as a church let go of what has to die that Christ’s love and grace may be shared and experienced. May we stand in those transitions and let the wind of the Holy Spirit blow, as messy and fiery as it is, until God shows us how to proceed.
May new life spring up for us as it did for Christ. May we know the power of the resurrection, daily and may the power of the Holy Spirit envelop the whole world so that new life my flourish for all.