Acts 2:1-21 and When We Breathe Together: A Blessing for Pentecost Day by Jan Richardson
May 28th, 2023
Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Good morning and welcome again on what is in our tradition Pentecost. And here in Boulder it is a special weekend because it is Bolder Boulder! And my friend Shauna is here all the way from Anchorage AK to run with me and I have shared about her before as my breath! Thank God for lifelong friends!
As we come to this part of our gathering, I invite you as you are moved to take some deeper breaths, to tune into your heartbeat, as we let ourselves arrive a bit more fully, as we hope to hear from this text, from this message, whatever word God has for you today…
And today Alaina will help me and we will sing this preacher’s prayer from Psalm 19. This version comes from the Rivers of Babylon by the Melodians.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight. O light…
Not everyone is up for chaos and confusion. Not everyone is able to hang on through hard things. Not everyone can endure the creation of something new-which might only be described as the rush of violent winds.
Being bewildered, being challenged, being compelled to change, being called to dive deeper, to ask different questions, to be pushed beyond comfort into the unknown, isn’t what most people want. Are you with me? And it isn’t what most of us would seek…
I have experienced this in life and in my ministry and the pandemic and all that came to us during that time, made this abundantly clear.
When the going got tough, when we needed to do more or do things differently, when we had to change to survive, when we had to grow new skills and seek new ways of being, new ways of communicating and sharing what we do and who we are- when the chaos and confusion came in, when the hard things began, when the rush of violent winds broke in- many just left.
I understand why. Life as many have set it up in this country is all about convenience. America is about pleasure and comfort. Consuming and creating experiences to match one’s personal preferences. Just as we like it. Who wants hard? Who wants messy? I don’t see any hands up.
As we have highlighted over the last weeks, Americans are very lonely and depressed and so much so that it has been declared a national public health crisis. I know there are lots of explanations for this- some of them structural and some of it related to a fragmented culture and or despair about inaction on things like climate and inaction on that and gun violence and more. But I also wonder if some of what ails us is spiritual? Yes, here we believe strongly in science and also, I know that we are designed to be together. That might be radical to say. So I can use the words of Brene Brown, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
I believe that many people might not know it, but what they are missing is community. They are lacking connection. And I have seen this with some of my peers. They have built a life stuffed with things and no meaning, not much of service to others, nothing outside of attaining. There has been so much focus on curating the world just as you want it, that I wonder if some have curated out everything difficult and therefore leaving themselves alone and also the good stuff? Maybe this was even done on purpose at first, but now those people are wondering what their purpose is? Many have created a catalogue life, a tidy existence, canceled out any connections that discomfort, cutting out anything that challenges or asks too much…
But what if that’s not good for us? What if we are designed for each other? And what if this beautiful and bewildering thing that is us humans together is just what we need right now?
In a book called Ladder to the Light, Stephen Charleston wrote, “Community is how we respond to injustice. It is our unified reaction to oppression or bigotry. Community is how we hold diversity in equilibrium. It is how we maintain balance. Doing this is not easy. It requires our commitment and our willingness to learn. A diverse community is a constant learning experience …”
What if it’s good for us and for our democracy more broadly to be around people who think differently than we do, but who share our values? What if it’s good for us and for the planet to be pushed beyond our comfort sometimes and into the unknown to hear the visions and dreams of others? Maybe it isn’t what most of us would seek… but what if it’s exactly what we need?
Being a part of a sometimes hard and messy thing like a community of any kind and especially a thing like the church does ask us to get over ourselves. Are you with me? Inviting us to learn and understand languages and lives other than our own, perspectives beyond what we would see on our own, and yes this can throw us off, and then also throw us deeper, as we are forced to hear and listen across divides, to expand our sense of what we thought was possible, to make time to hear from others. The church is a thing that allows us to be disappointed together and to dream together, to care for creation and for others beyond our silos, it’s a place and a people living a little a heaven on earth, I do believe our salvation comes from our connection!
It’s an odd and perplexing truth- that the church is at the same time both marvelous and maddening, and if you are new to church, just stay tuned! It’s a thing that isn’t tidy and it isn’t always comfortable, but it’s beautiful!
And what if that is part of what the Pentecost story, the story of the birth of the church is about? Connection across differences- across languages and experiences. We don’t necessarily want chaos and confusion. We don’t really want to hang on through hard things. Or to endure the rush of violent winds, but what if learning new languages is part of what will get us where we need to go?
I know that religious community isn’t for everyone and that Christianity has caused a lot of harm, but for those of us who are a part of it and are willing to hang on and who have remained committed to churches that are inclusive, inspiring, relevant, caring, justice-focused, engaged in the community, it has made a difference for us, and for those outside of our building.
And I think the main reason is that good healthy “Connection is why we’re here….” Connection across our inclination to curate out the hard, connections across age and experiences, connections around shared losses and laments and shared hopes for what could be, connections across background and beliefs, connections that support caring inward and outward, that is good church to me.
I love the words of Jan Richardson who as you heard wrote:
This is the blessing
when we leave behind
when we gather
when we turn
toward one another.
This is the blessing
that blazes among us
when we speak
strange to our ears
when we finally listen
into the chaos
when we breathe together
* When We Breathe Together, A Blessing for Pentecost Day by Jan Richardson, from The Painted Prayerbook, janrichardson.com
Beloved of God I give thanks that we can move toward one another, and I give thanks for this messy and marvelous community that is us. I give thanks that we can leave behind our aloneness and that there is our something sacred in our gathering together in this little heaven we are making here on earth, turning toward one another in this marvelous and maddening, messy and sometimes uncomfortable, bewildering and beautiful thing that is us, but what if it’s just what we need? May it be so. Amen.
©Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche