As we look to Pentecost, I think of the sermons I’ve preached in the past. Those sermons were often filled with themes of waiting and the gifts of diversity and unity. But as I read Acts 2 this year, I am drawn to the idea of the future and what exactly that might mean for us as a church. In the past I often preached about how we at times could be like those earliest disciples on the first Pentecost – locked up inside the church walls. But this year, our experience of sheltering in place has altered this assumption. We are no longer gathered together within the church building – or at least not completely. And for all that we do not know about the future, what we can be sure of is that we will never go back to how things were – at least not exactly.
Which is, perhaps, exactly as it should be. There are various and big reasons we have been changed and are continuing to change. And apart from how we ‘do’ church and worship, over 100,000 Covid-19 related deaths in the US alone should change us. We will never be the same.
As we consider the grief – both collective and personal – that we experience, I am reminded of something Kate Bowler said about grief. Kate Bowler teaches at Duke Divinity School specializing in the prosperity gospel. Last summer I read her book Everything Happens for a Reason where she shares part of her journey with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. At one point, she writes, “I used to think that grief was about looking backward, old men saddled with regrets or young ones pondering should-haves. I see now that it is about eyes squinting through tears into an unbearable future.” That is likely what many of us are feeling. Our grief is in large part about the unknown future. Even more, when we’ve had hopes of coming back together at Easter or the end of school or some other date on the calendar only to be disappointed when each event did not take place, it is unbearable.
In times that are uncertain and unbearable, we pray “Come, Holy Spirit!” For the Holy Spirit is “help beyond ourselves.” It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to become what we cannot become on our own. And in spite of all that is hard this present day, it is the Holy Spirit is that invites us to dream anyway.
Your young will see visions.
Your elders will dream dreams.-Acts 2:17