What is the language in which you hear grace?
Sisters and brothers in Christ that’s the question at the heart of Pentecost.
What is the language in which you hear grace?
Now for most of us — not all of us — English is our language. I’m not talking about that. And frankly, many of us have not heard grace in English. Our words have often been used and heard to promote anything-but-grace in our cut-throat, angry, depressed, pain-filled, confused...even down-right cruel and evil world. All happening in English...and other languages too.
In 2015 Gary Chapman’s book about the 5 love languages came out, and we all thought about what’s best for me — is it words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch. Which love language is mine?
I’m asking a similar question today on Pentecost, except the language of grace doesn’t just benefit you as an individual...
What is the language in which you hear God’s radical grace, inclusion, welcome, embrace, forgiveness, peace and joy...for all. How do you hear that. How can you hear that?
At Bible Study this week, we shared the languages in which we hear grace. I started with my perennial go-to example: baseball. You poor people, that’s always my example. Images, messages, symbols — for me — of grace and gospel abound in baseball! But what is it for you?
A clue is who perks up when I bring up different illustrations. And mostly I bring up baseball. So then we can see who speaks baseball? [perking/waking up]
Others speak travel — that’s where they can hear grace.
Others speak quilting or another craft language.
Others speak political action and justice advocacy, marching in unison, singing protest songs.
Others speak “movies”, or soccer, or nature. What is the language that speaks to you, that you hear grace and gospel?
In Bible study, lots of stories about relationships. We hear grace through our relationships with one another. When forgiveness is shared, when laughter is shared, when surprise is shared: these are tangible Pentecosts. These are languages in which we hear grace and gospel.
Today the Spirit rushes in again! Whether we’re ready for her or not, whether we’re receptive to her or not. Holy Spirit descends on us...and stays with us. The question is how do we hear it, how can we know it, how can we trust it and allow her to move us outward?
Pentecost is a story about grace blowing in (“Grace blows!”...because grace changes everything, and we don’t generally like change).
Pentecost is the story of grace blowing in, and then grace resting on the heads of all who are gathered. Grace blows...and grace stays. Thanks be to God. She both changes everything, and she never leaves us. Holy Spirit, heavenly dove, stays, like a tongue of fire over our heads, infuses into our bones as we breathe her into our hearts and our lungs. She shows up, God’s gracious Holy Spirit! And stays.
And so even when tragedy strikes — as it has stricken us again this week: horrific shootings at Santa Fe High School in Texas [pause] — even has death comes — as it has again here at SVLC this week:
dear George Barber and Verlyn Scott both took their last breaths on this earth just yesterday — even as pain and confusion and fear about the future, anger about the past, sorrow and sickness...even in all the places where the cross is real, friends, where suffering is real...even and especially with all that, the powerful Holy Spirit stays with us, rests over our bodies, fills our hearts and our bones...and stays.
And then — here’s where it’s more than just the Love Language book — this grace language is more — grace allows us then, not just to enjoy the Holy Spirit for ourselves, but also to go out, and share with others this different language, this new language, this language of grace that so many have never heard.
I had this moment at our Synod Assembly: (We had our annual Synod Assembly this year in Palm Desert. And for the first time ever, it was not at a hotel! It was at a church. Hope Lutheran Church in the desert.) And we gathered on Friday evening for worship. You know, I’ll be honest — for me — worship that night was less-than-perfect, to say the least. Frankly, it didn’t grab me and consume me, like some worship services in my worshipping life have. But I won’t tell you that it didn’t FILL me. There were lots of mistakes, lots of people didn’t know what they were doing; Bishop’s sermon was good but not great, for me, in my opinion (I said it), he seemed a little distracted and I know he was tired; music was good but not great, the band was a little off; readers were good but not great, they didn’t seem to know exactly what they were doing and weren’t entirely familiar with the words they were reading.
It wasn’t the best worship service of my life, and yet, I won’t tell you that it didn’t FILL me.
In the midst of it all (and I was sitting up in the balcony, kind with this great view of it all) I got this wonderful sense that Holy Spirit is showing up here anyway! Like I saw tongues of fire resting on all these good, well-meaning, hard working, faithful, loving, broken people...including myself. It was grace!
(Synodical worship is often like this for me: former Bishop Murray Finck chanting the words of institution…tears rolling down my face.)
Grace ekes through the windows and the doors of our churches, and our human frailty, and our anxiety, and our under-performances, and our tension and frustration toward one another, and our anger about the past, and our fear about the future — all of that in that in the Hope Lutheran sanctuary on Friday night — all of it! And yet grace blows in anyway! Holy Spirit rested on all of us anyway!
Just like she does this morning.
And we are all filled with the Holy Spirit this day — whether we like that idea or not, whether we’re receptive to it or not, she is here. And she is staying. And she is sending us out. Out into the world to go and speak a new language, a language that others in our community can hear. A language of love, a language of forgiveness, a language of mercy and justice…
a language of peace.
In Jesus’ name, AMEN.