This Pentecost is like no other Pentecost I can remember. We are dealing with an invisible pandemic, still wreaking havoc around the world and near at hand. We are dealing with a national uproar as a man, George Floyd, was murdered by a police officer, tapping into a pent-up rage that is spilling over in our cities. There is chaos all around us, and many of us are wondering what might come next.
The Book of Numbers tells a story of when chaos nearly engulfed the tribes of Israel trying to make their way to the Promised Land (Num. 11). The people were about revolt against Moses and God. Moses cries out to the Lord for help, and God decides to meet with the leaders of the nation. God descends into the tabernacle, and as God comes, God’s Spirit overwhelms the human participants and they all begin to dance and twirl and do what Moses calls prophesying—they are lost in the presence of God. Some of that Spirit spilled over into the camp and Joshua becomes concerned, asking Moses to do something to control the outburst. Moses instead says he wishes the whole community would prophesy, being filled with God.
I find comfort in this passage because, for me, it speaks to everything happening around us. Chaos nibbles at our world. Things seem out of control.
What if we can’t trust those entrusted with our care and protection?
Why does righteous indignation turn to something else, something destructive that threatens to undo us?
We are human. Sometimes those in authority abuse that authority, and sometimes that abuse is murderous. Sometimes when we are angry, our anger takes control of us and we find ourselves doing and being something we never imagined doing or being.
We discover how close we are to the chaos from which we were made.
Pentecost offers a promise of redeeming grace—God’s very own presence.
In Acts 2, the Spirit descends and all the apostles begin to speak languages they never could have known. They go outside and the crowds comprised of all manner of people hear the apostles speaking their languages.
There is understanding.
Imagine what peace understanding could bring to us right now, right here.
Those of us in authority—leaders, police, protectors, pastors—need to know authority is a gift of grace meant to help us serve others so they can be everything they need to be, fulfilling their promise as children of God. Authority is not a license to demean, belittle, or attack another person. It is certainly not a license to take their life.
Those of us in positions of privilege need to understand that there are those who have no access to what we have, no way of knowing they are beloved because culture is constructed to keep them from knowing it, and live a far more frightening existence than any of us will ever know.
Those of us who are angry need to know the danger of anger. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and, of course, Jesus were angry at the abuse of the Least of These, but they preached, witnessed, and acted through that anger so it could be understood, heard, and responded in ways that brought real and lasting change.
If we understand ourselves, if we understand the people near at hand, if we understand our God, then there can be peace. That would be prophesying to our time and place.
Moses went back to camp where the chaos still burned. We enter the world where chaos still simmers and bubbles. May God go with us with understanding, grace, and mercy, so we can transcend and transform the world before us.