5.26.2012

Day of Pentecost, Year B

Ezekiel 37:1-14 •Psalm 104:24-34, 35b •Acts 2:1-21 •John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Stop for a moment and think about how you understood the world 25 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago.  For us, it was a much smaller, more contained world 25 years ago.  We were not connected to our global neighbors.  News of an uprising in Egypt might have reached us in a day or two...certainly not tweets from protestors in the heart of Cairo as the first chants were yelled, the first police response made.  We likely would have read the news in the newspaper - and maybe seen more in depth coverage a month or two later in one of the news magazines.

Ray Kurzweil, inventor of "optical character recognition," (the technology that makes scanners do their thing, turning images into words) wrote a book in the late 90s, "The Age of Spiritual Machines."  He talked a lot about the rate of technology acquisition speeding up, the world contracting as a result, our reach and grasp expanding.  He also wrote about what this meant for artificial intelligence - machines would begin to "think," to draw conclusions and then take next steps.  Surely it would only be a matter of time before they became feeling and spiritual with emotions and preferences and biases and... It was and is all a little overwhelming.

At Pentecost, we remember and celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the early church.  This was the Advocate of whom Jesus had spoken in John's gospel, sent to provide God's word, presence and power in the midst of the people of God.  Some think of it as the "birthday" of the church.  Today we find ourselves wondering where the Spirit is descending with tongues of fire and rushing winds?  Is it the church?  Another gathering?  What is that rushing wind today? And those tongues of fire? And what languages are made the same?

In the reading from the Hebrew scripture, the LORD reveals to Ezekial a stark valley full of dry bones.  This is one of those texts with such vivid imagery...take a moment to read and imagine - and to wade around in the subtext.  Imagine being overwhelmed by a valley full of bones - bones bleached white with time.  Israel had been through so much.  She was weary with war and exile....Lost.  The Lord challenges Ezekial - do you believe these bones can live?  Then prophesy to them...tell them to live...tell them to receive the breath of life.  Don't just breathe. Live.  These bones LIVE. Where is the Valley of Dry Bones today? And who is prophesying life and breath into these bones?

The psalmist  is amazed by the dizzying reach of God's creation.  We have access to "know" more about that creation today.  Sometimes our knowing overshadows are ability to be in awe and to praise.   What Leviathans sport in our seas today?

In the passge from Acts we find the familiar Pentecost story.  Jesus' faithful followers were gathered in Jerusalem, waiting. They are overtaken by a divine act and although they are all Galileans, they can be understood by the array of pilgrims and merchants from so many places passing through the great city that day.  They spoke of God's deeds and powers and all within hearing understood.  Peter quotes the prophet Joel who spoke of end-times.  'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.'

In many ways, we are a valley of dry bones.  What prophets will speak life? And in what places is the Spirit rushing in?  And are we watching for that? Because there is a saying about lightening not striking the same place twice.  It's not biblical, but we suspect the next movement of the spirit is not in the church.

God of power and presence and spirit...
light on us in places that have potential
and in places that are dry
and desperate for the breath of life

© laura & matt norvell 2012 www.settingourstones.org  - We share
this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that
you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be
with you.

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