Joan R. Harrell 05-17-2013
Pentecost symbol, Waiting For The Word /

Pentecost symbol, Waiting For The Word /

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’
Acts 2.12 (NRSV)

Charles Ramsey, the African American male dishwasher who rescued Amanda Berry from captivity preached a transforming sermon when he shared his story about how he helped a Euro American woman in distress escape from 10-years of captivity. Ramsey boldly told the local television news reporter in Cleveland, “Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms.” And later when CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Ramsey, how he felt about being a hero, Ramsey said, “No, no, no. Bro, I’m a Christian, an American. I am just like you. We bleed the same blood …”

Ramsey’s blunt honesty which spoke to the existence of racism and his sincere compassion for humanity was a 21st century mystification; a “radical real lived” theological symbol for the reason, why Christians celebrate Pentecost – the birth of the Holy Spirit and the historic beginning of the Christian Church. Biblical scholars teach us on the Day of Pentecost that a strong wind swept through a house where Jesus’ followers gathered days after he was resurrected from the dead. It was in the city of Jerusalem, where Jewish pilgrims gathered to celebrate Shavuot and people from other cultures who spoke diverse languages — believers and non believers of Jesus, heard about God’s powerful works in their native tongues and felt God’s holy presence.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Sprit gave them ability.

Lisa Sharon Harper 05-17-2013
Women's Rights National Historic Park statues, Zack Frank /

Women's Rights National Historic Park statues, Zack Frank /

Consider in the past year alone, America has wrestled over the injustice of forced vaginal probe ultrasounds. We have had our own deep cultural apathy revealed as the media tipped their sympathies toward the jocks that ripped a 16 year-old girl’s life and body through gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio – even as our nation gasped in horror at multiple reports of gang rapes of women in India. And over the past few weeks we have witnessed the unmasking of several U.S. military leaders, who were charged with duties to protect the women in their ranks, as they were revealed to be the very perpetrators themselves.

In Jim Wallis’ latest column, he writes, “It’s time for all people of faith to be outraged” and adds, “And it's time for us in the faith community to acknowledge our complicity in a culture that too often not only remains silent, but also can propagate a false theology of power and dominance.”

Will we do it? Will we take the step? Will we allow this holy wind that has blown the cover off of evil deeds done in the dark to rush through? Will we allow the cleansing waters of God to wash our society clean of practices — both private and public — that twist, maim and crush the image of God in more than half its population? Will we exercise the same courage that it took for those women at the first Pentecost to allow the spirit to move them into the public square and speak — testify, tell the truth, and prophesy? Will we repent from our silence?

Repentance begins in the heart. So, I must ask: “Will I repent of my silence — my safe silence?” Yes.

Martin L. Smith 05-11-2013

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary, Cycle C

Joe Kay 04-23-2013
Pentecost illustration, Molodec /

Pentecost illustration, Molodec /

We tend to consider the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Pentecost in two ways primarily. We see them as history, stories about things that happened a long time ago. Or we consider them through theologies about what they mean for us after we die.

Yet, there is a deeper reality to all of them. The cross, the empty tomb, the moment of divine inspiration are repeated every day and everywhere. They’re ongoing and participatory.

Many experience those moments of inspiration each day. They’re moved to help someone who is hurting, inspired to care for those who are struggling, emboldened to try to change their world in some way. They sense something divine in the small moments of life. They stand up for anyone who is being treated as less than an equal child of God. They see love at work all around them.

Spirit-filled moments happen every day.

Martin L. Smith 04-04-2013

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary, Cycle C

Nadia Bolz-Weber 06-01-2012
Holy Trinity painting, Zvonimir Atletic /

Holy Trinity painting, Zvonimir Atletic /

Holy Trinity is not the most popular festival among preachers who, for all the other seasons and special days of the church year, normally get to dig into interesting gospel narratives. 

Most other festivals of the church celebrate an event. We commemorate happenings in the life of Christ: Mary’s visit from Gabriel announcing the miraculous child she was to bear into the world, God’s own word made flesh. We celebrate also the light bearing nature of your own patronal season of Epiphany, we celebrate the messy Baptism of our Lord, the confusing Transfiguration, and Jesus riding triumphant into Jerusalem amidst palms and cheers. We celebrate the empty tomb of Easter, the glorious Ascension, the chaotic coming of God’s spirit to the church at Pentecost all leading up to today, when we celebrate … a church doctrine. 

Preachers dread this day because we see it as kind of a dry dusty theological topic after such the exciting and earthy part of the liturgical year that came before it. It’s like there’s this raucous party of Easter and Pentecost that comes to a screeching halt while an old crotchety man shuffles up to the pulpit, blows the dust off an enormous leather-bound book, clears his throat saying And now a celebration of church doctrine causing the music to fade, the last of the Pentecost streamers still floating to the ground. Church doctrine Sunday.

Debra Dean Murphy 05-30-2012
Stained glass window representing the Trinity, Nancy Bauer /

Stained glass window representing the Trinity, Nancy Bauer /

A dear friend recently reminded me of David Ford’s gem of a book, The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday LifeOn the back cover, Nicholas Wolterstorff describes it beautifully: “[This book's] spirituality is profound and reflective, yet always concrete, and never dishonest or evasive; it uses not only Scripture but literature with creative facility. Simple, yet rich. A jewel of the spiritual life in its everyday manifestations. I want to savor it with repeated readings.”

Ford traces the “multiple overwhelmings” in our lives — the forces that shake us and shape us, those with the power to wound or crush and those that are life-giving and transformative. At stake in reckoning with such tumult is the whole of our lives and our living. “How,” he asks, ”in the midst of all our overwhelmings, are our lives shaped?”

Harry C. Kiely 01-03-2012
Pentecost depiction by Duccio di Buoninsegna via

Pentecost depiction by Duccio di Buoninsegna via

For those who re-discover their faith by taking seriously the vision offered in the second chapter of the book of Acts, the Occupy movement may appear to them as the New Pentecost. Note the similarities between the ancient story and the contemporary movement:

  • In Acts, the emergence of new power occurred when the “gossip” about the Resurrection became a life-empowering message that transcended all lingual differences: “each heard in his own language.” Likewise in Occupy Wall Street: in the development of a new means of communication, people of diverse backgrounds both spoke and heard in a common language. It was, indeed, a New Pentecost.
Mike Morrell 11-16-2011

Unlike the earlier turn-of-the-20th-century Pentecostal movement, which created a plethora of new denominations, the Charismatic Movement  — with its emphasis on the felt-presence of the Holy Spirit, intimate worship, healings, and spiritual gifts as written about in the New Testament — united Lutherans and Catholics, East Orthodox and Episcopalians, promising in its early years to utterly remake ecumenical dialogues into a fully-felt move of the Spirit.

These heady early days inspired everyone from the Jesus Movement to Richard Rohr and many believed that a new fullness of Christian faith was being formed.

Then, as often happens as new movements grow and spread, things got messy. Denominational officials became suspicious; new denominations like the Vineyard were born, attracting new Christians such as Bob Dylan.

Onleilove Alston 11-08-2011

The New York City Human Circle will be replicated throughout across the nation, when faith leaders host Human Circles as members of the Sojourners National Mobilizing Circle, which is bringing together faith and community leaders to organize faith-rooted actions in their communities.

The purpose of these circles is not only to lobby for the poor but also with them.

The atlas also documents other dramatic trends, including the fragmentation of Christianity. New denominations, often borne out of strife and division, multiply endlessly. In Korea, for instance, there are now 69 different Presbyterian denominations. At the rate we are going, by 2025 there will be 55,000 separate denominations in the world!

That is an utter mess fueled by rivalry and confusion that hampers the church's witness and makes a mockery of God's call to live as parts of one body.

The atlas also documents the dramatic rise of revival movements throughout the world, and charts the story of Pentecostalism's rise. From its beginning a century ago, Pentecostalism now comprises a quarter of all Christians in the world. This fundamental change in Christianity's global composition, along with its geographical transformation, has created a dramatically different Christian footprint in the world.

Nadia Bolz-Weber 07-13-2011

My favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings are the Ents -- an ancient race of giant living, talking, breathing trees in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional land, Middle Earth. I have a little confession to make: Whenever I hear a reading from Isaiah 55 where it says, "The mountains and hills before you shall burst into song and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands," I always picture the Giant Ents from The Lord of the Rings. And then I picture these clapping trees from Isaiah holding little Hobbits in their branch arms in what ends up a willful conflation of Middle Earth and Major Prophet.

Jim Wallis 06-09-2011

This Sunday is Pentecost. For 50 days, a group of 120 followers of Jesus waited. Their teacher, for whom they had left all they had, was now gone. Judas, one of their own, betrayed their master and then killed himself. The comforter they had been promised had not yet come.

Jeannie Choi 06-03-2011

Awesome people. Vegetarians. Going mute. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • Are you a new vegetarian? Some tips.
  • Kathy Khang shares more about her experience with depression.
  • Don't you sometimes wish you could just hit the mute button?

"Pentecost is God's 'show-and-tell' lesson that after the incarnation no one people has a purchase on the fullness of God. No single denomination, no one race, no one ethnicity, and no one socioeconomic group mediates God's fullness to the world. Diversity is an essential attribute of a Spirit-filled church (Acts 2:8,18)."

Theresa Cho 01-13-2011
Growing up, the use of inclusive language was a foreign concept.
Logan Isaac 08-06-2010
Last weekend, Christian leaders and lay persons from all walks of life and just about every denominational body came together for the Peace Among the Peoples
Sara VanScoy 06-30-2010
In this month's issue of Sojourners, Anne Eggebroten's article "The P
Kate Henley Averett 06-08-2010
I've always longed to see the world through a poet's eyes -- to see the magical in the everyday and to be able to weave words in such a way as to convey that magic to others.
Nadia Bolz-Weber 05-24-2010
All the Christian archetypes were already in place on the very first day.