We are facing a different situation – and we need to face it together. Moreover, we need to decide how we are going to face it. I ask you to reflect on the presidents that preceded Donald Trump. President Reagan, both Bushes, President Clinton and President Obama at least gave lip service to the injustice that the undocumented and their families suffered. As our movement gained steam, persisting year in and year out, we brought Obama to the executive orders that recognized the human rights of the undocumented. Because of this more sympathetic position at the top of the government we were able to find ways to stop deportations by combining mobilization, media, legal and political contradictions that remained in the system. We have many victories – hard victories, but victories none the less. As we struggled together, as we relied on our faith, love grew up among us and that too sustained us.
The election of Donald Trump represents a change at the top – a change that is supported by the Republican majorities in Congress. Trump and his Make America White Again movement may not survive the next election, maybe not even the next four years. Yet while Trump is in power we are facing a real determination to remove as much of the Latino population as they can. Our next generations of young people are in danger, labeled as criminals, denied a knowledge of who they are, surrounded by violence, inoculated by an electronic fantasy world from defending themselves. At the same time, corruption and murder and poverty have been exported down the continents of the Americas and there is no refuge to return to.
Yet when the injustice increases it also becomes more brittle. As the injustice is exposed, the Trump government becomes more isolated. When it is doing its worst, it is making itself more vulnerable. When confronted with the truth of what it is doing, with its racism, with its inhumanity, it will fall. This week Trump declared his war on God’s creation, on the environment. Each day he exposes himself and feeds the resistance. Yet it is his racism that will turn him into a pillar of salt – and it is the movement of truth, the movement against mass deportation and mass incarceration that will cause that pillar of salt to crumble.
Even as we rise to fight this monster we need the love that unites us, the love that holds together our families and our family of families, the love that overcomes jealousy and envy and anger, the love that comes from a community of faith and resistance.
Today we hold in prayer especially Miguel Perez who remains in detention to fight his deportation, aware that he is fighting for thousands like him. His suffering should make us conscious of the strength of his conviction and his love for his people. We need to support him and we need to draw strength today from his faith – and his Spirit of resistance – and from the faith and Spirit of his family who brought his case to us.
Today is the Day of Pentecost in the Christian calendar. It is a very important day. We have walked with Jesus from his prophetic birth, through his ministry to bring the Kingdom of God to the people, through his confrontation and his arrest, imprisonment, torture and crucifixion – and then to his resurrection. We have spent the last seven weeks with his disciples in the presence of his resurrection, learning again the lessons he taught the disciples, preparing them for their ministry. Last week we received his final commission, to make disciples in all the nations to which the people of God would be dispersed.
The journey with Jesus – for both the disciples and for us today – has rebuilt our faith and begun to reestablish our courage and our conviction. The last instruction to the disciples was to gather in Jerusalem and wait on the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, that would convict the world which had murdered the Son of God.
They were gathered together in hiding – for as followers of Jesus they were hunted men. They were hunted by the Romans and they were hunted by the Temple police. Crowds of people had been drawn to Jesus, to his teaching, to his innocence of the sins and corruption of the world. Yet the disciples feared for their lives, feared to reach out to these people. They saw what had happened to Jesus, whom they loved. They were still ashamed that they had not come to his defense.
Then came the Holy Spirit. It came as tongues of fire. It was everywhere around them and in them. It changed them. The appearances of the Resurrected Jesus had prepared them for it, for something coming from God into their lives. And now it was come upon them.
This happened on the day of a special celebration among the Jews in Jerusalem to which thousands had come, many returning from the lands to which they had been driven. They came out of hiding, went among the crowds gathered in the city and began to preach. What did Peter say?
He said, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” He told the people that their country had killed, murdered, crucified a completely innocent man – a man made completely innocent by his faithfulness to God. They had murdered the one God had sent to save them!
When the people, struck to their hearts by his words, asked what they should do, Peter said “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” And there on that first day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem, in the presence of the authorities and the Roman soldiers, three thousand came forward and were baptized – BECAUSE THE DISCIPLES SPOKE THE TRUTH OF THE CRUCIFIXION OF AN INNOCENT MAN.
Where did the disciples get the courage to speak to the people, to tell them the truth about the murder of this most innocent of all men? What gave their words the power to move thousands? In the next weeks we will walk with the disciples as they organize the first church of disciples, the first church of faith and resistance. We will see that as they recognized the injustice and the hate which they were up against, it caused them to come together, to share all things in common, to realizing the love of the Kingdom among them. We will see the miracles that occurred as they organized. And indeed, there was a miracle on this first day.
You see, people had come back to Jerusalem from many countries. Many of them had forgotten their language. Few understood the dialect of the Galileans who were simple county people. And yet when Peter and the disciples spoke, they understood every word. They even asked themselves, “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?”
This morning we read the old testament story about the tower of Babel. The sons of Noah had forgotten their fathers faith and determined to build an empire of their own, a tower that would allow them to rule the world after the flood. God saw their arrogance for God hates those who construct empires for their own greed and ego, who deny the authority and righteousness of God. So He confused them, made them speak different languages so they could not understand each other and scattered them around the earth. Like Trump’s tower today, the tower of babel was filled with division and distrust.
Israel was one of many nations conquered by the Romans. They all spoke different languages and, separated, they were powerless although they far outnumbered the conquerors. The miracle of the first day of Pentecost was that they all understood the message of the disciples and were moved to be baptized! The tower of Babel was replaced by the popular baptism before God! For the next forty days, the disciples would baptize many thousand people. They would confront the authorities and they would form the first community of resistance, preparing thousands to organize communities of faith and resistance when they returned to their homes in the many conquered nations of the empire. That is the miracle of Pentecost we celebrate today.
Is this just a story in an ancient book we read? Have not these Holy Scriptures, the story of the people of God, led us these last years as we persisted in our struggle? Are we not facing an empire which drew us here for decades and then determined that we were growing to be too many, too powerful, and so began the campaign to drive out millions? And has not the faith that Jesus taught and demonstrated with his life been the faith that gave us both courage and wisdom to persist – to resist – to remain here and grow each year in our numbers and our unity? And have we not witnessed the love and solidarity among us that has grown from resisting together?
Are we ready today to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Are we ready to seek out our people and make them see the truth – that this nation is murdering and crucifying those whom God has made innocent?
You may say that the eleven million that this government seeks to search out and remove are not Jesus, are not a son of God. Yet those who repent and are reconciled with God are the sons and daughters of God. I tell you that, as he sits now in detention, sacrificing for his people, Miguel Perez is now as innocent as Jesus! Those who refuse to be indifferent to the suffering of those around them, who ask God as we sang today, “Only I ask God,let me not be indifferent to their suffering”, those will receive the Holy Spirit in the weeks to come.
Miguel Perez endures the hardship of detention now for others like him who are being done such injustice. He has not lived the life of Jesus but I tell you that he and others who suffer for the people are given the perfection of Jesus. Their persecution is the persecution of innocence before the Lord.
Today we ask God to keep us from being indifferent to that suffering. We ask God to give us the courage to go out and tell the people to repent of indifference and be baptized in the name of God’s people who are so wrongly persecuted, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit.
The enemy we face; the government which stands against us, is more dangerous, more racist, more set against us then we have seen before. Yet it is brittle. It will break. If we stand strong in these next months and yes years, then what replaces Trump will be more just than that which preceded him.
The call of Pentecost, the miracle of Pentecost was not the end of the Roman Empire – it was the beginning of Kingdom communities that would spread everywhere, communities that would survive the Roman Empire. In the next weeks we will learn what the disciples learned about organizing these communities, the communities of faith, the communities of the Holy Spirit which we need in these times. Yes three thousand were baptized and thousands more in the days to come. Yet only some formed the communities of faith, the church of disciples, that would spread the movement and keep the fire alive among millions. In these weeks of Pentecost we seek that church among us, we seek the love that unites us and the truth that sets us free.
On this day, the disciples were given the authority and the power and the courage to speak the truth – to convict a nation of the crucifixion of the innocent. The disciples were just people like us. Yet they began a movement that changed the world – that planted the seeds of the Kingdom of God among the people of God. They spoke the truth of the crucifixion and brought the hope of the resurrection to the people. In the light of truth – and hope – the wicked become brittle and will soon break.
Last week, we put eight ministries before you – and asked you to pray on which you might choose. This week, we ask that you choose and sign up for one or more of these ministries. A church of disciples is a powerful thing, yet disciples must make others disciples, they must choose a ministry.
Remember that there had been twelve disciples – but Judas betrayed Jesus to the Romans and committed suicide, so now there were only eleven. The first thing they did was to choose a new twelfth disciple, then they were twelve again, complete in their unity, their willingness to sacrifice for each other, their ability to love each other and to share in all things equally. Who will be the twelfth disciple today? Who will complete us? Who will let the Spirit guide them? Is it you? Is it you? May the Holy Spirit rest upon each of you! Give us Faith. Give us Faith!
The Holy Scriptures for the First Week of Pentecost
Genesis 11:1-9 The Tower of Babel
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward they found a plain in Shina and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babebecause there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Acts 2: 1-12 The Holy Spirit Descends On Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
Acts 2: 36-41 Peter Addresses the Crowd
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.