Based on Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-17
Don Everts, in a book entitled, “The Hopeful Neighborhood: What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good”, relates the following true story. “…In 2017 Rebekah Morris was teaching English and journalism at Cross Keys High School, a public high school in Atlanta. Noticing that her students had really important, insightful things to say about their community, Rebekah created a group assignment for her ninth-grade students to research and write about how to pursue the common good in their community. Even though most of these students had only fifth- and sixth-grade reading levels, they wound up compiling a list of powerful insights, knowledge, and observations. They were, it turned out, experts on their own neighborhood. Because their neighborhood is mostly composed of a series of apartments along Buford Highway on the north side of Atlanta, many of their insights centered on how to promote the well-being of those living in the apartments. The final class assignment was to present their ideas to the city council, mayor, community members, and stakeholders. And they did just that, presenting practical, wise ideas for improving affordable housing, pedestrian walkways, and more….”
Healthy and vibrant communities are comprised of people of all ages and walks of life. They come together to live, work, play and pray, in ways that are generative, good for all concerned and in many ways miraculous. This is what the earliest community in Christianity looked like. Ten days after the Ascension of the Christ, the Church of Jesus the Christ was formed by the outpouring of Holy Spirit power on the Apostles and on the crowd who heard them speaking. Everyone heard what was said in their own language and through this miracle of connecting power, a new community was inaugurated that has lasted for almost 2000 years.
Our scriptures this day speak to us about how God miraculously creates community through the power of God’s Almighty love. The Psalmist and the author of the Gospel of John both point to the enlivening power of God’s spirit. The writer of the letter to the Ephesians tells us that when we are led by the Spirit then we are children of God who are heirs to God’s kingdom. Finally, the writer of Acts gives us a view of the Pentecost miracle that resulted in the birth of the community which became the Church of Jesus the Christ. Before we go farther, let us go to God with thanksgiving for the continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit…
The Psalmist, along with the writers of the Gospel of John and the Epistle to the Ephesians all speak of the enlivening power of God’s Holy Spirit. The Psalmist sings, “…When you send forth your spirit all [they] are created; and you renew the face of the ground….” John says that when God’s grace provides the Advocate to us – that spirit of truth abides with us forever. Paul’s letter to the Ephesian believers tells them (and us) that when we follow the Spirit of God, then we are adopted into the family of God as joint heirs with the Christ in the kingdom. This is miraculous community indeed!
The Book of Acts of the Apostles describes how the Church of Jesus the Christ was miraculously formed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Disciples were gathered together in the Temple along with believers from all over that part of the world. The text details 15 different groups of people who were believers in God who had come to Jerusalem for the festival. While the Disciples were speaking in Aramaic (their native tongue) those gathered heard them speaking each in their own language. Barriers of lack of understanding were torn down through God’s love – and people thought that everyone was inebriated, though it was early in the morning. The gathered were amazed and perplexed, but they were also miraculously formed into community.
The power of God’s Holy Spirit brought together disparate people that first Pentecost. Peter preached his first sermon, and everyone understood him – and about 3000 people were baptized. This was not Peter’s doing – it was God’s doing. God’s Holy Spirit continues to work within and among us today – right here in Madison County. Miraculous community continues to be made when we put away our egotistic, divisive and uncompromising ways and seek to enlist people in making the community function better. Let’s return to those 9th graders to hear more about their miraculous community formation.
The 9th Graders made their presentation, and it was a success. “…Their ideas were so spot-on that their presentation drew the attention of the local press: these ninth graders made people rethink what gifts were already planted all along Buford Highway. Rebekah and the students were so encouraged and empowered that they formed a club to keep the project going even after the class ended. Soon they were holding dinners in apartments to tap into the gifts and insights of those living in the various apartment complexes.
Neighbors shared their wisdom, leadership gifts began to blossom, residents got more connected to local agencies and government offices. As tangible improvements to the neighborhood mounted, an association, Los Vecinos (The Neighbors), was born and is now active in more than twenty apartment complexes. Rebekah and her students (and now hundreds of people living in their community) were simply doing what Genesis and Peter tell us we’re created and called to do: use every gift that God has given us and our neighbors. By tapping into the gifts God had already placed in the neighborhood the common good along Buford Highway has improved….”
By tapping into the gifts God had already placed in the neighborhood for the common good – enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, miraculous things were accomplished. People came together for the common good and became engaged in what could happen if they all worked together. These types of programs are happening all across the U.S. even as we sit here today. There are groups known as “Weavers” who are part of a larger collective known as “Weave – The Social Fabric Project”. (You can find them at “weareweavers.org”) This project was created by New York Times columnist and recent convert to Christianity, David Brooks. Their organization “…supports those who have found a more connected way to live. Weave explores what it means to weave in our schools, our workplaces and every other part of life. Weave’s mission is to invite everyone to start living like a Weaver and shift our culture from one that values achievement and individual success to one that finds value in deep relationships and community success….”
Deepening relationships for community success sounds like the very first Christian community, doesn’t it? What would happen if we all found ways to speak to one another so that we all could hear and understand in our own language? To work together, using our God-given gifts for the common good? Our world would look more like it did in Jerusalem on that Pentecost so long ago. Nothing is impossible for God – let us trust God to continue to form miraculous communities and use our gifts and wisdom for the common good. Amen and amen!