Story One: Sinai
If you listen closely, you could hear the rumblings. And, no, not the rumblings on top of the mountain. The rumblings in the camp. The people of God were unhappy.
It had been a mere fifty days since the Passover, though it seemed much longer. The Israelites gathered in the camp and remembered those fifty days. God had rescued the people and delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians! The Egyptians handed them everything of value on the way out the door, their fine china and silver flatware. Then the chaos of the Red Sea, and the sprint through the mud, and then the silence on the other side. They were free.
But in those 50 days, everything went downhill in a hurry. The people had been used to city life, and weren’t much for camping. After all, what good is Egyptian silver going to do you in the wilderness with nothing to eat? If you listened closely, you could hear the rumblings…
- Moses got us out here…did he have a plan for what came next?
- Did you see those pigs over in Zebulon’s camp…pretty sure they hogged more than their fair share of the provisions!
- And the question began early…”I wonder if we’d been better back in Egypt…”
The fear and the anger of God’s people rumbled through the camp.
And then, on day 50, the power of God exploded! They looked up to the mountain and saw the lighting crash and the thunder shake the foundations of Sinai! They would later learn that at that moment, God was giving to Moses a new way to live, a new way to be God’s people. The giving of the law gave for the Israelites a new understanding of who they were and who they are to be. A way to trust one another, love one another, understand one another in the context of a giving and loving God. At that moment, God’s power exploded with lightning and thunder and power and grace. God came to be with them…in a new way.
And yet, there were still those who doubted. Those who wondered what it would take to build a shrine like the Egyptians, a golden calf who might promise virility and power and strength for themselves. Why bother worshipping God, why bother following Moses, when the old ways of fear and anger worked just fine.
Story Two: Pentecost
If you listen closely, you could hear the rumblings. No, not the festival throng outside with their gongs and clashing cymbals. The rumblings inside of the upper room. The people of God were unhappy.
It had been a mere fifty days since the Passover, though it seemed much longer. The disciples gathered in the upper room, after the ascension of Christ, and remembered the last fifty days. After that dark night, that meal, the arrest, the death on the cross, they had experienced such joy with the Resurrection of Christ! Those fifty days had been a whirlwind of activity, and chaos, of worship and joy.
But things started to go downhill quickly. After the ascension of Christ, the rumblings began. The disciples had been used to following Jesus…now what were they going to do? Outside of the upper room, the throng of pilgrims gathered for the Pentecost festival. “Matin Torah,” some called it, the giving of the Law. The streets were packed and loud. But inside, the grumblings were just as loud:
- Peter says he’s in charge, but you heard him deny Jesus, didn’t you?
- I am still not sure about this new guy Matthias…are we sure that he’s up for the job?
- And the question began early…”What are we going to do without Jesus?”
The fear and the anger of God’s people rumbled through the camp.
And then, on day 50, the power of God exploded! Just like the power of God on Sinai, the divine power and strength made itself known once again. Tongues of fire came down upon the disciples and their fear and anger was forgotten. They poured out of the room and starting preaching to the throngs of pilgrims. Every one, each from their own land, heard the Good News of hope in their own tongue. They were amazed that backwards fishermen and some guy’s kid brother stood in their midst, preaching as if they were trained rhetoricians, experts in languages not their own! They saw the power of God, they heard the story of God, and they believed!
And yet, there were still some who doubted. “These men are drunk. They don’t know what they are saying.” The ways of fear and doubt and anger and division are deep, and some return to them like a warm blanket, cuddled in their resentment and rage.
Story Three: Lawrence
If you listen closely, you can hear the rumblings. The ways of fear and anger did not die in that generation, or any since, and are still with us. The people of God sit each in their own upper rooms, each in their own camps. And they grumble against each other.
- Did you see what the pastors of that evangelical group put out the other day? How can they call themselves Christian?
- There go those crazy liberals again! I wonder if they even know where their Bible is!
- That huge church makes me sick…they think they are so great, are so big you don’t even know everyone!
- Can you believe that tiny church is still meeting…why don’t they just close their doors?
- I’ve never been, but I hear that church has rock music and a smoke machine…I mean, that’s not even worship, that’s a high school musical!
- Why can’t they figure out that no one wants to hear organ music or sing out of a hymnal anymore…they are so out of touch.
- I saw their name in the paper, listed in the “vote yes” ad…that’s it! I’ve lost all respect for them.
- Can you believe they had a vote no sign in their yard…they must not be real Christians.
We are splintered by our differences. In many ways, we are just as splintered as the people of God at the foot of the mountain or the terrified disciples in the upper room.
But here is the good news, Church! God is still doing new things! The power of God is still exploding, even in the streets of our town, and the pews of our churches. Fifty days after Easter, God is still resurrecting us from our brokenness and our splinteredness. We are doing ministry together, in Family Promise and LINK and Habitat and Vacation Bible School and Holy Week worship. God is uniting us, even as our fear and anger threatens to divide us. God is calling together God’s people to speak to one another, to listen to one another. To understand that even though the languages that we speak are different, God speaks through each of us in powerful and meaningful ways. Even the backwater fishermen and some guy’s kid brother. If we are willing to set aside the fear and anger and things that divide us, then the Spirit of God will teach us a new way of being, a new way of living…together.
Now, there will still be those who scoff, who doubt, who see our splintering and assume that the ways of Jesus are broken or disfiguring or weak. But oh, for a Peter to stand up in our midst and proclaim, “these are not drunk, as you presume!” There is something powerful happening among the people of God.