What Are We Waiting For?

What Are We Waiting For?

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Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton is the pastor of Saugatuck Congregational Church of Westport, CT.


Scripture:  Acts 2:1-4 (NRSV)

When the day of Pentecost had come, 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 Spirit gave them ability.

Reflection: What Are We Waiting For?

They were all together in one place… Remember when that was still possible? When we could gather not just 2 or 3, but 20 or 30 - even 200 or 300 - in one place? Now, we are all together on Zoom, or on Facebook Live. Now, only close family members and essential workers are together in one place.

If you have been sheltering with others, you might just relate to Jesus’ followers, who appear to have been crammed into a room together, somewhere in Jerusalem, waiting for they-weren’t-sure-what, because the risen Christ had told them to wait…

If you are living alone, that kind of hanging out in close quarters may sound appealing. But if you have spent the last two months sharing just a few rooms - maybe even a single bathroom - with several family members, you may be feeling the disciples’ pain.

Plus, we’ve all been waiting in one way or another: Waiting for the news to improve. For the stimulus check to arrive. For the loan to be approved or the debt to be forgiven. For the virus to run its course. For the future to get less foggy. For restrictions to lift. For permission to gather - to grieve the dead, comfort the living and reclaim our everyday routines.

It makes me wonder what the disciples may have been thinking about, while they waited. From where I sit, here in the middle of this slowly unfolding Covid-19 pandemic, I can’t help but wonder whether they were hoping for a return to normal. They had already been stretched to the limit. They had left their homes, followed an inspirational teacher, witnessed miracles, and been swept up in a vision. Then they’d watched it all erode, as that teacher was arrested, beaten and brutally executed by the empire. Yes, the risen Christ had appeared and assured them that death hadn’t had the final say, but he had been remarkably vague about what it all meant for the disciples, aside from a mandate to be his ‘witnesses…to the ends of the earth.’

Given our tendency to imagine the future as an extension of our past, I wonder whether the disciples may just have assumed that they could do whatever it was the Holy Spirit was going to empower them to do, in-between fishing and mending their old nets. Might they have been asking, “When will this Holy Spirit show up, so we can get back to living our lives?”

Then the Holy Spirit did show up, and it became instantly clear that there was no going back. Instead, an entirely new course was laid out before them, a holy summons to speak to people they’d never before addressed, in languages they didn’t know they could speak, about wonders they barely grasped themselves. So that was that. No going back, after all. Only forward into an uncertain future, a blank calendar in one hand, and a Holy Spirit flame to light the way.

It must have been terrifying. And also exhilarating. And somewhere in there, it may well have dawned on the disciples that embracing God’s world-mending project required a brand new script.  Because ‘normal’ for them never had been normal, as far as God was concerned. Those ‘normal’ lives favored some bodies over other bodies, empowered some communities and disenfranchised others, and claimed that violence is redemptive. The disciples had been accustomed to living in a world distorted by sin and suffering.

So have we. Then along came a devastating virus, disrupting all our routines. So what if this is what we were waiting for? Not the virus itself, but the way it has exposed racial injustice and environmental destruction. What if this is our Pentecost moment, an opportunity to grab that Holy-Spirit-wind by the coat tails and let it lead us into a future that is radically different from our past? A future more just, more gentle, more fiercely loving, more antiracist and pro-creation, more interconnected… more whole?

PRAYER

Come, Holy Spirit: In-spire us with courage, spark our creativity and blow us into the transformed future for which God has been waiting and working all along.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at paged@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For those grieving for the nearly 100,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
  • For those who died serving this coutry in the armed forces

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For the small pleasures we can take during a time of isolation and quarantine

Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:

First Congregational Church of Greenwich, Old Greenwich, CT
First Congregational Church, UCC, Norwood, MA
First Congregational Church of Norwich, Norwich, CT
Park Congregational Church, Norwich, CT
UCC Congregational Church of Norwell, Norwell, MA
First Congregational Church of Norwalk, Inc., Norwalk, CT
Hungarian Reformed Church, Norwalk, CT
Miracle Temple Church of God in Christ of Norwalk, Inc, Norwalk, CT
United Church of Rowayton, Norwalk, CT
United Congregational Church of Norwalk, Norwalk, CT
Trinitarian Congregational Church UCC, Norton, MA
Northford Congregational Church UCC, Northford, CT

This Week in History:

May 26, 1830  (190 years ago) President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the government the power to negotiate removal treaties with Native American tribes in order to provide land for white farmers. But the law was used as justification to forcibly remove tribes from their lands, often using deadly force or relocating tribes over thousands of miles on foot with little supplies. This forced march became the "Trail of Tears," a journey that saw thousands of Native Americans die of starvation and sickness. Where once over 120,000 Native Americans lives in the southeastern states, almost none remained by 1840.

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Confucius

alisonbuttrickpatton.jpg
Alison J. Buttrick Patton

pastor of Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC in Westport

May 25, 2020
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