Rev. George Miller
May 19, 2013
Monday I was flipping through the TV channels when I came across “Dancing with the Stars.” I’ve never watched the show, assuming it was all genteel, polite ballroom-style dancing. 1,2 step. 1,2 step.
Well, what I saw instead surprised me: Afro-Cuban dancing. It began with Alexandra Raisman and Mark Ballas on the stage in face-paint, headdresses and spears. Drums played as smoke filled the background.
And then…woosh! They’re pounding and twirling spears. They're stomping their feet. Whoosh! They jump off the stage onto the dance floor. They’re spinning; they’re windmilling their arms.
Whoosh! They are completely in the moment while using every bit of their body: hands, hair, butt, thighs, back, quads. Whoosh! They're doing handstands, rolling on the floor, leaping over each other, shaking what their momma done gave them.
The crowd went wild. The judges went wild, telling them “You were athletic, you were connecting…you have exceeded all expectations.”
I could not get this performance out of my head, so the next day I pulled the clip up on YouTube and watched it again with the same sense of “Wow!” and “Oh my goodness.”
Scrolling down to the comment section, the 1st statement said this: “I don’t know what that was, but I loved it!”
“I don’t know what that was, but I loved it!” also sums up today’s reading. Other thoughts are “What the...?” “Holy Cow!” “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy night.” And “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Today we just read about Pentecost, perhaps the most important event in the life of the early church. It’s the day God’s Holy Spirit broke in to our lives to do something new.
Not new as in “That’s nice” but new as in loud, forceful, unexpected. Strange beyond strange; beyond imagination.
We’re talking about an experience that could only be described by referencing rushing wind, divided tongues as of fire, people feeling bewildered, and wondering if everyone around them is drunk.
“What does this all mean?” the people ask after experiencing such an extravagant production. Or, in YouTube’s vernacular: “I don’t know what that was, but I loved it!”
Why? Because today’s reading reminds us that the same God who was with Moses and Miriam, Abraham and Sarah is the same God who raised Jesus from the grave.
Why? Because today’s reading reminds us that the birth of the church was a gift from God and the Holy Spirit gave us what we needed to proclaim and hear, to minister and empower.
“I don’t know what that was, but I loved it!” Why? Because today’s reading reminds us that God is transformational, God is full of vitality, and God is free.
God is free to act as God chooses. God is free to communicate as God pleases.
God is free to break into our world in ways we can not even begin to imagine or be prepared for.
A burning bush? Sure, why not. A giant, prophet-swallowing fish? Who’s to say? An empty tomb? Heck yeah.
God is free, God speaks, God communicates to us in so many ways. And if we are humble enough to hear the many ways, we too get to say “I don’t know what that was, but I loved it!”
Today’s author has God’s Holy Spirit jumping off the stage onto the world’s dance floor using wind, fire, and words and whoosh! - salvation is promised to all who call on the Lord.
Thinking ahead, it’s just not flames and wind that the Spirit uses to move and communicate with us today.
There’s music. Slow, meditative melodies to set the mood and center the soul. Upbeat, lively tunes to awaken the spirit.
The use of color, the various kinds of art. The spoken word which can make us laugh, cry, feel, and think. Words have begun revolutions and forever changed lives.
The use of food to welcome the stranger, to establish fellowship, to become a visible sign of grace.
The Holy Spirit moves through the minds of those who study, the hearts of those who do service, the hands of anyone who creates and builds.
Way after way after way in which the Holy Spirit breaks into our world, dances into our lives, twirling, stomping, leaping.
After an experience with the Holy Spirit we may find ourselves invigorated; we may find ourselves wiped out, we may find ourselves saying “I don’t know what that was, but I loved it!”
So here is our question for the week, perhaps the next month, perhaps the next year: how do we remember that God is unusual, amazing and free?
How do we not domesticate God to only fit into a set hour, a set style, a select list of possibilities, a pre-set notion of hows and whens and whys and why-nots?
Are there times in which God is quiet? Yes. Are there times when God is loud? Yes!
Is God gentle? Yes. Is God rough? Yes!
Is God orderly and civilized? Yes. Is God wild and untamed? Yes!
Can God ballroom dance and go 1,2 step, 1,2 step? Yes. Can God also break out and stomp and jump and twirl and windmill? You bet your sweet…
God is already free. From the very beginnings, when God’s Spirit moved across the waters of chaos and brought forth life, God was always free.
The Holy Spirit is athletic, connecting and always surprising us beyond our expectations, asking us to dance to ballroom, fox trot, and Afro-Cuban.
The challenge for us is to welcome that freedom, to let go and give in to it. To understand the same God who spoke to our ancestors, who entered into our lives as Emmanuel is the same God whose Holy Spirit gives us ears to hear and tongues to speak.
It is that Holy Spirit which gives assurance to all who believe, which gives us ability and talent beyond imagination.
And we are all that much better, and we are all that much more vital because of it.
Amen and amen.