Regathering from Every Nation Under Heaven
Beloved in Christ,
This past Sunday, many of our faith communities gathered in person for the first time in more than a year to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. As I celebrated in Litchfield and Morton, I couldn’t help thinking it was the perfect day for a re-gathering, because that’s exactly what the first Pentecost was all about, according to the story in Acts 2.
“Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven” gathered for the festival in Jerusalem. A wonderful spread of languages and cultures had come together to celebrate, and as the apostles preached, everyone began to hear in their own native language. The miracle of Pentecost is a miracle of connection and unity across difference. But make no mistake: this is not a cheap unity that erases difference and imposes uniformity, it is a unity that embraces and celebrates difference as a gift. It wasn't that everyone was speaking the same language; it was that everyone was intelligible to one another across and through all the difference.
The plains and prairies of the Midwest—where I have spent most of my life and which are my heart’s home—are beautiful and vital precisely because they are staggeringly diverse. The hundreds upon hundreds of plant and animal species depend on one another to be who they are most fully created to be. The same is true in human communities. The differences between and among us are gifts, and the unity we are called into is a gift from God that we simply receive, without the need to enforce uniformity.
The year that has passed since the killing of George Floyd has reminded us over and over of just how deep racism and injustice run through our society. We are wired in the depths of our being, in ways that don’t even come close to the surface of our consciousness, to fear difference and work to erase it in favor of a false uniformity. Pentecost is God’s great regathering, and a reminder of the fact that the Spirit’s work in the world is always regathering that which has been scattered, repairing that which has been fractured, and binding up that which has been broken. To be Spirit-soaked disciples of Jesus after Pentecost means joining our lives to the Spirit’s work of regathering, repairing, and healing. That work will require all of who we are, for the rest of each of our lives. It is work that never ends, and the great good news is that work, with this Spirit we have been given, is the only thing that will finally, fully, set all of us free, for love, for peace, and for heaven’s perfect joy.
Grace and Peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya
Episcopal Church in MN