Embroiled in the strange games we play as human beings disables our best thinking, it makes us think we can fix things, and it drives us into the darkest corners of our beings. When we experience this deep darkness we often desperately run around the room looking for the nearest light switch to fix our problems. We don’t find the lights though because we have withdrawn so deeply into the recesses of our minds that our reptilian brain cannot reason where the light switch might likely be. Sometimes it is better to withdraw from amidst the crowds to be in our own space in the dark.
Over the last week I have been participating in the United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon. This legislative body draws together the world’s United Methodists from countries like Bulgaria, Zimbabwe, Liberia, the Philippines, Russia, Austria, Kenya, Angola, and the United States. There are 8 million United Methodists worldwide and over 2 weeks every 4 years we gather to legislate our future. Pastors and church people from around this globe gather in hopes of celebrating our achievements through the love of Jesus Christ, and to seek our future together.
It sounds like a great idea, except it can be awful when your worst fears are realized. This is especially true when there is a realization that bitter disagreement causes people to be the worst versions of themselves. I have seen conservative and progressive, I have seen myself and my friends be both amazing witnesses of the faith this week and the most pitiful versions of humanity. We have spoken to the love God made true in the world and schemed to shift for our own ends. Notice I say we because I believe whole heartedly after this experience, and more than ever that we all make previous errors to harm others even when our intentions appear noble to us in the moment. We screw up and we make errors.
On Pentecost we always focus on Acts 2, but today let me guide us to the story just before. Acts 1 ends on the election of Matthias. The Disciples have been through a lot of amazing experiences between Easter and Pentecost. They have witnessed the resurrection and the accession. Those are not small events, those are life changing events of transformation. Resurrection and Ascension could be described as experiences of God’s power and grace that would change any life. What do the disciples do next…they move to an election. AN ELECTION!!!
God had something different in mind.
After the election they stayed hidden in there place, they were not going to go out of their place. They were AWAY hiding in an upper room and hope Jesus would return soon. They begin hiding in the only place they felt like they had any power left to control and they held an election to make sure their numbers were the same number of people Jesus called into leadership. Honestly, I think the Gospel writer was hoping to make a point here. The number of people called in Acts to the disciples path were exponential and one election did not make the difference.
The story goes that suddenly God’s Holy Spirt filled the room. Mind you this was after the election, that was totally a human process. The Holy Spirit fell upon each of their heads and they began to speak languages of all the nations. Then they went out and shared this Good News of God’s Prevailing Love with all people and I promise you they put no stipulations on who those people were. Whenever they did put stipulations on love they were stifled by the Holy Spirit. We as Christians claim the entirety of Paul’s letters as an example of that stifling of restrictions by the Spirit.
Several years ago I was busy rushing to get ready to leave the house, caught up in my own human processes I was grabbing all the things I needed and doing each of the things I needed to do including turning out the lights. Suddenly it was completely dark and I couldn’t do anything. Then from the darkness came a small voice, “light?” My 2 year old daughter at the time was asking the right question for the moment. My hurry had done everything that needed to get done, but it put us in the dark.
The disciples hurry to elect and work has put them in the dark. Locked in a room and God wants nothing to do with that. God sends the light, the fire to fall upon them all. Then God’s light brought to them a moment that pulled them out of the reptilian controlling part of their brain into their frontal lobe. If you don’t know the frontal lobe of our brain is where our compassion, love and empathy comes from. It is also where our speech comes from. God pulled the disciples out of a moment of escaping into the most primal of instincts into a developed moment of sharing languages of love with so many others they could not count. From electing one to nominating by the thousands and empowering thousands to share the love we learned from our Messiah, Jesus.
This morning I got a text amidst the craziness of this week. It was from a friend who was teaching Sunday school at the church I serve. It was from our Sunday school kids and it was what they celebrated about the birthday of the church, why they love the church.
They are kid answers, but I want you to notice something they have their voices about why they love the church. Overall they know they are valued and welcomed to be a part of the love of God shared with us in Christ. And I was reminded the elections aren’t going to bring their voices to the front…we will bring their voices to the front by empowering them to speak God’s word of love.
As we turn into the final week of General conference I pray that we do not run around in horridness looking for a light switch. Instead I hope we seek the willingness to recognize the need for us to trust that we Go Away to hide in the place we feel we have power, that God’s Spirit will overwhelm us with the Holy Spirit and help us speak languages of deep love, empathy, and respect for all. Finally, that we trust that God empowers us not to cast lots on a ballot for one, but to deeply transform the world by lifting up voices to declare how God’s love transforms lives and moves mountains. The world is saying “light?” and we need to let God light our minds, so we can share in many voices God’s love for the world. We can try to go AWAY, but God won’t let us.