The famous southern preacher Tom Long tells of leading a church retreat. As everyone boarded buses for the retreat center several hours away, a rough man with tattoo-covered arms, sat down beside him, saying: “I’m Mike. Glad to meet you. Have you given your life to Jesus?”
Long thought: “This’ll be the bus ride from hell.” But Long’s seatmate was actually a heavenly companion – who kept on talking: “I gave my life to Jesus when I was in prison. Jesus set me free – when I was locked up. Jesus forgave me and taught me that I don’t have to hate anybody. My daddy taught me to hate everyone who isn’t white. And I did. I was full of hate, drugs, and violence. But Jesus saved me. I got clean. I found peace. Now I don’t hate anyone. I didn’t know how full my heart could be until I learned how to love. My daddy never taught me that, but my heavenly Father did. I just can’t stop talking about Jesus and all that he’s done for me.”
All Tom Long could say was: “Mike, you should be leading this retreat – not me.” Tom and Mike have been good friends ever since.
When I dream about how I’d save the world, I think about what I’d do if I won the Power Ball. I would give to this cause and agency, that person and problem. But God had a far better plan.
After human nature proved too weak and divine law too tough for us to set things right, Jesus did. Jesus took on our nature and fulfilled the law. From Bethlehem to Calvary, Jesus made the way for us to be reconciled to God. Sin forgiven; evil defeated; humanity redeemed. Then God kicked off Plan Be. God said: “I don’t want you to just belong to me. I want you and me to be one. So, I’m gonna give my Spirit, my guiding essence and energy, presence and power, to you all. One Spirit operating in many bodies. Not to stamp out individuality, but to fulfill it. Not to kill diversity, but to complement it. Not to create a hive mind, but a heavenly body of earthly creatures fully alive in Christ; fully aligned with my will; all animated by my Spirit of love, justice, and peace.”
The day it began was and is Pentecost. The movement it started was and is the church. Plan Be: Be salt, light, and bread for a world that is tasteless, dark, and hungry.
When you share your unique gifts to bless, heal, and love, Pentecost happens. As we break bread, baptize, make disciples, and proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ, we are the church. When you welcome strangers, forgive offenders, and bless sufferers, you are the earthly embodiment of God’s heavenly kingdom.
You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to save the world. Jesus already has. Just do what you can where you are as you are able as the Lord leads you. Love God and love your neighbor – all neighbors; everyone – with energy, imagination, intelligence, and love. As you do, you will fulfill your baptismal calling to belong to Jesus and to live for him. That’s sometimes hard, but it’s always good. Open your heart and let the Holy Spirit move within you. Make room for Jesus and he will make his home within you. Give it a try and see what happens. Let God’s blessings flow. Let Pentecost happen today in and through you.