Two of these things go together in the news right now and in our anxious hearts. We all know about the Pandemic and we are seeing the anger spill into the streets of our cities because of the disparity between blacks and whites and the Privilege that some of us own.
But what does Pentecost have to do with Pandemic and Privilege?
Sunday was Pentecost Sunday when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit. The story starts with setting the stage, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1) Where was this “one place”? I think is has to be the upper room. When Jesus was preparing to eat his last Passover meal, he sent two disciples to find an upper room in Jerusalem. (Mark 14:12-15) This is likely the same room where the disciples hid in fear after the crucifixion. “On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,” (John 20:19)
This is the room, the place of hiding, the place where they locked themselves in because they were afraid. This is the room that the Holy Spirit invades.
So how have I locked myself in during this Pandemic?
I have isolated myself and I feel proud of that. I am doing the right thing. After all, I have been told that it is my duty to isolate. It is a good thing that we are all doing these days. But with my isolation comes a peculiar feeling of disconnection with those who suffer. I see them on my screens but I don’t have to talk to them or watch them struggle. I can turn the channel.
How have I locked myself in because of my Privilege?
I cash the check. Like many of you we received a stimulus check a while back. It was appreciated but I can’t say that it was crucial to our needs like it was to many others. I look at my privilege like that stimulus check. I have received the benefit of being white, of being male, of having been raised in a loving two-parent home, of not ever having to go hungry. I did nothing to earn these benefits, I simply cash my privilege check. My privilege locks my brain in a room with others like me. In this room we tell each other the lie that we deserve these benefits and that others don’t have them because they are not as worthy.
Remember what the disciples said when Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54) I’m thinking that some of their privileged feeling was still present in the upper room, with the doors again locked, while they prayed and waited for the Holy Spirit. Lord, those people, who rejected and killed you, don’t deserve what we have. Bring us your Holy Spirit so that we can be all the more blessed.
But the Holy Spirit comes with God’s agenda, not ours.
Look back to that locked room. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (John 20:19-23)
When the Spirit of Jesus enters our locked Pandemic / Privilege rooms he does three things. He brings peace. He sends us out. He equips us with the message of forgiveness.
Come Holy Spirit.