And now in the name of our loving, liberating, and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good morning. It is a particular joy to be with you this morning, to be able to be here at the Washington National Cathedral. I thank Bishop Budde and Dean Hollerith, and all of the clergy and the staff, and the congregation, the musician, the acolytes, and all of us who gather because of the miracle of technology that makes it possible for the spirit to reach us near and far away. Like many of you, this has been my church while I was at home, and I would watch and worship and pray with you here. And I would sneak around the church, and make Presiding Bishop visits here and there, but I would never tell them that I was coming. It has been a blessing and a privilege to continue to worship God, even in the time of pandemic. And I count it a blessing and a privilege to be here this day, allow me to offer a text. It’s Pentecost Sunday, the day of Pentecost from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter One, before Pentecost happened, Jesus said to his disciples, “You will receive power. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, to the ends of the earth.” In first century Palestine, and in the 21st century world of a global pandemic, you will receive power and you will be my witnesses.

Professor Judy Fentress-Williams of Virginia Seminary and her wonderful commentary on the Bible, which I’ve started reading through as part of my personal devotion; it’s remarkable. I sort of fast forward, because it goes from Genesis to Revelation, but I fast forwarded to the Acts of the Apostles and the day of Pentecost when I was working on this message. And that came these words from Professor Fentress-Williams, “The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s ongoing presence and power. And the book of Acts offers an account of how the Spirit empowers and supports this newly birthed revolutionary movement.” Pentecost is about a revolution. It is not about mere moral reform. It is not about tinkering at the edges. It is about transforming an old order into a new order, but do not despair. I know the evidence is not in yet. Looks like the old order is still around, but do not despair. I remember when I was in college, Gil Scott-Heron said it this way, “The revolution will not be televised.” It will not always be obvious for eyes to see, but it is real. There is a revolution; a Jesus movement revolution; a revolution of love, a love revolution of compassion and goodness and justice and right, and human decency and kindness. Oh, there is a revolution. And Pentecost is about the birth of that revolution, to transform this world and creation from the nightmare it often is. Into the dream that God has intended. Since God said, “Let there be anything.” But Jesus told his disciples, there’s going to be a revolution before they could see it. And maybe before they can believe it. But he said, “Don’t worry about that now. The revolution will not be televised, but you will receive power. Power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. And to the end of time, you will be my witnesses because the Spirit is going to give birth to a revolution.” And Lord knows, we need a revolution.

When I was a little boy, I’d grown up in Saint Philip’s Church in Buffalo, New York, I remember being in Sunday school, probably maybe second or third grade, and we had a wonderful, she was really a remarkable Sunday school teacher who could tell Bible stories and hold second and third graders’ attention. And I’ll tell you one that I remember. I remember the day of Pentecost; in the old prayer book it was Whit Sunday. But I remember it’s the day of Pentecost, or we were near it, and she brought a cake to class. And it was a birthday cake and she had candles on it. And so, we got to light the candles, and then we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Church, because Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. And you know, that was a good teaching, that at age 68, I still remember that. But it’s occurred to me that that’s only the beginning. Pentecost is about something more. That’s where Professor Fentress-Williams is right. Pentecost is about the birth of a revolutionary movement. A Jesus movement; a movement of people whose lives were centered on this Jesus of Nazareth, and his teachings, his example, his spirit, to the point that his way of love becomes their way of life. And when that happens, there’s going to be a revolution.

I’ve realized that when I went back to the text. Take a look at Acts, Chapter Two, and then Luke, Chapter One. Remember that Luke is part one and the Acts of the Apostles is part two. Both written by Luke, by the same person. And in Luke, Chapter One, you have the story of an angel visiting a young woman named Mary. And the angel said, “You’re going have a baby, Mary, and his name’s going to be Jesus. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be a world changer.” Mary responded, “How can this be? I’m a virgin, I’m a young woman. How is this possible?” And the angel said, “Don’t worry about that, Mary, the revolution will not be televised. The Holy Spirit will overshadow you.” Then fast forward now to the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter Two, it says on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, that the followers of Jesus had gathered sort of in that upper room. And the Spirit came with wind and, and fire, and all sorts of Lord knows what. It was like the world was being created. Like it was a big bang! Because a new world was coming into being. And they began to speak, and they began to tell the good news about Jesus. They began to tell God’s glorious deeds in the life of this Jesus of Nazareth. And folk from all over the Greco Roman world surrounding, if you will, Jerusalem, they were there for the feast, for the Pilgrim feast, and they spoke different languages, but everybody heard! And everybody understood! And like Mary, they asked, “How is this possible? We don’t speak the same language. We’re different people. We’re different ethnic group, different variations on religious traditions. Maybe even different political parties. Maybe even different nationalities. Maybe even every different set you can think. How is it possible that we all hear?” And once again, the same Holy Spirit that burst Jesus in the life of Mary so that she would give birth, the same Jesus was now born, if you will, by Spirit in their midst.

I figured this out. Or better yet, I didn’t figure it out; Phillips Brooks figured this out for me. Phillips Brooks, a great bishop and preacher, probably one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity in America, and certainly in our church history. But he wrote a poem, that hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem / How still we see thee lie?” Well, if you look at one of the verses, listen to the one of the verses, “O holy Child of Bethlehem / Descend to us, we pray / Cast out our sin.” Cast out our selfishness! Cast out our self-centeredness! Cast out our egocentricity! Cast out our power politics! Cast out our greed! Cast out our indifferent! Cast out our injustice! Cast out our bigotry! Cast out our prejudice! “Cast out our sin and enter in / Be born in us today.”

On Pentecost day, the Spirit gave birth to Jesus in the lives of human beings. And they were changed. And they, in time, changed the world. Because when this Jesus is born in us, when Christmas happens in Michael Curry, when Christmas happens in you, then Pentecost, stay with me now, I want you to know, I went to seminary. Pentecost becomes the extension of the incarnation. I think I’m on solid theological ground there. That when that happens, when that happens, a new world is coming into being. A new reality. Because the Jesus who is born, is the Jesus who said, “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The Jesus who is born in us, is the Jesus who said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because they love somebody.” Because they just tried to do right. The Jesus who is born in us, is the Jesus who said, “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who despitefully use.” The Jesus born in us, is the one who said, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” The Jesus born in us, is the one who said, “As you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you have done it unto me. Love the Lord, your God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself.” When that Jesus is born in us, and in our communities, and in our world, there’s going to be a revolution.

That’s what happened on that first Pentecost. There were folk from all around. Parthians and Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya, Cyrene, Rome, Jews, and Proselytes, Cretans, and Arabians. All of them suddenly became more than themselves, as individual collections of self-interest. Suddenly a new community got born! Suddenly a new family got born! But it was more than that. The walls that divided the differences that hurt, the walls came down like the walls of Jericho when Joshua fought the battle. And if you read this story, oh, if you read this story, it is utterly remarkable that when this Jesus became the center of their lives, when the Spirit gave birth to Jesus, the life of Jesus in their lives, his way of love became their way of life. And the Acts of the Apostles said they made poverty history. Acts, Chapter Four says there was not a needy person among them, because they shared everything they had. My sisters, my brothers, my siblings, if we would share in our country and our communities, if we would share in our world, then no child would go to bed hungry. Jesus was right. In their time they set folk free. Paul and Cyrus preaching in Philippi, saw this woman who was a slave. And they ministered in her life and set her free. Any time they became more than individual collections of self-interest, they became something resembling God’s beloved community. Human family of God. To the point that the apostle Paul would write of them. Listen to this. This is before the Emancipation Proclamation. This is before civil rights legislation. It’s before voting rights. This is before the Magna Carta. This is before the French Revolution. This is before all of our advances. This is before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Before all of that, Paul would write of these people who were birthed by the presence of Jesus in their lives. He says, “All who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male nor female; there is no longer Jew or Gentile.” They became more than they could have ever become on their own. They became God’s beloved community, the human family of God. But there’s more than that. Paul says in Romans, Eight, that the whole creation yearns and groans for the revealing of the children of God, that God’s world might be God’s world. That the entire world, all of us, all of God’s children that we might become God’s human family, God’s family of humanity and all creation. And my friends, when that happens, it’s a revolution.

I was probably thirteen, or excuse me, sixteen, seventeen. I was getting ready to go off to college. I was in the car with my daddy, and he said something to me that he had said to us growing up. He said, “When you get to college, you treat every girl the way you want somebody else to treat your sister.” I remember thinking, “Man, you have just ruined all the dreams I had for college.” But I knew what he meant. He said, “Treat every girl the way you want somebody else to treat your own sister. Because that girl is your sister. Treat every boy the way you want somebody else to treat your brother. Because he is your brother. Treat every woman like she’s your mother, because she is. Treat every man like he’s your father, because he is. Treat them like you want your own family to be treated, because they are your family. Show them the same love, honor, care, dignity, and respect that you would want for your own. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” This is not rocket science, but it is world changing. He said, “If we did that, if we did that, then every child would have access to quality education. If we did that, then there would be justice and equality for everybody in this land and around the world. If we did that, we would learn how to lay down our swords and shield down by the riverside.” Study war no more. We need a revolution.

I was supposed to be here last year for Pentecost and was going to preach. It still wasn’t appropriate for me to travel yet. And so I did a sermon from my home in Raleigh. I had composed a wonderful sermon. I don’t remember what it was about, because I never preached it. Because in the time that I basically composed it, and the time that the day of Pentecost came all the same week, we saw George Floyd murdered before our eyes. And I couldn’t preach the same sermon. And I remembered talking with Bishop Budde and Dean Hollerith on the phone, trying to figure out what to do. Pentecost, in the time of a pandemic, in a world where a man is murdered, doesn’t just change a sermon. It demands change of who we are, and of the world. And then coming here this week, Pentecost again, we learned of the killing of Ronald Greene in Louisiana, in which his family was lied to by officials of the government. They were told that he died in an accident. He didn’t die in a car accident. He was in the hands of law enforcement and fortunately, somebody leaked the tapes. And so here we are, Pentecost again. Let no one tell you we don’t need a revolution. The old ways are not working. They do not work. We need a revolution. A Jesus movement revolution. A revolution of the spirit and of love. But be not dismayed. I’m coming to, I’m concluding something. “But be not dismayed,” like the old song says. “Whate’er betide. God will take care.” If we heed this Jesus, his way of love, which is bigger than any religion, let me be clear. This way of love, the way of love is ecumenical and interfaith. It is not the province of anybody, right? Because my Bible says, I believe it says in First John, Chapter Four, “Our beloved, let us love one another. Because love is of God; and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love, do not know God. Why? Because God is love.” Love is ecumenical. Love is interfaith. Love is bipartisan. Love is multiethnic. Love embraces and includes us all. Because the source and the origin of love is not any of us. The source and the origin of love is God. And when we live in love, we live in God. And the God who created this world the first time can make a new creation.

Let me bring this to a conclusion. Few years ago, I was listening to public radio on a Sunday afternoon, probably in the summer. I suspect I was on vacation. And there came a broadcast about a man named Norman Gershman, who had recently published a photographic essay, and published a documentary on the Muslims of Albania. The title of the documentary film was “God’s House.” God’s house. God’s world. In the documentary and in the film, he told of the small community of Muslims in Albania during the second World War. You may recall that during that time, Europe was engulfed in darkness. As armies of the Third Reich marched through Sudetenland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Belgium, France, eventually all of Europe, save England alone. As Nazi armies advanced toward the small country of Albania, messages were sent by couriers to the Albanian foreign ministry. “You are to identify all Jews living in Albania, provide their addresses, and any contact information.” So happened that the foreign minister of Albania was a Muslim, a member of this small community. And in the spirit of Harriet Tubman, he organized an underground railroad, if you will. And he sent out word to the small, I want you all to hear me, to the small Muslim community in Albania. A word that said, “The Jewish people are to be your people. They must live in your homes. They must sleep in your beds. They must eat at your tables. You are to treat them as members of your own family, for that is who they are.” And the Muslim community of Albania saved two thousand Jews from the Holocaust.

My sisters, my brothers, my siblings. This is a revolution. A revolution of love; a revolution of goodness; a revolution of kindness; a revolution of compassion; a revolution that happens when the Spirit gives birth to Jesus in our lives. There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place. And I know it is the Spirit of the Lord. Sweet Holy Spirit, sweet heavenly dove. Stay right here with us, filling us with your love. And for these blessings, we lift our hearts and praise. Without a doubt, we’ll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place. God love you. God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

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