In his poem, “Harlem,” Langston Hughes asked, “what is a dream deferred?” He offers some unsettling answers and concludes that a dream deferred is a dream that ultimately explodes.
Pentecost, celebrated yesterday throughout Christianity, also exposes us to explosiveness. It is about newness: new ways of existing, new communities of faith, new ways of relating to God, all exploding in our midst in order to equip us to live as Jesus taught us to live.
In Pentecost we experience the opposite of anchored structures and systems of power, power that polices with tear-gas or drives toward helpless people with squad cars.
In Pentecost we move beyond the limited thinking that has arrested our minds and spirits, thinking that barricades the love of God. In Pentecost we imagine a world beyond arrests.
In Pentecost the Spirit comes in us and through us, empowering us. Pentecost eliminates helplessness and suffocation.
In Pentecost, the church receives the Holy Spirit, an inward burning fire that sustains our faith and helps us know what is holy.
In Pentecost, we must “hold our feet to the fire” because when we look away from fire we become lost, disillusioned, deflated, and stuck.
Our world is gasping for air. From the environment to the pandemic to black mothers watching the news to black sons, fathers, and brothers lying on the pavement.
Come Holy Spirit Come. May the fire of Pentecost explode within us and fulfill our dreams.
May God help us see all of the fires in the world as God sees them. We must see these fires as the “language of the unheard” (King, 1967). These fires can torch the systems of oppression that cheapen bodies and suffocate people. These fires can scorch the systems of oppression that rob children of their future and sentence people to an early grave.
We know with fire there is a new way, sometimes a dangerous way. May it be a way that topples the world as we know and creates a new one. In these fiery days, it is important to hear words from scripture.
Jesus assures all of those who know and love him:
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Remain in me and I remain in you” (John 15:5).
The prophet Jeremiah laments,
“they have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). The prophet Amos announces, “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 6:24).
And so with the prophets and heeding the assurance of Jesus, we are ready to challenge what we have always known. We know that through the power of the Holy Spirit we are not helpless. With God, we have the power to change the world.
Prayer for Pentecost:
God of hope, justice, and love, help us listen with compassion. Help us repent and live with the celestial fire that burns through eternity. If in the past week, we found ourselves defending the police in our words and thoughts, help us now to fight for the oppressed with as much energy. If we found ourselves worried about property, help us now to be just as worried about lives and spirits. If we found ourselves trusting headlines over our ability to empathize with real people, direct our gaze toward the people. If we found ourselves looking away, ignoring the truth, or turning-off the news, bring us back to the fire, O God.
Be with us all, God of mercy. Be with the millions that are looted every day in our country by corporations, pharmacies, healthcare injustice, court systems, payday lending, or low wages. Be with those who are in the fire everyday demanding justice, but misunderstood by a country that has been built on this system of oppression.
Help us listen, O God. Help us see you in the midst of the fire burning in the world. Kindle within us the passion to follow your fire. Amen.