We’ve been waiting for this day.
The day of Pentecost.
Not waiting for it because the Holy Spirit isn’t among us already.
But waiting for it,
because in our annual liturgical
celebration of this day,
we remember, receive that same gift—anew.

The spirit of wisdom and understanding—anew.
The spirit of counsel and might—anew.
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord—anew.
The spirit of joy in God’s presence—anew.

So here we are.
Fifty days after Easter.
Ten days after the Ascension.
On the day of Pentecost.
Celebrating the fulness of the promise of Easter.
When “Alleluia, Christ is risen”
resounds “Alleluia, the Spirit is given.”
A proclamation that is in fact one in the same:
the great joy of the resurrection is the giving of the Spirit,
and the giving of the Spirit is the great joy of the resurrection.

Which begs the question: "why wait."

Saint John doesn’t wait.
It was evening on that day,
the first day of the week,
when Jesus appeared to Mary at the empty tomb.
Easter eve.
He comes among them in the locked room.
With the simple, but powerful words “Peace be with you.”
And breathes on them
the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Breathes in them the gift of the Holy Spirit,
entrusting them with the responsibility of forgiveness.
A critical gift to a community that has just experienced.
And profound shock.
And deep pain.
Why wait...

Why not wait, the author of Acts would wonder.
Wait all those days later.
When a greater crowd than 12 could be assembled.
And people could speak in tongues.
And apparently all could be understood.
Even unto the ends of the earth.
Why not wait...

Which begs another question, “why not both?”
For where the world around us drives us to either/or.
The witness of Scripture.
The witness of Liturgy.
The witness of the Church is to both/and.
Both/and, because we known those long moments of waiting.
And we know the ones that come upon his immediately.
Either way, whenever Pentecost happens,
life is changed.
In an instant.

The promise of Pentecost is that whenever that instant comes.
We are not alone.
“I will not leave you orphaned,” the scriptures proclaim.
“With you until the end of the age.”
At every turn of our life’s journey.

Last week at the Assembly of ELCA churches
in the Metropolitan New York area,
we prayed over and over and over again.
“Come, Holy Spirit. For such a time as this.”
The more I’ve pondered that prayer,
the more I realize how odd a prayer it is
for me
to pray.
People often tell me that I am not a child of this time.
Because of my pension for formality,
sometimes I get pegged as a child of the 19th Century.
Sometimes I’m pegged as a mid-century modernist.
I like organization.
I don’t have the hair to be a flower child.
And while I embrace technology,
I generally insist that I control it
rather than technology controlling me.

I’m not certain that with my time warp
God knows quite what to do when I pray:
Come, Holy Spirit. For such a time as this.

Which is precisely the challenge of our time.
For the first time in human history,
we do not simply have
Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia,
Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene,
and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs

but six generations of us alive and well
in this land we call the United States of America.
In this City we call New York.
In the church.
And outside of it, too.

Our neighbors are not only wide.
But are deep.
Six deep.
None of us has lived in such a time as this.
Which makes discerning the Holy Spirit’s work
for such a time as this,
and ministering to such a time as this,
a new experience for all of us.

The Vision statement we will act on
at next week’s annual meeting of the congregation
intends to be our guide.
Together, cultivating the church of today
to embrace the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow.
If you’re like me,
you’ll probably not ever be able to say that phrase
without inverting words, phrases;
turning them about;
forgetting some of them.
So try this shorthand:
A Pentecost church that reaches to the past and to the future.
A Pentecost church that reaches to those who have heard
and those who have yet to hear.
A Pentecost church that gives us everything we need
for such a time as this.
The holy and life-giving spirit.

One word of that phrase has no shorthand.
And is the most important word for such a time as this.
A word that needs to become etched
in our minds and on our hearts: together.
Our ability to be a pentecost church for such a time as this
directly relates to being a pentecost church, together.

Together in a very particular way.
A very Pentecost way.

This side of Pentecost, together does not mean the same.
In fact, together requires difference.
They were together in that room.
Each one of them different.
And each of those languages different.
Yet, together in praise of the one same God.
If you can find one way of doing something in our time,
you can find a thousand different ways.
The temptation is to narrow it to one.
All encompasing corporations.
Standardized testing.
Monolithic structures.
Bottom lines.
One-size-fits all churches with the lowest common denominator being
either the impulse to do something,
because we’ve always done it that way,
even if it no longer works;
or the impulse to throw out what works,
blindly worshiping at the altar of change
and the latest church-growth fad.
Pentecost invites us to a different way.
To multiple ways.
After all, scripture contains at least two different Pentecost stories.
Would that we all aspired to the scriptural maturity of
honoring multiple perspectives,
and embracing the joy of ambiguity that follows.

A sort of differentiated consensus,
allowing authentic expression,
while still being attentive to the larger whole.

Such a time as this
needs the witness of being church together
like this.
For the sake of the church.
And the city.
This land we call America.
Our world.
It will urge us to engage in a great deal of listening.
An even greater measure of commitment.
The greatest amount of sustained sharing among peoples
since the tower of Babel fell.

Learn, together.
Grow, together.
Become the diverse body of Christ in this diverse world, together.

And in being this body of Christ,
share in this body of Christ,
God’s renewal of all that is and all that is to come.
To proclaim for such a time as this:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York