Pentecost, the Spirit, and the Murder of George Floyd

This coming Sunday is Pentecost. One possible First Reading is Numbers 11.24-30 which relates the one-time, special, but official outpouring of the Spirit of God on a select group of elders of the Hebrew people. Two men, Eldad and Medad, were supposed to gather with the special group of elders, but somehow didn’t make it. They got the Spirit anyway, and a young man snitched on their unorthodoxy to Moses. But, instead of being congratulated for his vigilance (lots of other eager and zealous enforcers were rewarded among the Hebrews), the youngster got a shock when Moses said, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

 

In a possible second reading for Pentecost we hear from the Apostle Paul as he writes to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 12.3-13), “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” In this context Paul scolds a faction of the community in Corinth for getting puffed up with pride over their special spiritual gifts and working to divide the people.

 

Just yesterday a Black man in Minneapolis named George Floyd was stopped by police. One officer had Floyd handcuffed, face down on the pavement, and knelt on the back of his neck for well over five minutes. While Floyd gasped and called out that he could not breathe, this officer appeared to be nonchalant about the matter, and three of his colleagues fended off pleas for mercy by bystanders.

 

Finally, when Floyd had stopped moving, an ambulance was called. One more black man murdered in an epidemic of mindless racial fear and disrespect.

 

Oh Lord, would that all your people were prophets. Would that we would all forget officialdom and protocol, and cry out. Would that all people would protest so loudly that our criminal justice system would be reformed–that police would be better trained to deescalate situations, and that they would be held accountable by truly representative oversight and a truly compassionate justice system. Would that every single Christian on this planet would cry out against inequity in our health care system and for free and just health care for all people. Would that everyone would cry out as prophets to indict those who act in absolute selfishness in gathering in close crowds, without masks, as the death toll mounts across the nation. Would that every Christian would know that we need not and must not remain quiet, but speak out and act out for the sake of the common good.

 

And, acting as prophets, let us not just say that the official murder of  black men, or the exploitation of black and brown people to ensure the flow of red meat and alcohol are unpleasant or politically unwise. Let us shout at the top of our voices that these are damned by the Lord God. There will be judgment on complicity! There will be judgment on silence!

 

With the Spirit of Pentecost let us all make spiritual and prophetic noise.

 

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About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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2 Responses to Pentecost, the Spirit, and the Murder of George Floyd

  1. Beth D’Antonio says:

    Amen.

    Thank you for this post. I really miss being able to sit in church and hear a sermon that really meant something to me.

  2. John says:

    Beth: It is wonderful to hear from you again. I posted that blog after tearfully watching the PBS Newshour. So much grief in our world today. And the pandemic seems to heighten the sense of the injustice that runs through our world like a drowning wave.

    It does indeed seem time for doing away with half measures, and picking up the gift of the prophetic Spirit. This injustice, so starkly manifested in the act of a man of authority kneeling on the neck of a abjectly vulnerable man, does cry out for us all to say things and do things commensurate.

    And as prophets like Isaiah and Hosea showed us, the way we raise our children can be the most powerful prophetic act of all. You and Pat are great examples of that.

    John

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