The Spirit World Is Where We Are
Romans 8:22-27; Acts 2:1-21
The first Pentecost was celebrated in “The Upper Room,” the same space that was the location of the Last Supper. Tourists are directed to a space on the hill named Zion, that is west of the Old City of Jerusalem. This “Upper Room” was a base of operations for the disciples who feared that the authorities, might want to wipe out the remnants of the band of followers of the rebel “Jesus of Nazareth.”
While the scriptures clearly treat the Upper Room as a ‘safe house,’ where access is limited, it is right in a very busy part of town, surrounded by shops and an ancient synagogue celebrating King David, who made Jerusalem into a destination, when it was just a simple village.
Jerusalem is making news again as a destination. This week the Trump Administration made news by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocating the Embassy from Tel Aviv. This is news because the Israelis occupy both East and West Jerusalem, as a spoils of the 1967 war, displacing the native Palestinians. The American compound sits on the 1948 partition of Jerusalem between Israel and Palestine.
This is no small shift in American Policy and is regarded by the Palestinians as the end of hope that the USA would broker a peace initiative, that would provide relief for the harsh and dangerous conditions Israel has imposed on the natives. The fact that the Embassy was opened one day before the anniversary of the NAQBAH or The Great Sadness, commemorating the day hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced into refugee status, as the United Nations, sacrificed their homes, businesses, and villages to the new State of Israel in 1948. Seventy years later, the disrespect is still being applied in layers.
At the time of the party at the Consulate, the Israeli Army snipers were shooting protestors at the Gaza border. These protests are a tragic and ongoing attempt by the Palestinians to gain international recognition of their plight.
I call the Palestinians natives, because Jews were virtually not existent at all in Palestine until after the First World War. Palestine was occupied by the Ottoman Empire or Turks, and they were aligned with the Germans as the “Central Powers.” Britain attacked and occupied Palestine as a staging post for the “Allies” to attack the Central Powers.
In the aftermath of World War I, the British were called on by the League of Nations to administrate Palestine and the Trans-Jordan. The British were determined to establish a homeland for Jews in Palestine. While the text of the Balfour Agreement that invited European Jews to emigrate, and required protection of the native Palestinians, that protection never materialized. There was no small amount of distaste for the poor Arabs in favor of “civilized, European Jews.” There is a very thin veneer over the prevalent racism in the policies of the State of Israel.
The alignment of nations that engaged in the Second World War could not have been imagined at the close of the “War to End All Wars.” World War II devastated the economy of Great Britain. They were desperate to relieve their budget of any activity for securing Palestine and other colonial outposts, and were relieved when the United Nations declared the State of Israel.
The history of Western interference in the land, and history of stealing the real estate and sovereign claim of the natives, has empowered the State of Israel in recent years to be very bold in the destructive occupation of the Palestinian community and homeland. The move of the US Administration this week can be seen as another act of support for the Western colonization of the entire territory and de-humanization of the native population.
So where is God in all of this? What is the will of God for Jerusalem?
At the first Pentecost, God did not require all people to return to the Temple and accept the harsh administration of the occupying Roman forces and the collaborating clergy. In fact, the God of love used the visitors from essentially the entire known world, to speak words of love to them in words they understood. Pentecost can never be properly understood as a vote for regimentation and colonization. It clearly was not a vote for the designation of Jerusalem Real Estate as a necessity to faithfulness to God.
In as clear of a demonstration as can be imagined, we see - or hear, the message of God’s love as available to all of the world - in their own languages. It is a language of a set of values that celebrates compassion, and ignores political authority and profit motives.
The land of Israel is a study in being manipulated by political empires. Some of these empires have been better than others to the local people. By all measures, the Ottoman Empire, stabilized the culture and economy, and preserved thousands of the historical sights for the Christians, Jews and Muslims. The existence of the Old City and it historic walls is a direct testimony to the careful attention paid to the local history and heritage of the land and its people by the Turks.
But this is not a morning set aside for political history. We noted earlier in the month, that God does not make promises to real estate. Real estate values are based on location, location, location. God makes promises to the hearts of the human family. Value then, is based on the location of God in our very hearts.
The benefit of recognizing the characteristics of the Holy Spirit as an undeniable aspect of the living God, is to say that God is more like the wind of hope and inspiration than like a rock of stodgy certitude. The Temple Mount is a long recognized piece of valuable Real Estate, but it represents most clearly, hope for a peace that political operatives are barely able to even dream.
We should be clear, the New Testament does not proclaim God is waiting for any human action to trigger the Second Coming of the Christ. God is never, ever waiting on us. Any claim that the Jews need to complete their genocide of the Palestinians to bring out the Kingdom of God is a ridiculous claim, and insults the good and generous God of Creation.
I know some folks who cling to the image of a God who never changes. On days like this I have to laugh. I love a God who is in constant motion. The Creator God, out of wild imagination and the deepest of love, spins off a Creation of maddening complexity and inter-relatedness.
As an expression of caring, creation is offered a chance at eternal joy through the life and teaching of the Christ, the anointed one, full of compassion. The savior conjures up the Spirit, to dwell with the called, and inspire and fortify them.
The Spirit, an unending hunger for creative imagination and hopefulness, floats and darts among the children of God, whispering words of love and encouragement. Touched by the hearts of humanity, the Spirit implores the Creator to reconnect, in new ways with the creation.
Inspired to new levels of involvement and driven by love, the Creator spins new webs of creative connections. On these pathways the savior reaches out to touch and to hold another generation of souls born of nature. And the Spirit engages in ways that reflect the world as it is, and what the children of today can grasp.
This God is no rock that never changes, but rather better represented by the insatiable current of the deep, the expectation of new life, carried by the very pollen in the air, as fresh as the Spring, and reliable as the decay in Autumn that enriches the soil for the seasons to come. God truly does not change, God remains in contact motion; never still, yet never frantic. Jesus of Nazareth was never the Messiah who desired to claim political and economic power. Jesus spoke with authority from the Kingdom of the Living God. The duh-ciples never understood what he was talking about throughout his lifetime. They kept expecting one day they would change his mind. To this day, those who lust after power and money, fail to understand the Christ, and all of God’s activities.
Instead, the crucified and resurrected Jesus promised to send his Spirit, to rest on us, and invite us to consider counter-cultural values. When we are in the Spirit, we are drawn to one another, because of the love of God. Our relationships are not dependent on looking same, acting the same, believing the same, or even thinking the same. We share the image of our Creator, and are all encompassed by the love of God.
As we talked about here last week, we are called to a ministry of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Not an easy sell, but it has more lasting value than Real Estate, because you know, you can’t take it with you.
It has more lasting value than political alignments. We already noticed this morning that the Central Powers and Allied Powers in World War I were completely realigned by World War II. Some alliances have lasting power, but all human alliances are subject to being hastily discarded in moments of hubris and self-indulgence.
Instead, we seek a spiritual awareness, that permits us to live as a rich human or a poor human, but still a faithful member of the Kingdom of God. We seek the power of the living God to speak the words of forgiveness and compassion, in places where profits and political advantage are the currency of the day.
We turn then to God to pray for direction. But our prayers seem like weak extensions of our language, and our words are insufficient. And the lack of clarity in our words, betrays the confusion in our hearts. We cannot even imagine what it would take to achieve true peace. So our hope is in God.
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”