Christians operate in two very distinct kinds of time. First there is chronos time, chronological time, ordinary time.
In ordinary time there is suffering.
In ordinary time there is illness and death.
In ordinary time there is warfare, an AIDS pandemic stalks the earth and our fellow humans suffer poverty on a catastrophic level.
In ordinary time the earth is groaning in travail under the weight of deforestation, pollution and climate change.
In ordinary time tornadoes reduce homes to splinters and devastate communities.
In ordinary time news cameras can’t take their lenses off a congressman named Weiner, a personality named Trump, an addict named Sheen, a Doomsdayer named Camping.
In ordinary time, the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston orders St. Cecilia’s Parish—our neighbor congregation just down the road—to cancel its planned “All Are Welcome” Mass on the occasion of Boston’s Pride.
In ordinary time—this very weekend—Boston is hosting the National Race Amity Conference … because amity does not yet exist among and between the races … because we have allowed and enabled the beautiful, colors of human skin to influence attitudes and behaviors, to define and limit, to permit of prejudice, preference, profiling and privilege …to segregate by neighborhood and school, by access and advantage.
Our dear beloved members, Barbara Hohler and Bruce Steeves, departed this world in ordinary time.
We fight wars, vote and even worship in chronos-time, ordinary time.
But Christians operate in two kinds of time … First there is chronos time, chronological time, ordinary time … and then there is kairos time, God’s time … time that is full, pregnant, promising, charged.
In God’s time the lion lays down with the lamb.
In God’s time swords are beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.
In God’s time Moses confronts Pharaoh (Moses – a shepherd, confronts Pharaoh, a king and god!) pleads on behalf of an oppressed minority and escorts them to freedom.
In God’s time the dead are called from their sleep and Barbara and Bruce shall shine in heaven … and there shall be no more weeping, and every tear shall be wiped away.
In God’s time a Southern Black preacher becomes a prophet to the most powerful nation on earth. He awakens us to the nightmare of racism and injustice to make possible dreaming dreams of equality and of fairness.
The Day of Pentecost exists in kairos time, God’s time … it is the day the church was bornin wind and flame and promise …the promise of understanding … recognition.
The story of Pentecost … the story of the origins of the Christian church … it is a wild story … wild and wooly, inscrutable and inexplicable … strange and stormy, raw and unruly.
Kairos-time is like that.
Pentecost is the story of a birth and birthing … as such it is both miracle and mystery … messy and muddled.
Here’s how those who were there remembered it …
Jesus had died …. No. Let me rephrase that. Jesus had been executed. Horribly, painfully, humiliatingly executed.
The preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, the healer of lepers, the forgiver of sinners, the picnic-producer, the blesser of bread and cup, the washer of feet, had been executed … in chronos time. Chronos-time did him in … stole him from us …
And so his friends, his followers and family are huddled together … huddled and hushed the way you do when a loved one dies … when your world has been upended and you are crazy with grief
Here’s what the story says happened next … here is how they remembered it …
There came into the room a sound, like the rush of a mighty wind … and it filled all the house in which they were sitting …
Wild, right? This is kairos time! Raw, untamed, unmannered.
(If you intend to hang around God, I suggest you get used to it!)
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them … and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages …
Now there were people there—in Jerusalem, a cosmopolitan city—from every nation under heaven.
And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our native language?”
Did you hear that? Andrew and James are speaking Parthian to the Parthians! Matthew is speaking the Kurdish language to the Medes! And, Philip, he’s speaking some Afro-Asiatic language which the Elamites understand perfectly. Simon is communicating with the residents of Mesopotamia in Syriac mixed with the Chaldee! Thomas—you remember Thomas—he’s conversing in Cappadocian Greek and Asia Minor Greek with the Cappadocians. Thaddeus is speaking Pontic to the people from Pontus! John is conversing in fluent Greek with the Phrygians and the Pamphylians. And, get a load of this, Peter is speaking Coptic to the Egyptians. Bartholomew is talking to the folks from the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, but the scholars haven’t a clue what language they spoke, so God knows what Bartholomew is saying to them. Martha is speaking classical Latin to the visitors from Rome and the Mary’s are conversing with the Cretans and the Arabs in Greek and Arabic.
This is no glossolalia … no speaking in tongues for its own sake. No, these simple, uneducated Galileans are made by God fluent in multiple languages. This is no “English Only”, “Whites Only”, “Citizens Only”, “Members Only” club … This is a God-induced, riotous celebration of tongues and nationalities, ethnicities and differences …
The story of Pentecost … the story of the origins of the Christian church … it is a story about communication, understanding across barriers of difference and of indifference. This is what kairos-time looks and feels and sounds like. This is what God’s time is for.
Yesterday morning this sanctuary was filled to the brim for the annual Interfaith Pride Service … filled to overflowing with Jews and Pagans, Muslims and Atheists, Humanists and Buddhists, Catholics and Protestants … straight and gay and trans … parents and children … couples and singles … gathered to meet, listen to and hope to understand each other … to share nightmares and then to dream dreams.
(By the way, it was Liz’ turn this morning to read the prayers in the Prayer Box. They were a multitude of mean words … scorching words on the small prayer cards … visitors to our sanctuary instructing us that God hates gays and those who love gays … instructing us to read our Bibles, telling us we are going to hell. I tell you, we live in chronos time. It is everywhere around us.)
This weekend, Wheelock College is hosting the National Race Amity Conference. All weekend the campus of Wheelock College has been a palate of gorgeous skin tones … and languages, and accents and nationalities and ethnicities … gathered to meet, listen to … to hope, to understand each other … to share nightmares and to dream dreams.
Thursday at Jazz Worship, and this morning at First and Festival worship, we welcome new members into this wild, untamed, God- persuaded community, a community of Christ’s people who gather to share nightmares and dream dreams, to understand one another, each other, and the other others across barriers of difference and indifference.
This is Pentecost. This is the church. It is wild and wooly, inscrutable and inexplicable … strange and stormy, raw and unruly … both miracle and mystery … messy and muddled.
This is Pentecost. This is the church. This is kairos time.
If you, Christians intend to hang around God, I suggest you get used to it.