A little over a year ago, as I’m pretty sure all of you remember, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was asked to preach at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This was a big deal, for someone from a Church most people in the world havenever heard of, to be given an opportunity to address people from every nation—those present in the chapel at Windsor Castle and the millions of people watching on TV, probably many of them hearing the sermon simulcast in their native languages—an overwhelming opportunity to tell all those people about Jesus. Bishop Curry and his staff
consulted with a PR expert who helped him hone his message and make the most of this incredible opportunity. Up to that point, he had been talking to all of us and anyone else who would listen about the “Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement,” following the way of Jesus, creating Beloved Communities through invitation, reconciliation, and creation care. All of this language will be familiar to any of you who watch clips of the Presiding Bishop or his staff, or read any of the volumes of materials on the subject
coming from the Episcopal Church.
It was in the process of preparing for the Royal Wedding that Bishop Curry
realized he needed to get even clearer about what this Jesus Movement and Beloved Community was all about. It was in that sermon that the Way of Love was born. To call the Way of Love a program or a curriculum is to make it too small. The Way of Love is a phenomenally diverse and generous set of resources accessible on the Episcopal Church website. It is devoted to seven practices for a Jesus-centered life: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest. I’m not going to unpack all of these here and now, but they reflect the belief that teaching the Way of Love, through any and every means necessary, is the source for the transformation of the world and the salvation of all people.
The Way of Love is not new. Listen for the Way of Love in the prophets whose work is to call God’s people back into beloved community. The Way of Love is the Gospel, the call to reconcile with God and one another in Christ, through the Spirit. The practices set forth in the Way of Love are practices that many of us already partake in our daily lives. The Way of Love with a capital W and capital L is a particular way of inviting people into the Jesus movement, a way that matches our time and place.
This particular invitation to the Jesus movement through the Way of Love all started with that once-in-a-lifetime moment last May.
On the Day of Pentecost, surrounded by a growing crowd that is bewildered and amazed, Peter is having a Michael Curry moment. The crowd is asking: “What does this mean?” and Peter raises his voice to speak. This may be his one shot at conveying to this strange crowd what God is up to. Perhaps he has been preparing for weeks for that moment. Or perhaps in that split second he is inspired. Either way, he must choose his words carefully.
What would you say, if you had an opportunity to speak to huge crowds about God’s work?
The words Peter chooses are from the prophet Joel. Joel tells the story of God’s promise to be present in the midst of the people. It is a story of the restoration of a covenant community. All those people gathered together on that Pentecost in Jerusalem would have resonated with the Hebrew prophet. In the midst of that literally Spirit-filled moment, in which a new community is created where no one has to give up their identity or their language to be included, Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” I will pour out my Spirit and all people will have the vision and the power to witness to God’s love and God’s presence.
Remember way back in Epiphany when we heard the story about Jesus is in the synagogue in Nazareth? He picks up a scroll to read from the prophet Isaiah: “the Spirit of the Lord has…sent me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, and sight to the blind.” And then he puts down the scroll, looks at the people and says: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” This is what Peter is doing with Joel’s prophecy.
Joel prophesies about the last days, days when visions and dreams will come true and everyone who witnesses to the power and love of God will find new life. Joel is all about the reign of God. By choosing to quote Joel in this Pentecost moment, Peter signals that the reign of God has begun to break into the world. Like Joel, Peter announces the end of the present age and the liberating, community-creating kingdom that is to come.
The descent of the Spirit in the Pentecost story is the beginning of the coming of the reign of God that is already here and not yet here. Scottish New Testament scholar Howard Marshall wrote: “The coming of the Kingdom of God should bring about a political and social revolution, bringing the ordinary life of [humanity] in line with the will of God.” A revolution bringing the ordinary life of humanity in line with the will of God. This revolution isn’t our idea, it’s God’s idea. The God of Joel and the God of Peter, God whose Spirit unites us and ignites us.
It is the Spirit that gathers us together, breaks down barriers, and confirms our identity as people of God. When you see that happening, you are seeing the revolution in process. When you see people connecting across language, race, and culture, the Spirit is at work and the reign of God is coming.
When you see unlikely people finding voices and power they didn’t know they had, the Spirit is at work and the reign of God is coming. When unlikely people gather around this table and tables like it , the Spirit is at work and the reign of God is coming. When the way of love in the first century and in 2019 is the way you want to live your life, the path you want to share with others, then the Spirit is at work and the reign of God is coming. Welcome to the revolution.