One of my favorite radio stations in our area is 98.5 “The Beach.” They tout themselves as the “Space Coast’s Greatest Hits,” and play great music across the last sixty years or so. I like The Beach because I know that I will hear music that is familiar to me and fun- you don’t make it decades of listening without being somewhat palatable!
Recently I heard the song, “Under Pressure,” by Queen and David Bowie as I was on my way home from Publix. Mask in hand, I listened to the catchy rhythm with new ears. Under pressure, indeed! Since March 15th, our last in-person worship service, we have felt “under pressure” in this new world created by the pandemic. Everything I do feels much heavier to me: grocery shopping, decisions about worship and Bible study, and my behaviors. And, for most of these small, everyday choices, I am just deciding for myself! I do not envy our leaders, locally, in our state, or nationally, as they make decisions in this new world, trying to balance the physical and emotional needs of millions of people. Whether or not I agree with the choices they ultimately make, I can feel the pressure they must be under as they navigate this time.
This Sunday is Pentecost, when we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church for the first time (Acts 2:1-13). As I listened to the song, Pentecost flickered across my mind, too. The disciples were under pressure, too- afraid and uncertain in the new world created by Jesus’s ascension. Who would be with them as they tried to share the story of their savior? Was it possible for them to evangelize with power, pray with dedication, commit to community? When the Holy Spirit came, their uncertainty was answered with the strong presence of God amongst them, like the love that is the antidote in Queen and Bowie's song. As you’ve heard over the last few weeks, it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the church, not our own strength. And it is the Holy Spirit with us that calms our fears and bears up under the weight of the world with us, relieving some of that pressure and giving us wisdom to continue.
At one time, a long time ago, we wondered (really, we hoped) if we would be back in our building by Pentecost. Obviously, this is not the case. Some have told us that this means that the church is “closed.” This Scripture passage reminds us that the church has been moving out of the building since the beginning! We have never been closed. We have been dedicated to prayer, community, service, acts of courage, and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. We have been “under pressure” to innovate, carefully and deliberately, in this new era, just as the early church was. The promise of Pentecost is that the same Spirit that fell on those disciples and early converts falls on us and empowers us today.
Part of our pressure is our movement to a slow reopening of our building. Our team feels the weight of these decisions, too. As a point of personal privilege, I cannot imagine making these choices alongside a better team, leader, or conference guidelines. We are in capable hands that are guided by that same Holy Spirit. We, too, bear up under that pressure with you, remembering the power of God to strengthen us as we endure and prepare for the next “phase” of this new world together. Part of our hope is that we believe the Holy Spirit is at work in you, in your everyday life. The church is on the move in you. The church has never closed and never relied totally on this building, because the church, and God’s love, is alive in you. This is the power of Pentecost.
Wherever you feel pressure this week, remember that the Holy Spirit is with you and empowers you to “be the church,” wherever you are. We hope to gather again soon to experience that together, but we trust God is at work in each of you, always.
Rev. Allee Willcox