On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. -John 7:37-39 Read the entire chapter.
In many ways it's hard to believe the time that we have been through going through significant portion of Lent, observing Palm Sunday and Easter, and now this season of Pentecost all while under the adjustments that COVID-19 has created: a church in diaspora, separated, and scattered to our homes. And yet we are grateful for the tech that allows us to be able to worship, gather, and connect together in ways otherwise that wouldn't have been possible. So we are grateful for that and we continue to press on through this. And yet, when we observe these significant days like Pentecost and I'm in an almost empty Sanctuary except for those who are here to help make this streaming service possible, it definitely changes how we perceive and receive these events.
When I was in seminary, I had a professor named Dr. Welborn who taught New Testament in Greek, so I had him for a number of classes. He was an exceptionally bright man and had studied in Germany when he did his doctoral work. One of the things that he always emphasized with us when it came to studying Scripture was a German phrase that he'd picked up from his time at the university: "Sitz im Leben", the place in life for the text. We simplified it or boiled it down that when we're reading Scripture and we come across a passage, the Sitz im Leben, the place in life is the answer to the question that comes up of "so what?" So we've just read this passage, but what does it mean for us here and today. This Pentecost, this season that we're in, these texts that we have been looking at over the past few weeks talking about and trying to better understand this Holy Spirit. The Spirit that was poured out in Acts 2 in a mighty and powerful way. This Spirit in John 7 here where Jesus is saying that "it is out of the believer's hearts shall flow a river of living water". It brings to mind John 20 where Jesus appeared to the disciple and breathed into them saying "receive the Spirit".
All of these are playing in my mind today as I think about what it means for us to be the church, separated and worshipping from our homes. But also what it means for the events of the past week with the killing of George Floyd. It's shaking our nation. If you've been watching any of the news you've seen the protests that have erupted in violence. We need to include that in what we're talking about today because it's part of our place in life, it's part of the "so what?" of Pentecost. What we're talking about when it means to be the people of faith. In 1951 poet Langston Hughes was well, what was termed the Harlem Renaissance: an emergence of black writers, authors, and other significant minds. He wrote a poem titled "Dream Deferred" and I want to share it with you to kind of set the stage for where we're at.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up