I do not believe it was a coincidence that Pentecost Sunday fell on June 5 this year – the first Sunday during Pride month.
Sister Simone Campbell says the Holy Spirit is alive and well and out causing mischief, and I am convinced the overlapping of Pride and Pentecost is the result of some of that holy mischief.
Why wouldn’t it be? According to the second chapter of Acts, God’s Spirit rushes through and wreaks havoc where followers of the Way are gathered.
If you don’t think the Spirit falling upon LGBTQ+ persons isn’t wreaking havoc within congregations, you’ve not been paying attention. God has been pushing and pulling the church forward – often kicking and screaming – toward the Beloved Community almost since its birth (considered to be the Day of Pentecost).
The church I serve as pastor met for worship this past Pentecost Sunday inside a local tavern (don’t worry, my Baptist friends – just like in Acts, it was still mid-morning and too early for the bar to serve drinks).
I can’t think of a better place for a church to meet for Pentecost than at a tavern with a reputation for inclusion, togetherness, diversity and celebrations, as well as its year-round support of our local Pride group.
Pentecost, not unlike Pride, is all about celebrating and affirming diversity, inclusion and togetherness. Pride, not unlike Pentecost, is about joy bubbling up and bursting out.
The spirit of Pride as well as Pentecost is one of a great big party where people know they are free to be as God created them to be.
Ken Sehested reminds us that, rather than causing everyone suddenly speak only one language and making everyone the same, the Spirit falls upon the community and blesses and affirms the differences and the diversity!
Of course, not everyone likes a good party, especially if things begin to happen beyond their ability to understand and control.
Onlookers on that first Pentecost morning were skeptical, confused, hesitant, critical, upset and disturbed.
“Those people are drunk!” some said, pointing to the Jesus-followers who had gathered and, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, began doing impossible things (like speaking in many different languages).
We have several LGBTQ+ individuals, couples and families within our congregation, and many often lead in the services. We often hear from others outside who are skeptical, confused, hesitant, critical, upset and disturbed by movement of the Spirit in our fellowship.
We may not be accused of being sloppy drunk, but we are accused of being irresponsible and loose with the Holy Scriptures, of trying to make the church less holy and more worldly.
Inasmuch as “worldliness” in the Bible tends to refer to things like power, greed and selfishness, as well as things like conquering, controlling, segregating and excluding, I think the Spirit of God is actually trying to make the church less worldly and more holy.
Again and again, throughout both testaments, and especially in the book of Acts, we discover holiness shines brightest in diverse, multicultural relationships, in the liberation of the confined, and in welcoming, affirming and celebrating the likeness of God in each and every person.
After Peter hears the accusations and complaints about the havoc the Spirit is wreaking, he gets up and quotes the prophet Joel.
I confess it has been a while since I’ve studied the original Greek text of Acts and the original Hebrew text of Joel.
However, it sounds to me like Joel suggests God pours out the Spirit like Oprah gives out cars: “You get the Spirit! And she gets the Spirit! And he gets the Spirit! And they get the Spirit! Anybody can get the Spirit!”
Neither Joel nor Peter says that God’s Spirit will only fall on a very specific, limited, homogeneous few for them alone to prophesy, preach and teach.
Nope. It’s the Lord God speaking through Joel who says the Spirit will be poured out on anybody and everybody – persons of every age, gender, ethnicity, ability, and any other category we create.
Perhaps nothing represents better the joy, wonder and disturbance of Pentecost for 21st century churches than the wild and mischievous Holy Spirit falling upon, filling up and calling forth God’s beloved Queer children whom so many have fought so hard for so long to keep out.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week calling attention to June as Pride Month. The other articles in the series are:
I Am a Woman Because I Do Womanhood | Junia Joplin
An Invitation for Embrace and Resurrection | Kali Cawthon-Freels
Pastor of University Baptist Church in Starkville, Mississippi, and the author of five books, including A Rabbi & a Preacher Go to a Pride Parade.