Wicker Park Lutheran Church
Rev. Jason Glombicki
May 20, 2018
“What does this mean?” That question was echoed in today’s reading from Acts, it’s a question you may have thought while Maria read in French, and often I read John’s gospel with that same question in mind. So, what does this mean?
On Pentecost, we gather to explore the various images related to the Holy Spirit. We come to recognize that she’s not easy to grasp, for she flows like water, she dances like a flame, and she pushes like the wind. The Holy Spirit is feisty, consistently active, and dangerous. Her danger comes not from what she’ll do against us, but rather, her danger comes from what she will incite from within us. That’s because the Holy Spirit rarely placates us, instead she prefers to push us, pull us, and provoke us.
In today’s readings, we get a taste of her movement. In John, we find that the Holy Spirit is not some second-rate show following Jesus, but rather, the Holy Spirit is the main act. The Holy Spirit continues God’s work as a helper, a guide, an advocate, and a truth-teller. In Acts, the disciples discovered that God had been working through people living in various locations. What we learned was that God’s actions were not confined to Jerusalem or Jesus’s body; rather, God is at work in the ends of the earth.
When I think about it, that’s probably the most frightening thing about Pentecost. You see, some Judeans thought that God was only found in the temple, but Jesus shattered that idea. Then, Jesus groupies thought God could only be found in the ministry of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit shattered that notion. And, if that trend continues, then where will it end? And that’s the question the book of Acts explores.
In Acts, we will find that God was found in biological families and families of choice. We will discover that God was found where people encountered generosity and healing. We will learn that Jesus’s community was not limited to artificial boundaries. Instead, we will witness the church as it grows as a movement that was not based on gender, ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, religiosity, or geographic location. Rather, the church is a movement of love, equality, generosity, and healing that was characteristically intersectional before intersectionality became the “in thing.”
Yet, far too often the church has ignored or downright rejected the Biblical witness of the early church. We fear that taking a stand of inclusion could be divisive. In our attempt to be neutral, we draw lines of exclusion that are littered with missed opportunities. And so, the Holy Spirit must continue her work. She descends to stir things up. She pushes and pulls. She continues to blow winds so fierce that our eye lids must flap open and recognize God’s truth.
Today, I want to ground these ideas in experience. So, I want to confess that the past couple of months have been overwhelming. Selling our rental property, transitioning students and staff, coordinating roof replacement, gathering information and launching a blitz campaign to repair the basement on top of the typical work has been stressful. But, in focusing on these things, I forgot why we are here. I forgot the message of new life emanating from this place. I forgot that the Holy Spirit has been here, pushing, pulling, and provoking us. It wasn’t until I sat down with Heather that the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see God’s movement in this place. So, I’ve asked Heather to share her story. It’s a story that moved me, re-centered me, and empowered me to continually look for the Holy Spirit as she agitates us to join in God’s work. So, join me in welcoming forward Heather to bear witness to the Spirit’s movement in this place.
—– Heather’s Story ——
I have been a part of WPLC since 2016, and as some of you know, I have decided to relocate New York on the 31st of this month. I just want to say a few words about the impact Wicker Park Lutheran Church has had on my life.
I was not born into faith. I come from a very troubled family, affected by poverty, mental illness, drug addiction, and suicide. For most of my life, I felt separated from others by nature of the trauma I had experienced. As a teenager, I read the gospel of John for the first time. When I came upon the story of the woman at the well, I noticed Jesus speaking with an ostracized woman, separated from him by the boundaries of gender, ethnicity, and social status, as well as traumas of her own. When I read this story, I believed that if Christ could love and transform the woman at the well, he could do the same for me. After confessing my belief, I had a deep desire to connect with a church. Though Christ promised freedom, justice, and love for all in the scripture, I rarely felt that promise reflected in my church experience. In many churches, I still felt separated from others by the many labels and experiences that made me irreconcilably different.
Hesitant to be baptized into any of these churches, they restricted me from many aspects of fellowship, including communion. Despite my internal faith, I felt like a permanent outsider, unable to settle into a church family. So, I practiced my faith alone, praying in secret, and giving to strangers. Once, convinced I might never find a church to call home, I baptized myself with a cup of rainwater outside my window.
Years later, I happened upon a radio interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor preaching the gospel of love to societal outsiders. Bearing the title The House for All Sinners and Saints, she based her church on the mission of regarding all people as Children of God, before their past, their profession, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation.
Feeling hopeful, I Google-searched for a local Lutheran church. When I attended my first service here, all of you welcomed me in a way I had never experienced before. The communion table was open, as a pure gift from God. Hugs, smiles, and listening ears abounded. Regarded as an equal in both my interactions with others, and in the messages from the pulpit, you invited me to openly and freely commune, fellowship, and serve with you, as nothing more or less than a sibling in Christ. After becoming a member, Pastor Jason officially baptized me here during the 2017 Easter Vigil– a moment I had waited almost ten years for.
In my experience, Wicker Park Lutheran truly lives the scriptural promise: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Here at WPLC, Jesus has found me at the well. If I had not found this particular church, I may have given up entirely on finding a church community. I would not have had an opportunity to live up to my calling in Christ to love and fellowship with all of you. After so many years of wandering, I know I have found my family here, and I am so grateful. Thank you, and praise be to God.