First Reading: Acts 2:1-21
1When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”  14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit;  and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below,  blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,  before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

M Hey, Beaky, I’ve got a question for you.

B  Okay, what do you want to know?

M Sprechen sie deutsch?

B  Uh… Wha…

P   Munchie!

M What?

P   Who taught you that?

M My mom. She said her grandma didn’t speak English, so everyone had to talk to her in German.

B  So that was German?

P   It was. Munchie was asking if you spoke German, or Deutsch.

B  Oh… so I should have answered, “Non, parlez-vous francais?”

P   Oh, good one!

M What does that mean?

P   What do you think it means? 

M Well, it sounded sort of like Beaky said no, at first, but it was different, and then everything was weird.

B  No more weird than what you said.

P   Do you speak French, Beaky?

B  Not really, but I learned a few things from my cousin who lived in Paris for about a year.

P   And do you speak German, Munchie?

M Just a few phrases my mom remembered.

B  I know a different word in German!

M Which one?

B  Gesundheit!

M What does it mean?

B  It means, “You sneezed!”

(laugh)

P   Actually, it means “health,” but I grew up thinking it meant, “God bless you,” because that’s another thing people often say after someone sneezes.

M Whatever people say after a sneeze, it means they want you to get better!

P   That is true.

B  Today’s story said the followers of Jesus spoke in a bunch of languages they had never learned… how did they do that?

M The story said that the Spirit gave them ability.

P   That’s right.

M How did they know what languages to speak?

P   I’m guessing the Spirit did that, too.

B  Why doesn’t the Spirit make me able to speak more French?

P   Good question.

M It’s because you don’t know anyone who understands it (except for your cousin, maybe).

B  But the disciples didn’t know any of those people of other languages either!

P   No, they didn’t, but those other people needed to hear what had happened after Jesus had been crucified, that God had raised him up, and that God wanted all people to know how much God loves them.

M So because the people who understood all those other languages were there…

B  The Spirit gave them the words to say.

P   Would you like to hear a German song that I know about God’s love?

B&M Sure!

P  (Gott  ist die leibe...)

M Sounds like mumbo jumbo

B  I wish it was in English…

P   I learned it that way, too:
God loves me dearly, grants me salvation,
God loves me dearly, loves even me.
Therefore I’ll say again, God loves me dearly,
God loves me dearly, loves even me.

M Oh.  It’s for kids, right?

P   Why do you say that?

M Because, in the story, they were trying to tell all those people that that God loved all those other people, not just the ones that had followed Jesus.

B  Oh, yeah!

P   I think you’re right, Munchie.  The English version does seem primarily for children who might feel small and left out. But sometimes that happens to older people, too.  We hope we can help everyone to experience God’s love.

B  Just think of what it sounded like with all those different languages.

M I bet it sounded like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo!

B  Or Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

M Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo is more fun.

B  But mine’s actually a real word!

(questioning look for Beaky)

B  Sort of…

P   Actually, both of those are fun, and both of them might give us a little bit of an idea of how strange it might have sounded, but what’s important is that we remember that God loves everyone out there, and we can do all kinds of things to help to get that out there.

B&M Yeah!

P   Let’s pray: Dear God, help us to share your love. Amen.

B  That’s all?

M Isn’t that enough?

B  I guess it is. Amen!

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today’s title is, “Gathered Together in One Place.” Originally, I had planned to lament our inability to gather safely and to be a worshiping congregation in the long tradition of singing and speaking together so that our voices blend in with one another with the kind of sound that just is not possible when we are not occupying the same space.

Yet, as I mentioned last week often happens, current events changed the direction of this message.  All over the country people have been gathering together in one place for very different reasons, because of an event that occurred in the not-far-away city of Minneapolis.  Some have gathered in solidarity with the vulnerable, because a man lost his life at the hands of law enforcement officers who either did not recognize or did not care enough (if at all) about the man’s distress, and his stated inability to breathe.

Others are gathering to riot, to loot, and to destroy. There are mixed reports on what groups are responsible for instigating these activities, and I’ll not presume to know or predict the full extent of it here.

Some people start participating peacefully and are somehow dragged into the more violent expressions of anger at something that never should have happened but which does happen time and time again.

Some try to turn things around, pointing the finger of blame at the victim, because, “He shouldn’t have gotten himself into trouble in the first place,” but I challenge whether any of them would actually say that whatever trouble this man experienced was deserving of death.

I was young in the sixties and seventies and I remember many songs that were on the radio at that time even though I realize now I had no real idea of the situations that sparked lyrics I sang without understanding.  It turns out I can be forgiven for not understanding most of the song, “Come Together,” from the Beatles, because the song is actually a bunch of nonsense phrases strung together with one plea that actually does (or at least ought to) make sense:  “Come Together.”

A few days ago I responded to a colleague near a place I served some years ago who had posted a link to an article that mocks those who wear masks.  I read the article primarily to see if it actually said what I feared it would say. It was worse, which is why I reached out to my colleague.  It is possible for us to express ourselves without tearing down those who believe differently. 

We can allow room for some differences, because not one of us is God.  We are not omniscient (which means we don’t have full knowledge of everything). Because of this, we follow the policies adopted by the places we need or desire to be.  If the policies seem unsafe, we can choose not to go.  If we don’t like the policies, we can choose not to go.  If people are not following the policies, then we’ve taken the choices away from everyone.

We will be figuring out what we believe to be the best way to gather within our worship space once again, and we’ll be discussing how best to accommodate those whose opinions differ on the best ways to move forward.  However, we are missing something vital if we focus only on how we interact when we are face-to-face on the street or inside a building. 

We need to come together as the people of God while we are yet separated in different places.  And we need to figure out how to come together right now, while we still have differences.

How many of you have read through the entire Bible? If you have, you may have noticed that things are not always peaceful in the pages of the Scripture.  Many of the letters were written with advice on how to deal with certain conflicts.  Even Jesus was not immune from conflict over several things, mostly how people used the Scriptures. 

Yes, he came speaking a blessing of peace according to our Gospel reading, yet in just another few words he is speaking of the need for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is needed when peace has been compromised—or broken, and this continues to happen.  We need to come together, again and again, in order to proclaim AND TO SHARE God’s love, even in our differences, even when we are not physically in the same room with one another. 

The violence across our country is disheartening. The lack of consideration for the vulnerable on our streets and in our pews is disheartening.  Let us learn how to come together in the ways that really matter even while we are not together in the same building, so that our celebration can be even greater when we are again able to share together in a large group in one space.

Come together in Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen