In this week’s text, Jesus sends out the disciples with authority to “cast out unclean spirits, and cure every disease and sickness.”
If we were given this text three weeks ago, we would have applied it to COVID-19 and been happy to think hopeful thoughts about a cure. Today, COVID-19 has taken a backseat to the nearly global response to the murder of George Floyd and the unclean spirit of racial violence and injustice that dehumanizes us all.
What strikes me about the text is the way Jesus sends regular people with real authority to transform the unclean spirits of the age. He’s not limited by the religious institutions of his day. I find this immensely encouraging.
And I see this happening now.
It may be hard for some of us to see through all the tear gas and holy rage being released, but what’s happening now looks a lot like a 21st century Pentecost to me. The Spirit of Jesus is being poured out on all flesh from every kindred, tribe and nation — people of all ages, ethnicities, faith traditions, gender and sexuality. Unlikely allies are coming together around the world in common cause in honor of an innocent victim to say, “no more!” If that doesn’t drip of the Gospel, I don’t know what does.
The overwhelming percentage of people are gathering peacefully, calling for racial justice and systemic reform, lamenting, supporting and encouraging one another with the hope of creating cities of people that are actually for all people, especially the most vulnerable. Yes, I am saddened by the images of violence (police and protesters alike), but that does not cancel out the huge outbreak of good news happening.
While many churches are not at the forefront of this movement, I firmly believe the Spirit is. What is happening is so much bigger than the church. It’s about the Gospel itself, which transcends the church. I find it both challenging and wonderfully freeing to see that nothing binds the Spirit, not even the people and institutions who study and preach about her.
In light of this Pentecost, we want to encourage our readers to listen to those on whom the Spirit is being poured out. They aren’t always speaking in churches, or using religious lingo or liturgies, but their Spirit-filled cries carry the same cadence of hope and lament we find throughout scriptures.
They know that God stands with innocent victims, and they are calling for a society that does the same. Perhaps if we can hear the Spirit within them, they will help the church find our voice once again.
We invite you to listen as Kali Ladd, the Executive Director of an educational non-profit, shares her reasons for hope in the midst of the pain and darkness. (7 minute video).
We invite you to listen as Kimberly Jones, an author, director and screenwriter, laments that “We Can’t Win.” (7 minute video that includes some explicit language).