Pentecost Sunday is my favorite day. In the Christian tradition, Pentecost celebrates the giving of God’s spirit to the church. Everyone gathered in worship on that day heard the word of the Lord to them in their own language. The concept of a “heart language” speaks to me deeply as a “Third Culture Kid,” having grown up in a culture that was not my parents’ culture. I grew up speaking 2 languages at home, English and Portuguese; and because I went to a Brazilian school and learned piano and music theory in Portuguese, though I am most confident in English, my heart is most at home in Portuguese and Spanish.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about hearts and being at home. The events of this week, events which mirror a sickness in the fabric of our society that is rotten to its core, have shown me that I have siblings in humanity – fellow image bearers of the creator of all – whose hearts feel anything but at home here. It saddens me, but it doesn’t surprise me.
I grew up believing that Malcolm X was dangerous, Native Americans were done away with and largely a relic of the past, and the Civil Rights Movement satisfactorily addressed racism. As my friend Amy McLaughlin- Sheasby put it, “I’m tired of living in a world where my neighbors can’t breathe.” This world, in which my fellow bearers of God’s image can’t breathe, has shown me that not one of those things I learned early on, are true.
It’s hard to look into the mirror of your life and and acknowledge privilege and the places where your life has benefited directly from the systemic and strategic oppression of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). Why do you think people say “I have no issues with people who come here when they follow the rules for citizenship?” Hint: it’s because most of the people who have the means to “follow the rules” have white skin, and if they have accents, they don’t sound threatening or inferior.
But, looking in that mirror is something we each must do, if we truly want to be a part of the reconciliation and love of all people to which – for Christians – Christ has called us. I want my neighbors to be able to breathe, and run, and watch birds in the park, and sleep in their own homes without wondering each day, “is this the day I might die because I am black?”
So, this Pentecost might not be my favorite Sunday. It will be heavy and difficult. But it will be a holy Sunday because we will all be reminded that the spirit of God moves whether we are dismantling racist systems in our lives and decolonizing our faith, or not. I will be empowered on Pentecost by the spirit of God to decenter myself and to ask myself, “what can I do to make space for my fellow humans to feel at home in a country that so longs to erase them?”
God’s spirit and its movement is like the wind. Its very nature is, in itself, an invitation to move: to move to embrace love where all around there is hate. To move toward healing rather than crouching in fear. To move toward justice and risk losing something, rather than to protect ourselves and risk yet another black or brown life in the process.
On Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Let us also celebrate the birthday of an invitation to do the right thing; an invitation to learn from the oppressed and to sit in silent mourning as they pour out their cries, in their heart language.
Happy birthday, Church. We have work to do.