“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” So begins the second chapter of Acts. Jews gathered together in the holy city to observe Pentecost, both a time of thanksgiving for the harvest and a celebration of the gift of the law from Mount Sinai. In Acts, God’s Holy Spirit takes advantage of this gathered moment and descends upon the followers of Jesus, enacting a miracle of communication. Though the believers come from all over the known world, they can speak and hear each other in their own language. Not one common language, but their own. And they tell one another about “God’s deeds of power.”
This coming Sunday, Christian gatherings all over the earth will commemorate the Spirit’s arrival among the faithful in this way. Some will sing or read in different languages, and many will wear red, recalling that the Spirit’s presence hovered over the people in the form of tongues of fire.
I would like to propose that the Christians of Spokane keep this festival in an especially timely way: that we pray for all immigrants.
The book of Acts begins with Jesus’s ascension, the occasion that leads to the coming of the Spirit. Jesus tells his flock that the Spirit is coming so that they can be witnesses to Jesus “to the ends of the earth.” While this line has classically been justification for sending missionaries out, I think it is a marvelous reminder to stay in place. We are here at the ends of the earth. And in our time, people from all across the earth are here in Spokane. Rather than going “out there,” let us look more fully in here, in our own home. Who is in our midst?
I ask that the churches of Spokane pray especially for immigrants because of the great suffering among peoples who are undocumented, displaced, or simply made to feel fearful because of their language or skin color. That’s a lot of folks. As followers of Jesus, our calling is not only to pay attention to the suffering of others, but to act boldly to end or (at least) mitigate it.
There is a tremendous dearth of education about our immigration system, and a whole host of untruthful sentiments in our national conversation about it. May we who give thanks for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst act with Spirit-filled boldness to tell the truth, to greet our neighbors, to give of our abundance with joy and to begin creating a community where all have dignity and live without fear.
Let us pray for the nations of the world and their peoples. Let us pray for all immigrants and exiles whose nation-hood is lost. Let us pray for a renewed gift of the Spirit’s power in this place and “to the ends of the earth.”
But I am someone who has lived outdoors — not just for a while, but for years on end. During those years, I associated largely with others who were in the same boat. I learned how such people generally speak of themselves. As a result, I use the words "outside" and "outdoors" more than either of the other two--and I feel compelled to explain why.