"'It is easy to see,' replied Don Quixote, 'That you are not used to this business of adventures. Those are giants, and if you are afraid, then away with you!
Get out of here and betake yourself to prayer,
while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.'"
Scripture | Acts 2:1-18
Pentecost is a day about dreaming.
It is a day about trying to pay attention to God’s vision for the world spoken to us by the Spirit.
and then perhaps most importantly, its a day about reorienting our lives to come alongside of God’s vision, no matter how far-fetched, or impossible or crazy it may seem.
On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit rushed in and changed everything.
Up until that day the disciples hadn’t known what to expect.
Jesus had died, and it was a really serious loss for them,
then something even more unexpected happened Jesus had risen, and appeared to them.
He spent about a month with them after his resurrection
And now, Jesus had left them again.
They weren’t sure what to do next.
They decided to stay in Jerusalem and they locked themselves up in that same upper room. Where they stayed, day after day... praying. Praying for a clue of what might come next, praying for a change, praying for a sign, praying that they might know what to do now.
And on the day of Pentecost, like a wildfire,
the Spirit ignited their souls and empowered them with a bold and audacious dream:
To bring new life and resurrection to the ends of the earth,
to declare God’s mighty works in the world and then be a part of enacting them!
And my favorite part of the story is that the people who witnessed all of this happening,
who witnessed the disciples as they received the Spirit and began to have this vision of God’s dream for this work... this crowd thought the disciples were drunk.
I think it was the way the disciples were talking! Their new found energy and enthusiasm!
They were on fire with a new calling and they sounded so crazy that people felt this was surely the work of liquid Spirits rather than the actually Spirit.
But as Peter said to the crowd... this isn’t drunkenness... this is the work of the Spirit, this is how people seem when they are filled with the Spirit, He references what the prophet Joel said in the Old Testament:
In those last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions.
Your elders will dream dreams.
Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
When the Spirit is moving, you are filled with a new sort of energy... you’re connected with God in a new sort of way... you’ll see the world as God sees it. You’ll dream bold and audacious dreams. You’ll prophesy with impossible images of hope and peace. You’ll see visions of a world rooted in love and joy, and you might be seen as just little bit crazy.
It reminds me of the story of Don Quixote...
The 16th century Spanish novel about a knight in shining armor... Well, a self-proclaimed knight in shining armor.
Don Quixote was an older guy read so many romantic stories about chivalry and knights and damsels in distress that he loses his sanity and begins to think that he is a knight. He starts to wear a suit of armor, and ride his aging and sad horse everywhere.
He feels a spiritual calling to set out on the quest of reviving chivalry, of undoing wrongs, and bringing justice to the world. Except as passionate as he feels, and as well meaning as his quests are... None of them are real to anyone else. They all don’t see the world as he sees it. And everyone around him begins to see him as though he’s lost it.
His most famous adventure and the one you are most likely to know is when Quixote spots a group of windmills in the countryside. Upon seeing their size and their long swinging arms, he is convinced that they are giants on the path to destroy the nearby villages and he knows immediately that it is upon him to take up this fight and protect everyone else. He charges at them on his horse with his lance pointed right at the windmill’s arm, knowing he will take this giant down even if it will be a difficult fight. And of course... the windmill, with its huge size swinging at full speed knocks him off his horse, knocking him unconscious.
Quixote’s Bizarre quest, his divine calling and mission, is perhaps best summarized by the song “To dream the Impossible Dream” from the musical based off the book, "the Man of La Mancha"
To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...
Don Quixote is a Pentecost story. No matter how crazy he seemed, no matter how battered and bruises Quixote became... he still picked up his lance, and he still fought to make the world right.
I want to tell you another Pentecost story.
Its also a story about death, and resurrection.
It is also a story about the Spirit’s movement in the world
about the Spirit leading disciples to new places,
and challenging them to take on seemingly insurmountable tasks.
I want to tell you the story of an historic church in the big city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A church that I actually worked at in seminary, a church that had a huge impact on my life, my ministry, and my calling. A church that was once called The Chambers-Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church. [historical info comes from https://hiddencityphila.org/2014/06/south-broad-streets-limestone-legacy-lives-on/, reflections from Broad Street Ministries’ Founding Pastor Bill Golderer, and www.broadstreetministry.org]
This church which holds prime real estate... right in the heart of city center on broad street.
Though it once stood out as giant limestone Gothic revival church, today it is dwarfed by sky scrapers and could easily be missed in all the hustle and bustle of city life.
It was built at the turn of the century, in 1899 after two large congregations, both named after the pastors who started them, decided to merge together.
Each of these congregations had grown and were thriving, and after several years of discussions, they decided that by coming together they could be even better. So they sold their buildings and together built one giant cathedral-like church, in center of the city. They hoped this new church would make room for the new growth that was sure to come.
But more than that, they dreamed that by coming together and building a church in the heart of downtown, they would secure the church’s presence as a thriving part of the city’s life and culture, and help them make a difference in the life of the city. That by coming together, they could have the money and the influence to make a huge impact in the life and wellbeing of their city and some of its most vulnerable neighbors.
Unfortunately, the growth they imagined did not come.
Through out the 20th century Its membership moved out to the suburbs and downtown Philadelphia, became a place for people to work, but not live.
By the 70s and 80s, Downtown Philadelphia became the last place people wanted to go, and eventually the church dwindled to less than a hundred
members, hanging on by a thread in the midst of this massive cathedral.
In 2001, after the church’s pastor died, and the church claimed only twelve members, the presbytery and the church decided the best decision was to close the doors.
The church had died. This prime real estate was locked up and shut down to its community which walked past.
It sat mostly empty for four long years.
After years of back and forth about what to do with this building and whether or not the best decision would be to sell it, the churches of the presbytery decided to give one last push for energy.
They brought in a creative and entrepreneurial pastor for a meeting.
And casually and unannounced.. they walked to the building.
They told him its story, and walked him to its front steps and then asked:
What do you envision here? If you had to dream of what this space could be, of how God might use this space, what do you see?
Instead of looking at the building, he looked at its neighbors:
A few blocks north was City Hall—where decisions were made daily about how the city should establish and live out its priorities.
Next door was The University of the Arts packed to overflowing with the next generation of visual and performing artists. He saw CEO’s coming down from penthouse suites, government interns rushing to grab coffee, and all fo them passing by homeless women and men asking for help.
He saw a beautifully diverse picture of humanity, a vibrant, bustling city that coexisted but barely interacted.
And he envisioned this old limestone cathedral, in the heart of it all, as an opportunity for God to break into all of this. He saw a place where societal barriers could be broken down and all these people could gather together, to worship, to pray, to confront the deeply instilled broken and divisive systems in the city. A lot like the people who originally built this now run down church...
He dreamed of a place that could make a difference in its community,
he envisioned a place that would matter.
The presbytery was inspired by this audacious vision, they gave this pastor the church to experiment with, and they promised to partner with him in this vision.
And on the weekend of Pentecost, in 2005... The Chambers-Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church opened its doors once again, under a new name - Broad Street Ministry.
With the help of six other presbyterian churches in the area, and the presbytery, this new vision of church community breathed life back into this old building that had been shut up for so long...
A year after opening, Broad street ministry had a strong core worshipping community. The church hired two college interns from the university of the arts to run arts programs with its community. They had developed a weekly meal called breaking bread that created a space for the homeless to gather with dignity, with a meal prepared by a chef, they were served at a table by a volunteer wait staff, and could get free haircuts by a professional barber, there was veterans services, a mailroom, a therapeutic arts table, and a staff psychologist. At night, they opened a classroom of the building up as a local concert venue for artists who were just starting out, and they hired local studio musicians as their worship band.
After this first year of ministry, BSM decided to commission two artists to create a permanent art installation to hang in the sanctuary, high in the air above the heads of everyone worshipping.
The artists were inspired by the audacious vision and mission of Broad Street ministry, and they likened their story and their history to two other stories... the story of the Spirit blowing through the church Pentecost, and the story of Don Quixote...
The artists installed twelve full-size metallic industrial windmills were hung by wires, in the sanctuary of the church and between them about 600 folded origami sparrows filled with the handwritten prayers of the community, flying through the sanctuary on the wind of Spirit.
The artists hoped that his installation would create a permanent reminder of the Broad Street’s calling & mission: to continue to follow the spirit to confront the giants in their city and world, no matter how impossible the task seemed, or how crazy they seemed doing it.
Now, I won’t pretend to know how the Spirit is moving here today. I don’t know what windmills God has given you the vision to see, what giants you are called to conquer in order to make our community and world more just.
But here is what I do know:
God is not done with the world, and God is not done with us. No matter how bold, how audacious, how crazy and impossible it may seem.. God’s vision for the world is clear.
Giants will be confronted and conquered, New Life and resurrection will be preached and brought to our neighborhood, our village, our county, our state, our country, and to the ends of the earth.
The question is,
If this is God’s vision for us
Are we willing to appear to the world as though we are drunk?
Are we willing to be seen as crazy enough to follow the spirit,
bold enough to dream God’s impossible dreams courageous enough to charge against giants?
I surely hope so... Because this is our Pentecost calling...