The distraction of our own day is this illusion that racial injustice, the dehumanizing of the “other,” and the imbalance of power is only a political problem. When we read Genesis, it becomes apparent very quickly that these are human problems; these are moral problems that have spilled out into economic and political systems constructed by sinful human beings.
At its deepest origins, “disciple” means to form a relationship. Discipling is not something we do to somebody, but something we do in relationship with others. It is something God does in relationship with us.
Pentecost Sunday reminds us that God loves all of us for who we are. This story where the holy spirit grants everyone the ability to understand each other in their own language is amazing. God embraces everyone’s differences, God doesn’t make everyone speak a universal tongue but allows us to embrace each other in equal understanding.
Luke does not see the world through rose-colored glasses. Paul does not write that “all things work together for good” as though evil is not real. The Bible does not tell a story of the power of positive thinking to defeat the power of negativity. The Bible tells the story of God redeeming a fallen world. The Bible tells a story of God providing the gifts we need to walk the pathways of fiery trials, not to avoid them.
The wisdom of the story of Paul preaching in Athens is that the prevalence of idols in a culture is not an indication that God is no longer needed. It indicates the opposite—that the culture is desperately seeking what God offers—good news, the bold and provocative message that Jesus rose from the dead and so will we.
Not knowing the way precisely where Jesus will lead us much of the time goes with the territory of discipleship.
This sacrament is not an exercise in nostalgia, though it is remembrance; here at this table, the past, present, and future are joined in a meal that gives us a glimpse of the kingdom of God, even in the presence of our enemy, whether that enemy is human, virus, or death itself.
When Jesus meets the broken-hearted disciples, he first walks alongside them, listens, he lets them tell their story even if they are not aware that it is the story of Jesus’s suffering too. Then, he opens the scripture to them, so their hearts gradually move from broken to burning within them.