‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
Pentecost Sunday! The birth of the Christian church, the Spirit-filled launch of the Way into the world, truly diverse and global and inclusive day – proclaiming faith in all languages to all people so that all may hear and believe. This is the model for Christ’s church for all time. Different cultures, different heritages, different worldviews, different languages, and different belief systems all united and woven together by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not that it wouldn’t result in arguments and disagreements, not that there wouldn’t be fights and misunderstandings and power plays for control, but dividing walls were broken down and new community was formed.
And what is the unifying power of the Holy Spirit? God’s love for the world. John 3:16 may be the most beloved and repeated of all biblical passages, but for our church today I believe that John 3:17 may be even more important. God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Jesus came to save the world. Jesus came to offer grace and hope and love and mercy, not to judge, condemn, and punish. We need to hear and heed these words.
Our world is constantly in conflict, divided into dichotomies of “good guys” and “bad guys,” “saints” and “sinners,” “us” and “them.” Our human weaknesses and failings drive us to create divisions and reasons to hate and harm others. Certainly, there are times when true evil seeks to do violence and it must be resisted – but I am not talking about that. I am talking about our day-to-day lived reality where we look at one another and instead of seeing brothers or sisters, or beloved siblings made in the image of God we see enemies and opponents and adversaries. What is wrong with us?
God so loves this whole world that God became human in the form of Jesus, the Christ, to destroy the forces of darkness, death, and decay, and to release us from the fear of and fealty to sin so that we might live together under the grace and goodness of God. Why do we choose to focus on sin instead of grace? Why do we seek to divide instead of unite? Why do we reject the wind of the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God, to transform us and make us one?
For this Pentecost Day, I invite us all to wait upon the visitation of the Holy Spirit, setting aside all that has come before, ready and willing to become new people in Christ, receiving the world transforming love that God offers to all.
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, come, and make us new! Fill us with tongues of fiery grace and passion, to preach and proclaim love in all that we say, and in all that we do. Let us be transformed that we might be used to transform the whole world with your love. We pray this in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).