Day of Pentecost-Fr. Chris Duncan- May 20, 2018

bacno_sabodell_orchestra_flashmob

A flash mob is defined as “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, and then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.”[i] Typically, a flash mob is organized via social media, texting, or email. The first flash mobs were created in 2003 by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine. Wasik said, “the mobs started as a kind of playful social experiment meant to encourage spontaneity and big gatherings…”[ii]

The first attempt at a flash mob was unsuccessful as the store the mob was heading to was tipped off. That problem was avoided in the next attempt by sending people to four different bars in Manhattan where they then (and only then) received further instruction. 130 people went to Macy’s on 36th Street to all stare at one rug telling the sales associates that they all lived in a warehouse together and made all decorating decisions as a group. Another group of 200 people flooded the lobby and mezzanine of the Time Square Hyatt to give a 15 second synchronized applause and then just like that, went back to what they were doing. The final group loaded onto a tourist bus and descended upon a small shoe boutique in SOHO. Since that original day of flash mobs, there have been hundreds of similar demonstrations around the world and the word “flash mob” even made it into the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2004.

Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” When we look through Scripture, there are not many specifics that shed light on the nature of the Holy Spirit. But with today being Pentecost, the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming and the birth of the Church, our lessons give us a lot of insight. In the Gospel of John, Jesus does not name the Holy Spirit as such, but rather the Greek word “Paraclete” is used. No this is not “parakeet,” a small feathered bird, but rather, “Paraclete.” This word has several definitions, but in its original Greek form typically dealt with legal issues. Specifically it was a legal counselor or, as we hear in our lesson, an advocate. However, the verb form is also used to imply giving comfort to those that are sorrowful. This is why various Biblical translations use different words: advocate, counselor, comforter, etc. But in the end, in John’s Gospel, this promise of the “Paraclete” is a promise of continued divine presence and guidance. The God of love- the God of all creation- is with you always through the “Paraclete” or Holy Spirit. John intends these words to be both comforting and emboldening.

Acts of the Apostles tells us, “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them… And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered…” This is the Pentecost story and in it, we get another view of the work of the Holy Spirit. Here the Holy Spirit equips and commissions. In other words, the disciples, who were just sitting around after Jesus ascended to Heaven, are filled with the Holy Spirit, given the ability to speak different languages to all the various peoples in Jerusalem, and then the go… They go forth into the world rejoicing in the power of the Spirit. They go forth sharing the good news of God.

sdut-beethoven-ninth-symphony-banco-sabadell-flash-mob-2013nov21One of my favorite flash mobs was in 2012 in Spain. A man in a suit stood quietly with an upright bass in hand. His top hat was turned up on the ground at his feet and he waited and waited and waited. After some time had passed with no one giving the man any attention, a young girl finally came forward to give him a handful of coins. Immediately the man began to play the bass line of a musical piece. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a celloist came out and took a seat next to the man and she began to play. Then one-by-one musicians came from all corners of this town square: violins, oboes, timpani, and many more. With each new instrument it became clear they were playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, but more than that, with each new instrument more people gathered to listen and the smiles became wider. When all was said and done, over 100 musicians from the local orchestra and opera had gathered for a flash mob concert. It was a moment of sheer beauty and joy that touched lives.[iii]

 

In today’s Acts and John lessons, we are given two insights:

  1. The Holy Spirit is with us always with the love of God.
  2. We respond to the Holy Spirit by sharing the good news of God’s love.

In a world that is broken and filled with hurt… In a world where events like this past Friday in Santa Fe, Texas underscore our need for something holy, something good, we are reminded this Pentecost Sunday that we are loved and we are not alone. As we heard, Jesus sent us the Paraclete to be with us, to comfort us, and to embolden us. It is what gives us the hope to face the darkness of the world with the light of Christ shining in our hearts. And yet, it does not end there. Because then we respond by sharing the good news of God’s love to a world that desperately needs to hear it also.

In many ways, we are the flash mob when we leave this place and go out into the world. No, we didn’t organize via technology and there is certainly more purpose to what we do than inquiring about a rug in Macy’s, but we are the flash mob in that we go forth into the world rejoicing in the power of the Spirit and in that way we create beauty and joy that touches lives through the love of Christ. And so we pray for the world this morning saying “Lord have mercy” while also living out our faith by going out into the world to love. And for that we cry “Thanks be to God.”

[i] Wikipedia (visited on 5/18/2018)

[ii] Ian Urbina (March 24, 2010). “Mobs Are Born as Word Grows by Text Message”. The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2010.

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBaHPND2QJg (visited on 5/18/2018)

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