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Unchained Witnesses

Pentecost, May 23, 2021, Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23)

When the Apostle Paul speaks of adoption, he referring to the means by which the Spirit of God claims us as divinely anointed children, as it claimed Christ during his baptism at the River Jordan. And we know when this adoption occurs, for our groaning will cease. We will no longer live in fear and hiding, as the disciples in fear of their persecutors, for the Spirit will release us as unchained witnesses to the power and will of God among us.

Such was the courage of the disciples when the Holy Spirit captivated their souls and enflamed their tongues to the point where they could no longer keep silent and concealed in their fears, but were compelled to speak the truth as the Spirit inspired them.

And regardless of what side you find yourself on in the political divide, you can’t help but admire the bold in-your-face courage of Representative Liz Cheney who refused to be silenced or side-lined by the majority in her political party who chose to follow the baseless claims and delusional rhetoric of the former president. Surely, she too must have felt the Spirit saying What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your soul? (Mark 8:36)

People of God, I realize that when pastors venture onto the unstable ground political concern, they risk upsetting and alienating their members. But I strongly believe that our form of government was founded upon the spiritual conviction that all “are created equal,” divinely endowed with the “inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence) I therefore believe that politics are the practical means by which we pursue our moral objectives. However, such moral objectives must not be exclusive to one sect or religious outlook, but seek alliances within the common good. It is when we abandon such alliances that both religion and politics become oppressive.

There’s a code of polite conduct that prohibits us from discussing religion and politics in public settings, or even in family gatherings, since it often leads to divisive upsetting discourse. But adhering to this prohibition policy prevents us from sharing the deepest hopes and concerns that define us as human beings, and confines us to casual conversation that fails to fathom the depths of who we really are. It is these very topics for which we should create a special space in our love for and relationship with one another, so that those we most intimately care for are most informed about the fullness of who we are. Otherwise we remain closeted in our fears of what others might think, say, or do around us if they knew the truth about us. Yet do we not also hear the Spirit of Christ saying You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free? (John 8:32)

On this day of Pentecost, when we celebrate the birth of the church and Christian movement, let us remind ourselves, especially as small churches struggling to remain alive and relative, that a new generation of spiritual seekers are seeking a liberated embodiment of the church inspired by the incarnate Word of God among us in Christ that enflames our lives to burn away the walls of fear and division, so that we may ultimately celebrate the beauty of our unique differences amid the common goodness and bond of our spiritual adoption as children of God and siblings of Christ.

“When the Spirit of truth comes,” said Christ, “you will be guided in all that is true.” (John 16:13) You will be unchained witnesses to the power and will of God among us. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. Amen.