A Pentecost Covenant

Megan M Ramer
15 May 2016

The evocative story of the Tower of Babel we heard from Genesis was the story told by ancient Hebrew people to make sense of the WHY of such great diversity among humanity—a diversity evident by our disparate languages, places, cultures.
According to their compelling story, it was human pride…
in building a tower to the heavens and making a name for themselves…
that led God to confuse and scatter;
to confuse languages and scatter peoples.

Every three years the lectionary pairs this tale with the Acts account of the Holy Spirit alighting on the gathered crowd in Jerusalem
“from every nation under heaven;” a crowd that went on to birth the Jesus-following church, who feasted together and shared all things in common so none had need.

I love this pairing.  I love it because, in conversation with one another, we can see that God’s ‘answer’ to the confusion and scattering in the wake of Babel is not a return to a homogenous people who speaks a single language, thereby eliminating the confusion and scattering.
God’s ‘answer’ to the confusion and scattering in the wake of Babel is: an ingathering of diverse peoples and languages,bridged by the gift of a Spirit of understanding. Diversity is not eliminated. Diversity is preserved. Not only that, diversity is blessed, and gifted with a bridging Spirit of understanding.

Thanks be to God we have not been forced into a singularity, but blessed in our diversity!

In that spirit, we celebrate our annual covenanting Sunday here at SMC.
Wise leaders in this congregation began to observe that a traditional membership model wasn’t working for many people here.
it felt too bounded, too boundaried—keeping track of who was in and who was out.
In this, I hate to break it to you, we are not very unique.
This tension, at least anecdotally in my experience,
is common in Mennonite and other churches all over, perhaps especially in urban settings.

So those wise congregational leaders here at SMC
and I can call them that—‘wise’—because it was before my time!…
those wise congregational leaders didn’t want to altogether do away with offering an opportunity for newercomers and longertimers alike
to name a commitment to this church, this particular manifestation of Christ’s body in the world,
this motley gathering of folks together seeking to follow Jesus and live his gospel of Just Peace in the world.

And so we covenant. Which is more biblical than membership anyway.
When was the last time you read through the organizational member rolls preserved in the old and new testaments??

…And so we covenant.
Which is simultaneously richer and deeper than membership, and also more spacious.
We are gathered in each Sunday from our scattered places,
varied ages and abilities and identities,
speaking our diverse experiences and languages,
and we invoke God’s Holy Spirit of understanding
to build bridges within
and bridges without.

Different ones of us will resonate more or less with different parts of the covenant,
but, for those who are ready, we speak and seek to live it…

Thanks be to God.

And for those who may not yet be ready, you are welcome here in this place and among this people.
Fully and without hesitation or limitation.
We don’t and won’t track who’s in and who’s out.
That doesn’t even compute in our understanding of what it means to be church.
We will keep gathering around our center,
who is Christ,
and we pray that all in this place, on any given day, will be invited and drawn in
to that center together.

We pause as we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost,
the feast of our covenanting.