When I was in college, a fellow student began to make threats against the others involved in our small Christian fellowship. The situation escalated until one night he lashed out, and the authorities on campus took swift action, gathering us all together, and sequestering us in our 2nd floor meeting room. We spent a few hours praying, singing praise and prayers to God, and reflecting together on the experience of feeling vulnerable and frightened. Our experience of lockdown felt more driven by fear than safety, but as we were finally released, walking down the stairs and out into the dark Iowa night, I knew I was different than I had been before. The experience has shaped my response to God’s call to ministry and service in ways that I am still coming to understand.
I’ve thought of that experience often when it comes to this time of year. Following the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, he ascends into heaven and instructs the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come to bring power, courage, comfort, and hope. In the days before the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, we read the account of the disciples gathered together in one house, waiting. They had faced threats, grief, loss, and astonishment. So they waited. Together. Not knowing what would happen. I imagine fear driving their decision to stick together. Stay inside. Lockdown.
And tonight, as I hold my daughter and rock her to sleep, I am both saddened and surprised that I feel so thankful her school holds regular lockdown rehearsals. Not just fire and earthquake, but lockdown for crisis. From this vantage point, I can see where wise safety standards make that practice necessary. It’s not just fear. But with all my heart, I grieve with this world, our country, and tonight with our SPU community, that lockdown has become a standard practice. A common word.
I also know with all my heart that it is the gift of the Spirit that allows us to still ‘live and move and have our being” in Christ (Acts 17:28). It is the Spirit that brings courage to walk our campus, our street, in our workplace, reflecting the light of Christ as we serve and love those around us. It is the Spirit that brings comfort when we grieve and hope when we need a reason to unlock our door and walk out through it again. It is the Spirit that keeps us turning back towards the Author and Redeemer of Creation. It is the Spirit who calls us to humble repentance and dependence on the Savior, pointing our feet to walk in the way of Jesus.
My prayers are with those suffering tonight. In Seattle, Kenya, the Middle East, and countless other places where violence is felt and lockdown is a necessary practice. My prayers are also with us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. That we would be reminded yet again this Pentecost Sunday of the incredible presence of God’s Spirit in the world. That we would once again be filled with fire and passion to be a courageous and loving presence in the world. That we would choose hope over fear as we walk in step with the Spirit of God.
Peace be with you.