United Presbyterian Church of West Orange


 by Rev. Rebecca Migliore

and the congregation

Pentecost Sunday

 May 31, 2020


        Here we are on Pentecost – the day when the disciples gathered in an upper room, and we are all scattered in our private spaces.

        Here we are on Pentecost – the day when God gifted those assembled with being able to tell the good news in many languages so all could know, and we are feeling like we are living in times where we can’t hear each other, even if we speak the same language.

        Here we are on Pentecost – a day when we ordinarily celebrate the birthday of the church, when we make noise for the Spirit, when Rev. Becca usually makes us do something weird and different and hopefully meaningful, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like celebrating right now, the only noise I want to make is a strangled moan, a keening cry, a shout to the rooftops (like that movie clip from Network) "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

        Yes, here we are on Pentecost, and maybe that isn’t a bad thing.  Because Pentecost was never meant to be contained by our expectations.  Pentecost was never meant to be just a “traditional” celebration.  Pentecost was never meant to be a feel-good experience.  Pentecost is a Spirit-filled moment—and *if there is anything that I know about the Holy Spirit, it is that it rarely does what we expect.  Being Spirit-filled means being ready to receive God’s marching orders, whatever they may be.  Being Spirit-filled means letting go of our tight control of our minds and our lives.  Being Spirit-filled means recognizing that when God gets ahold of us, watch out.  Being Spirit-filled means trusting that our gifts, our small steps, our contributions, added to others, can make a difference—and that the Spirit weaves all of us together in a tapestry that is more beautiful than we can imagine.

        This Pentecost I want to share a personal experience that has underscored this point for me.  Weeks ago, I was missing singing in the choir, and I thought, “why can’t we do a virtual choir song—and better yet, why can’t we share this with our neighboring church, Verona Pres.”  And because we are not meeting together, there was no one to shoot down my idea!

        So Ann Marie and I sent out music, and practice tapes, and instructions galore about how to record each of our voices, listening to the master piano part Ann Marie had laid down.  How hard can it be?!  Well …

        Let me tell you.  Recording is never easy.  Especially if it is just your voice that you have to listen to (and decide if this is the “take” you are willing to put in the google drive!).  Many of us felt “I sound terrible” or “I hate this” with one of us even saying “I felt like Florence Foster Jenkins” (who thought she could sing when she really couldn’t, and because she was wealthy, no one told her otherwise).

      It was not the wonderful experience I hoped it would be.  It was not a replacement in way, shape, or form, of singing together.  It was difficult and disappointing.

        But then we gave it to Anthony, who acted as our producer.  And by layering our voices together, by adding visuals, by the magic of technology, we became a choir again—we sang together.  The hard work that felt was in vain, our feelings of inadequacy, and the dis-ease we might have felt melted as we heard the final product.  Was it perfect? no.  But it was us.  And it was beautiful.

It was a Pentecost experience—a reminder that we do not have to see the whole picture, in fact, we can’t see the whole picture of what God is doing in our world.  We can only do our little part, and do it to the best of our ability.  And then the Spirit takes this voice, and that voice, and all our voices, and blends them together into the song of the angels.

        So I present to you, Worthy Alleluia, by Ruth Elaine Schram.  A piece sung by members of the UPC Chancel Choir and the Verona Pres. Choir.  And you can add yourself to the experience, by using your hands—by motioning alleluia, Praise/Worthy, Father, Son, Spirit, 3 in 1.  And Anthony asked that we dedicate this to Rev. Ralph, who would have loved to be a part of this virtual choir.  We expect that he is singing and dancing with all those who have gone before.

        A Pentecost moment—where the Spirit takes charge.  Alleluia, praise the three in one.