A couple of weeks ago (which now feels like years ago), my husband Ryan contemplated the familiar yet still mysterious story in Acts 2 and tried to prepare his Pentecost sermon. He was also working to coordinate with the other pastor of our Oromo brothers and sisters from Ethiopia who meet in the church building weekly. Arrangements and plans to have a combined service were a bit of a struggle, and none of us really knew what to expect. After re-reading about the Holy Spirit resting on the disciples as tongues of fire and the different nations hearing the Galileans as if they were speaking in their own native tongue, Ryan decided to preach on barriers and how God tears them down.

A few days later, a man named George Floyd died just miles away from our church after a police officer knelt on his neck for over 8 minutes. Protests over the incident (and in some cases riots and looting) began in nearby Minneapolis and soon spread across the country, along with fear, anger, confusion, and pain. The wound of this and all other situations like this runs so deep that no human justice, empathy, policy, or even love can bring sufficient healing or consolation.

This turmoil, on top of months of social isolation, was the context for our worship that day. How could God unify us now?

Each of our worship bands shared songs separately, and Ryan’s message was translated into Afaan Oromoo as he spoke. We were reminded that we are not able to break down barriers or bring unity ourselves, but what we are powerless to do, God is faithful to do. In the midst of our hopelessness, the Holy Spirit was present, pointing us to what Christ has already done: he has broken down the barriers in our own lives, barriers in our relationships with others, and ultimately the barrier of death. And in the hope of that message we sang our last song as one unified body. We sang these words loudly and confidently in the presence of the Spirit that brought us together:

You are
Way Maker
Miracle Worker
Promise Keeper
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are

Our ignorant and flawed plans were somehow used by the Spirit that day to show His power. Just like the first disciples in Acts, we were surprised and overjoyed by the presence of the Holy Spirit uniting us. We do not know how to reconcile our differences, but when we are covered in Christ’s blood we are all one body and united in him. Paul tells the Romans, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom 12:4-5). Our congregations are still scattered by social distancing, but I know that this physical separation is yet another barrier that God can make a way through.

We do not know the way, but God will make a way. He will work a miracle. He will keep his promises. We do not see a way out of this darkness, but He is the Light. My God, that is who You are.

Ryan’s sermon is available to listen to here on the Mockingpulpit.

The song we sang was Way Maker by Sinach