Plethoraphobia

The Day of Pentecost
May 23, 2021
Acts 2:1-21

Alright y’all, let’s do this one together. Arachnophobia is the fear of…spiders. Hydrophobia is the fear of…water. Claustrophobia is the fear of…tight spaces. Here’s one for today, astraphobia is the fear of…thunder and lightning. Who knew? And one more, plethora phobia is the fear of…the many. Plethora – many, abundance, wide variety. Plethoraphobia is a term coined by some new theologians to describe, in part, what is happening in our society (Katherine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology: Volume 2, The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity: Processions and Persons, 220).  We are afraid, not just of the other, but of the variety, of the many, of the multiple of our culture. There are so many new things, so many changes. And from that, there is a simmering culture of distrust. Plethoraphobia. 

All in all, this just makes me sad. It makes me sad that we have failed to lay hold of the grand vision that God has for us. Think of the story we just heard. On that Pentecost Day there’s a great, violent wind, and tongues as of fire. The disciples of Jesus start proclaiming the gospel and people from all over the world can understand what they’re saying. “How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power (Acts 2:8-11).’”

We as the Church, we cannot be afraid of the vast multitude that is drawn in to follow Jesus. And notice, it’s not that God is making everybody the same. It’s not that everybody there can suddenly understand the same language. No, it’s that all the various people can hear in their own languages. Whereas we have become conditioned to fear one another the power of the Holy Spirit draws us together to love each other. Whereas we expect the worst from each other, God has a higher vision, that the people of the Holy Spirit can live together across the old divides. 

Hear this for the good news that it is. The gift of the Holy Spirit, the love of God, is descending upon you. Even now. Whereas all the voices in the world tell us that we have to look a certain way, be a certain way, live a certain way in order to be good – we in the Church know that God makes people good. The love of God is a gift. It is simply given. It has been a hard, hard year. And for this whole year, we’ve tried to tell people how to make God love them. But it cannot be that way. We have to make the bold proclamation. We have to say that the message of God’s love can be heard by all people because it is for all people. 

And that, that is why we celebrate. That is why we rejoice. Today in our church, we are celebrating so much. We are celebrating so many different people. Not because they’re all the same, but rather because they are all different and have been empowered by the Spirit with different gifts. We give thanks for Deacon Bob, going off on his sabbatical. Think of the vast plethora he has worked and ministered and prayed for – the homeless, the forgotten, the dying. Truly, a Pentecost ministry. What we see in his ministry is a multiplied gift to the Church and to the world. We see the Holy Spirit in that work.

Today a couple of our parishioners will be receiving awards for their work and ministry and education. Emily Sharp, one of our graduating seniors, is receiving a scholarship from the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. She’s going to Texas A&M, and even I, a Longhorn, can celebrate in that difference. And Richard Blumberg, Richard doesn’t know this yet, he’s receiving the St. George Award from the Episcopal Church. That is the highest award in Boy Scouts given to adults to honor their work among youth. Again, this is a Pentecost moment, in which we see and rejoice and celebrate the many gifts of the Spirit alive and active among all sorts of people. 

We are not afraid of the plethora. In fact, it is the wide variety of differences that makes us stronger. It makes things more awkward, certainly. Imagine those first church services – Galileans, Medes, Elamites, Parthians, Mesopotamians, and who knows what else all together in the same place. And yet somehow the Spirit of God sustained them. And so I want to say this, and I want to say it clearly. You have a place in the Church of God. You are a beloved child of God and the Holy Spirit is descending upon you and drawing you in. There is a place for you. Because we in the Church must not fear the plethora. We must embrace it, lay hold of it, give thanks to God that so many gifts have been poured out upon so many people. You are loved. As you are. This very moment the Holy Spirit is lighting a fire within you. 

For the sake of our society, for the sake of the Church, for your own sakes’, open your heart and breathe in this love. It’s the only way to get past our fears. And I’m not saying that you should stop fearing. Oh no, to have no fear or concern is to be, quite literally, a psychopath. What I am saying is that Jesus can put our fears and our loves in the proper order. Then we can live in that grace and love and mercy that comes from above. Open your hearts. Breathe in this love. And give thanks to God that the Spirit of God is for all people, with all people, and in all people. 

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