June 25, 2014

Best Pentecost Present. Ever.

This year for Pentecost, God gave me a basketball team.

I don’t usually ask for much for Pentecost. On Christmas and Easter, I will go so far as to ask for a little extra in the way of attendance, a little special spark in the music and the decorations, a small inspiration for my sermon.

Pentecost, I usually take as it comes; but I’ll confess to feeling kind of down this year. I needed a sign of hope.

Attendance in our aging congregation has been sagging a bit, and the relationships we are building with our neighbors have not translated into the big Sunday boost everyone has been waiting for these last thirty years. The altar guild didn’t quite muster the energy to put up the heavy red frontal, so we just had the red pulpit hanging and some red flowers. It seemed a little sad that the birthday of both the big Church and my little congregation was probably going to be one more quiet Sunday, short on rushing wind and tongues of flame.

I walked into church to join the procession, and there were Los Jaguares -- the basketball team that practices in the church parking lot. At least twenty of them, wearing their bright red uniforms, ranging in age from 7 to 13 or so. Sitting in the front two rows. Their parents and older siblings, neighborhood folks who have been slowly warming to our ways of being church, sat scattered through the congregation, beaming at me. I don’t think they knew it was Pentecost, but they knew I would be happy to see them. They don’t make it most Sundays, and probably won’t make it next Sunday, but they had gotten organized this week, and brought the whole crew.

Los Jaguares did not come empty-handed. They brought three brand-new shiny trophies dated 2014 to add to the trophy case. The trophy case...a monstrously large, perpetually dusty piece of furniture, and a testament to the church’s bygone glory days. Until this week, the most recent trophy dated to the early 1990s.

The team and their families stayed for coffee hour. They brought big trays of pasta and gallons of champurrado to share.

Best Pentecost present ever.

We live in a church moment where hope can be hard to see. Signs of decline abound, and the new and faithful ministry we undertake bears fruit that can be hard for our tradition-bound eyes to see. Looking for the gifts of hope that the Holy Spirit blows in is more critical now than ever. What do you see?