The First Week of Pentecost
In the Church in the Struggle
“Our analysis of the last years of the struggle shows a weakness in the way the movement is organized. The organizations on which the movement depends have shown themselves unable to lead the struggle because they are dependent on funding from the same power structure that must be confronted to lift injustice and wickedness from our people. For the same reasons of their dependence on funds from the power structure, they preach assimilation into the corruption and wickedness of this nation. We need a new form of organization that is truly independent and led by the Holy Scriptures. Indeed the scriptures we read today are leading us in our new direction. We will begin the movement to organize 100,000 Iglesiacitas across this nation, and on both sides of the border, today!
Conviction has two meanings, two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, someone is convicted of a crime, of wickedness. On the other hand, someone can be said to have a conviction, an unshakeable belief, or principles, by which they live and will not give up no matter what they are confronted with. One is positive, one is negative. How are they related?
I submit to you that they both have their basis in truth. By truth, someone is convicted. By truth, we come to hold our convictions.
Today we face a great wickedness, although most times we become numb to it and choose to ignore it. Yet if you ignore the wickedness that surrounds you run the risk that it will overtake you. It will seep into your lives in a very dangerous way.
A few days ago we lost a beloved young man in our community. Alex was a good father, a good friend and a leader and a role model for the kids he coached in his baseball team. He was not part of any street organization, not involved in the business of the street. And yet he was killed by those who were involved in the business of the street, a business that has entangled thousands of our young men here and in Mexico in wickedness, revenge and murder. We mourn for him with his family today –and we honor and give respect for his life.
50,000 people have been killed in Mexico in the drug wars since 2006.Thousands have been killed in Guatemala and Honduras. And thousands have been killed in small drug wars on the streets of the cities of the United States, on the streets that surround this church.
In partnership with the United States, under both President Bush and President Obama, President Calderon set loose the Mexican army on the cartels, increasing the violence. The army is losing that war because there is an inexhaustible supply of young men that will join the cartels. The economic policies of the U.S., like Nafta, have created mass unemployment among the poor in the pueblos of Mexico. Young men are being deported from the U.S. and know no way to survive in Mexico. They both enlist with the cartels to survive – and they are changed into killers. The witness to that wicked transformation is in the bodies that lay beheaded along the roadside, in the rapes and murders and kidnappings of children.
What is the source of this wickedness? It is more than the economic policies of the U.S. The drug trade is fueled primarily by the market of 20 million U.S. citizens, most of them wealthy, who buy the drugs. The guns for the army come from the U.S. – but so do the guns for the cartels!
And we know too well, the U.S. not only permitted but recruited millions of people into its workforce for cheap wages. When they became too many, when their children were born as U.S. citizens, their racism took over and the nation determined to try to drive them out, to separate their families – and to steal the homes and cars and other wealth they had earned. And for the young people who remain, they must run the gauntlet of the wickedness of the street to survive, the wickedness that took Alex’s life.
We live in a time of a great wickedness that disguises itself in the words of freedom and democracy. It is a wickedness that lays heavy on the people of God from the south. The truth convicts this nation of wickedness.
The Jesus we read about in the Bible lived in a time of a great wickedness also. There was an empire; A corrupt Roman Empire that conquered many peoples and imported slaves to bring back to Rome to serve them. For the citizens, there was democracy. For the slaves they bought to Rome and for the people in the lands they conquered, there was oppression and exploitation.
In the land of Jesus, there was a corrupted religious and landowner leadership, that left the people cynical about their own religion and they turned away from the Law of Moses that had held them together as a people.
Jesus confronted this leadership and exposed its hypocrisy with his innocence, his faithfulness, and the power of his words and his miracles. The Priests turned him over to the Romans to be crucified – although he was guilty of no crime.
Jesus knew what lay in his future and he worked to prepare his disciples to carry on the movement to restore the faith and unity of his people after his crucifixion. In scripture today, we read that Jesus told his disciples that, after his death, a Holy Spirit would come to guide them, a Spirit of Truth that would convict those who had crucified him and convict the world of the wickedness that oppressed and corrupted the faith of the people of God.
On the day of Pentecost, after 40 days of living in fear and bitterness, living in shame that they had abandoned Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on them. It came during a religious festival in Jerusalem where the people of God had gathered from countries all over the region. And even though they were hunted by the Temple police and the Romans, threatened with crucifixion themselves, they went out to preach to the crowds of people. And there was a miracle. These poor Galileans spoke in their language but people who came from other lands that spoke other languages could understand them
What was their message? They first preached the truth that the Priests had conspired with the Romans to kill an innocent man. They pointed out that the people, knowing that Jesus had spoken the truth in innocence, were silent when he was crucified. And they testified that Jesus had been raised from the dead – that He was God’s faithful son.
But they also reminded the people that Jesus came with a message that if the people would repent, the Lord would forgive them and would restore them to their faith and their unity. On that day, it is said that 3,000 repented, were baptized and became part of the renewed movement of faith and resistance to wickedness.
Today we call out the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Healing, the Spirit of repentance and renewal and the Spirit of Resistance to the Wickedness of our world. Be silent now in your hearts. Hold back your thoughts. Close your eyes. Feel the wind on your face. Feel the Spirit touch you in the back of your spine. Feel the floor and the walls of the church tremble. The Holy Spirit, the promise of Jesus, is here with us today.
The Spirit of Truth that convicts this nation of wickedness also offers repentance and forgiveness to its victims, even those who have been entangled in crime and the culture of death, offering them a new life of conviction.
After the disciples came back together from the crowds of the festival, after their great success, they came back together to eat and to pray together. In this gathering after the day of Pentecost, the church was born. For that is what a church actually is.
A church is a group of disciples, believers, who come together to bring the Spirit of Truth to convict the world of its wickedness, and to their own people, to renew their own faith, to make them strong, in faith and resistance. In prayer and discussion they build each other up in their faith; they learn from each other how to spread their movement; they protect each other and they share their resources with each other so that they can carry on their mission.
Together, we have built this church. Emma and I wanted to share the renewal of our vows on our 25th anniversary with you because we are grateful to you for making possible the ministry of fighting for our families that also blessed and gave meaning to our own marriage. And we wanted young people to see that marriage could last, even though they see so many marriages fall apart. We wanted them to see that a marriage lasts and grows when it is part of a ministry that reaches out to the people.
Together we have built a church that has defended and protected its members. More than that, we have brought forth many important campaigns in the struggle. From the first days of Familia Latina Unida, we redefined the immigration struggle as a struggle for families to stay together. We organized the beginning of the mega marches. The sanctuary of Elvira Arellano challenged the entire religious community to side with the undocumented. When legislation failed, it was this ministry that raised a challenge to President Obama to use his executive power to stop the deportations.
But we did not do all this just to change the policy around immigration. Nor did we organize La FuerZa Juventud and the 4 plus 1 to get 20 just to challenge the policy that excludes so many from health care. When people like Elvira, or the Linos, or the Aquirres, or the Seguras came forward in the struggle we saw that they were restored in their faith. They became strong and confident that they were not criminals – but part of the people of God. What made their witness so powerful that it provided victory was their innocence in the eyes of God!
Their witness convicted this nation of its wickedness and its hypocrisy. And in turn, they became people of conviction, an example for millions of other families and for the next generation. And the young people that stand strong to demand justice for their people raise themselves out of the wickedness that reaches up from the street to grab them.
Now we face another challenge. We are called to build a much more powerful church and to develop a way for millions of people to organize as we have organized in this church, to defend each other, to heal each other, to provide a powerful witness to convict the wickedness of the world, and to grow our people as a people of conviction and faith.
Our analysis of the last years of the struggle shows a weakness in the way the movement is organized. The organizations on which the movement depends have shown themselves unable to lead the struggle because they are dependent on funding from the same power structure that must be confronted to lift injustice and wickedness from our people. For the same reasons of their dependence on funds from the power structure, they preach assimilation into the corruption and wickedness of this nation. We need a new form of organization that is truly independent and led by the Holy Scriptures. Indeed the scriptures we read today are leading us in our new direction.
We are asking you to form little churches in your homes, with friends and neighbors. You can offer them the same resources for legal protection that you receive in this church. You can offer them the same opportunity for health care that you receive in this church. Together, you can share your resources and your creativity to develop economic projects to improve your survival. And you can offer their young people the opportunities of La FuerZa Juventud.
But most important, you can show people a way to renew their faith so that they can become a people of conviction that also convicts the wickedness of the world. Our young people can stop being manipulated by dark forces that cause them to kill –and be killed. We can stop families from falling apart because of the culture around us. We can be God’s people.
Today is Pentecost. Let the movement of the Holy Spirit begin! When you gather in your homes, think about today’s scriptures. Like them, like the disciples, there are only a few of you. Let in the Spirit of Truth that calls you to convict the wickedness of the world and save your people, save your families, save your friends. Be a disciple for Jesus Christ. We will begin the movement to organize 100,000 Iglesiacitas across this nation, and on both sides of the border, today!
Who will come forward and make a commitment today to organize a little church? Come forward so we can pray for you!
The Holy Scriptures for the First Week of Pentecost
The Holy Spirit Descends On Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
John 16:5-11 The Work of the Holy Spirit
But now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
Acts 2: 36-41 Peter Addresses the Crowd
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 2: 42-47 The Fellowship of the Believers
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.