Somewhere in my queue of non-time-sensitive articles to write—yes, it’s been there a while—is one on the history and practice of making theologically significant changes to traditional American songs. Not just line-level edits like neutering/diversifying gendered language or using “love” in place of “wrath.” I mean re-imagining songs in a thoroughgoing way, while also preserving much of the existing imagery and language patterns. (I posted some time ago about one historical example.)
I write songs and play traditional music, but I haven’t actually tried this approach myself.
The God of Pentecost doesn’t have an official language.
This is the shocking revelation of the day of Pentecost, but one often lost amid the day’s more bombastic metaphors of rushing winds, descending doves and intoxicated disciples with tongues touched by fire.
Back in the dark ages of the 20th century, I remember an ad for the Yellow Pages that urged, “Let your fingers do the walking.” Now that texting has become the preferred means of communication, it seems our fingers actually do the talking.
I’ve been thinking about the complexity of communication with God, especially the challenge of praying at times when words are hard to come by. In response to such a dilemma, Paul essentially tells the Romans to let the Spirit do the talking.
Hillsides are shaped by the etched lines showing the wind blowing around them and through the trees. Below the surface, red-brown roots anchor the trees into the solid ground. In the season of Pentecost, the longest of the Christian year, we recount God’s spirit coming to people dramatically in wind and fire. This is the helper Jesus promised, the presence we are called still to embody as we become Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. The Hebrew word Ruach, which means wind, breath and spirit, is a form of onomatopoeia. Artist Julie Elliot says this mixed-media work on paper “celebrates God as the one who is close as our breath—intimate, essential and everywhere. I imagine this holy wind moving throughout the world.”