My Dad was a pastor. He began his ministry in the early 50’s, when mainline churches were growing like weeds and a clerical collar would elicit a discount at the local department store and a complementary membership in the country club.
Not so for my son, who has also worked a pastor. He paid full price for his coffee at Starbucks, where he led discussions with Millennials who wouldn’t dream of darkening the door of his grandfather’s church.
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.”
I once went on a blind date. He was a law student, a friend of a friend, and I was a seminarian. We met for drinks.
He was nice, funny. He was a self-identifying Christian--the first one, actually, I had ever gone out with. We were talking about our chosen professions; he was, as many are, fascinated by the idea of a call to ministry. My call story is not exactly dramatic, but it has a social justice edge, forged on youth group mission trips and in researching poverty. “I want to make the world a better place,” I told the date.
The future lawyer looked at me and asked, “But isn’t the world a fallen place?”
In a nutshell, this is Pentecost, or at least, the most intriguing detail of the famous Acts story. But too often this significant detail gets lost in the celebration of rushing wind, fiery tongues and the so-called birth of the church.