This is our Pentecost moment, to move out into the streets, proclaiming the Spirit's presence among all people.
There are few things scarier than genuinely and openly stepping out in pursuit of truth. It is easy to be dogmatic but it is difficult to find the humility and courage necessary to begin unsettling one’s own limited understanding for something truer and purer than what we have already known.
Those who heard the disciples preach on Pentecost comprehended the message in their own language. But that was only the beginning.
Painter Sawai Chinnawong saturates the outpouring of the Spirit with the colors Thai art traditionally associates with the holy.
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?”
Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:14-17 or Genesis 11:1-9 (Psalm 104:24-34, 35b); John 14:8-17, (25-27)
Acts 2:1-21; Romans 8:22-27 or Ezekiel 37:1-14 (Psalm 104:24-34, 35b); John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Acts 2:1-21 (or Numbers 11:24-30); Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23 (or John 7:37-39)
What happens to a person when the Holy Spirit descends like a tongue of fire? In Acts, those present were filled with the Holy Spirit. We all long for this. We all seek fulfillment. I saw this once when I was conducting a spiritual retreat for members of various 12-step groups. Each person spoke powerfully about how the pain of emptiness in his life had led him down wayward paths. Each had discovered that “you can never get enough of that which will not satisfy.”
On the first day of my vacation, I went fly fishing on the Yellowstone River in Montana and caught nothing but a couple of branches. That might have been because I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I didn’t know whether to use flies that float (dry flies) or flies that sink (wet flies). I didn’t now how I should work them in the water. Should I just let them drift with the current, or use a fast or slow retrieve? I didn’t know which areas of the river would be most productive in terms of holding actively feeding fish. Did I mention that it had been 20 years since the last time I was fly fishing? The next day, that all changed when a good friend took me fishing.
We need to be reminded, as we celebrate Pentecost, that the Spirit is always much bigger and more "other" than we normally think.