When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the
rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them,
and a tongue rested on each of them.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak
in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Pentecost is among my favorite festivals of the Christian calendar. It is the culmination of a journey for a community of faith that became rattled and uncertain with not knowing what comes next. It is a journey framed by liminal spaces, an all-too-familiar path when we find ourselves between “the here and the not yet.” I’ve come to believe that life is an ongoing series of liminal spaces, with the challenge of making choices balancing what is no longer true or relevant with the uncertainty of the unknown. Even as we emerge from this season of pandemic, we find ourselves in a new reality as we seek to live our lives between the here and the not yet.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those individuals gathered in “one place.” Within a few years of ministry and service with Jesus, they experienced the hope of a new reality – embodied in a servant heart and healing spirit of the one they followed. They experienced death by execution of one who was innocent. Their questions must have swarmed in their minds – how did this get so far? Can we turn back time? They experienced resurrection as hope was reborn, allowing them to engage the risen Christ. They experienced the ascension, causing wonderment for what Jesus seemed to do again and again – reassuring them with his presence. I imagine they also carried concerns as they were left on earth looking up to the heavens, as the source of their hope disappeared into the sky. That is a lot for anyone to absorb. And now they are there together – waiting for the unknown as Jesus commanded. In many ways, it may have felt like a slow-motion film – so much to absorb in a relatively short amount of time. And then as life often does, everything turned on a dime. The rush of a violent wind fills the house – filling them with the Holy Spirit, giving them the ability to speak in ways that could be understood by those in the world around them. They were empowered to faithfully engage the people in their midst in a language that was relevant and responsive to the burdens of this life, which can be many.
As I approach the mid-term of my co-moderatorship with Shavon, I’ve had the privilege of engaging conversations and witnessing ministries that appear to be filled with that breath of heaven, sacredly engaging the world outside the walls of our congregations or communities of faith. I have experienced a faithfulness focused on responding to both the spiritual and physical needs of this time. Pentecost winds are stirring throughout the witness of our denomination – near and far. One ministry I visited is focused on helping to fix the non-cosmetic needs of apartments and homes that have seen damage due to neglect, water, or weather. They send in crews to patch up steps, pipes, etc., ensuring safety in homes that might otherwise go unaddressed due to costs. Pentecost winds blowing through liminal spaces – meeting individuals where they are, offering dignity, speaking in a way that is understood.
On the more creative side, I learned of a sailing ministry offering spiritual conversation along with the opportunity to be on the water to populations that might otherwise never afford sailing. Most of those benefitting from this ministry are populations that may be experiencing homelessness or cognitive differences. The young Rev. Captain was approachable and embracing as he engaged those on the pontoon boat. Pentecost winds blowing through liminal spaces – meeting individuals where they are, offering dignity, empowered to speak in a way that is understood.
It’s a unique privilege to get glimpses of spirit-filled initiatives from Florida, California, Texas, and Tennessee. But it’s an ongoing privilege to get glimpses of spirit-filled initiatives here in our own presbytery. I especially appreciate our common commitment to strengthen the local communities of faith – our congregations and local ministry initiatives – so that our Gospel witness, will in turn be strengthened. I share these stories of hope because they reflect the heart of who we are – a people willing to follow the resurrected Christ into those unknown places of possibilities where we might otherwise be tempted to focus on scarcity. Pentecost winds blowing through liminal spaces – meeting individuals where they are, offering dignity, empowered to speak in a way that is understood.
There is no question that Pentecost Winds are compelling us to go into spaces that are unfamiliar and uncharted by what has been. This is at once both exciting and disconcerting – as it requires that we continue to live in a liminal space. But there is no going back – there is only going forward into the unknown before us, trusting God is with us always. The good news is that the Holy Spirit wind that blew through that room more than 2,000 years ago continues to blow through our lives and our witness today. The Holy Spirit Pentecost winds go before us – empowering us to faithfully engage the people around us in a language that is relevant and responsive to the burdens of this life. Breathe on us Holy Spirit. Breathe on us Breath of Heaven!