A couple of Sundays ago, I asked the congregation what holiday was approaching. “Memorial Day,” said many. It was a trick question. I knew that’s what I would hear, but it was not what I was looking for. We all know Christmas and Easter, but few of us appreciate the importance of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21). In Luke’s Gospel story, Pentecost is the fulfillment of what the risen Christ of Luke’s community had promised (Luke 24:49), that “power from on high” would come upon the people and empower them to carry on the ministry that Jesus initiated.
Two aspects of the Pentecost story particularly speak to me at this point. First, the power was given to the people. The Holy Spirit is that ongoing energy that guides and empowers us to live in love now; to serve, to heal, to be resilient, to grow, to connect well in relationships, to build community, to bring forth justice. We are the hands and feet of Christ now and we are equipped, when we allow Spirit to flow through us, with the potential and the gifts to be Divine Love in our time and place.
Secondly, Pentecost is a beautiful illustration of unity and diversity. In this reversal of the story of Babel, the one unifying message of God’s Good News of reconciliation could be understood and received by the diverse people through different languages. Each culture, each person, each social location, each human diversity might need a different flavor of love and a different form of communicating that love.
That happens in our worship. Because we have different kinds of humans in our church, we have a blended worship of different styles of prayer (spoken, embodied, sung), of music (organ, piano, guitar, drums, traditional, contemporary, etc.), and of communicating (sermon, song, ritual actions). Certain forms will be particularly touching for some and not for others. If one form doesn’t communicate to you, another might. Moreover, if a certain form of worship doesn’t fit for you, trust and appreciate in love that it is speaking to someone else.
In this time of great change and emergence in the spiritual forms of society, some voices I trust are referring to this as the Age of the Spirit, a time where there is increased longing for an experience of God, a heartfelt and embodied inner knowing of and encounter with the Divine. Indeed, the people want to feel the power of life for life to celebrate its wonder and to meet its challenges. The Pentecost story reminds us that it is possible and wondrous when that power comes through to the diverse people in diverse expression and action, yet we can still be one community.
God is still speaking and moving. Can we perceive it?