"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together ... suddenly ...
divided tongues, as of fire appeared among them ... ."
Pentecost is a Jewish feast which became something entirely new for those first Christians, who had been huddled together after Jesus' strange appearances after his death on the cross. They didn't know what was going on when the roar of a mighty wind came upon them and filled the house where they were sitting.
"I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow yer house down!"
God was on the move, in tongues of fire that came and rested on each one, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
God's Spirit - the Holy Spirit - aka the Spirit of Christ - is always hard for me to speak and write about, because the Spirit is wild - wild like wildfire. We humans cannot pin her down, figure her out, or predict her activities. Scripture tells us the Spirit is like the wind: you know not whence it comes or whither it goes. The Spirit is our Advocate in this life: the best friend to have with us when times get tough, or confusing, or when we start to beat up on ourselves. The Spirit is the God who brings us together with other people - even "foreigners" who speak other languages and live in other cultures.
This Spirit is so out-of-control that people thought the disciples were (already) drunk when she arrived, even though it was only 9 o'clock in the morning. (I use the feminine pronoun for the Spirit, to lift up the feminine attributes of God, and because the Hebrew and Greek words, ruach and pneuma, are feminine nouns.)
The trouble with modern Christians - especially us Episcopalians (and I'm talking to myself here) - is that we have lost sight of the wildness, the drama, the wonder of God's Spirit active in our world. We are too often huddled like the disciples - like the three little pigs - in our house, trying to protect ourselves.
Well, on this Pentecost, we have a triple celebration.
1. The Spirit is abroad, among us today in the Baptism of Henry Glover.
2. It's also St. Dunstan's Day (May 19) - our patron's feast day. Dunstan was a spirited guy - he reformed the church, straightened up the clergy, and resurrected the monasteries of 10th century England.
3. We are inaugurating Founders' Day at St. Dunstan's - a day to remember and celebrate the spirited folks who responded to God's Spirit, built this church on the trail, and tended it through the years. We dedicate our entrance hall as "Founders' Hall" - in honor of all our forbears here, and in appreciation for bequests from Anne Wood, Jack Cardon, and Edythe Cardon, which have allowed us to renovate with a new ceiling, lighting, front doors, and electronic entrance system.
So join your parish family for a spirited celebration of thanksgiving for God's work in the past, joy in the present, and high hopes for a grand future here at St. Dunstan's, the church on the trail. JBM
Trail Notes for Trinity Sunday, May 26, 2013
The Readings for this Sunday are: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; and John 16:12-15.
"Jesus said to his disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." Trinity Sunday always brings wise cracks from preachers - the doctrine of a Trinitarian God is so opaque and paradoxical that it's difficult to preach on without getting bogged down in theological quicksand. After 29 years, I'm not sure I can bear another sermon on the Trinity!
So I won't be delivering one. I've come to believe that the teaching about God as Three-in-One is a pointer - a pointer to the reality that God is beyond our comprehension, beyond our feeble abilities to describe. After all, who would really want a God whom human beings could fully comprehend? We need a far greater God than that ... and indeed, we have a far greater God than that.
The teaching on the Trinity points to a few things we can say about God:
* that God is a unity, and yet somehow contains love and relationship within God's own self
* that we know and experience God in many ways, including God as Creator and life-force; God as sacrificial lover; God as teacher and guide; God as companion-on-the-trail, always with us and within us; God as deep Wisdom which passes our understanding
* God is not to be reduced to human categories, but will always be a wonder and a mystery to us
In short, the Trinity points us to the greatness of God. C.S. Lewis had it right when he imaged God as a great lion, Aslan, who befriended the humans in Narnia, but who could not be contained or fully known. Anything less than that, and our conception of God will be subject to the complaint of one great theologian (J.B. Philips) who said, "Your God is too small." I leave you with another intriguing image from poet Sidney Lanier:
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twixt the marsh and the skies.