O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AmenActs 2:1-21
Pentecost is the Tower of Babel story in reverse. At Babel the people tried to show their great power by the tower that they built, yet to show the limits of their power, God made it impossible for each to understand what another was saying. Language was used not to communicate, but to block communication. At Pentecost not only do people use different languages, but each hears and understands the other in her or his own language: different languages no longer block communication. It is if at Pentecost the Christians discovered simultaneous translation devices like those now used at the United Nations, but at Pentecost, the electricity and the translations were realized spiritually. Notice the nice touch of the sneerers: they are ever with us. They explain the proliferation of languages as evidence that the speakers are drunk. But someone notices that would not be logical since it is only 9 in the morning. What would Christianity look like to non-Christians if in the twinkling of an eye the world were to hear Christians speaking to one another with one accord, understanding one another lovingly. That miracle has yet to happen. Pray for it, and do your own part by speaking lovingly, patiently of even those Christians who most annoy you.
Click here for my reading of this text. The text speaks far more powerfully than anything that I can say about it.
Psalm 104: 25-35,37
Far too often people presume that what is dignified must be joyless. The psalmist today uses the delights of creation to proclaim God’s heightened sense of humor and good spirit.
Yonder is the great and wide seawith its living things too many to number, *creatures both small and great. There move the ships,and there is that Leviathan, *which you have made for the sport of it.
Did God turn out the light when She made your body parts? I surely hope not!
When He created you, did God stick up His nose and hold a great distance any of your body parts saying, “Icky pooh!”? I surely hope not!
Creation is not pornographic. Only a pornographic imagination can make it seem so.
How disappointing that the lectionary makers cut off verse 28, the main point of the passage leading up to it. “For all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose.” This was my mother's favorite verse in the bible, and I too have been blessed by memorizing it. It has helped me through many a difficult situation that otherwise seemed bleak and impossible to endure.
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Some who consider themselves as O rthodox take an extremely low view of the Holy Spirit, stressing that the Holy Spirit would never say something new that contradicted or redirected us from what the God in Jesus had already made plain. It must be hard to reconcile those restrictions on the Holy Spirit with Jesus’ purposes for sending the Holy Spirit articulated in John’s gospel today:
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
Might we expect the Holy Spirit not to guide us into all truth about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered?
Did not the Holy Spirit say something new about slavery and human dignity in the Emancipation Proclamation?
Was not the Spirit of Truth integrally involved in moving towards universal suffrage, especially for women’s suffrage?
Might the Holy Spirit say something new to us today about other children of Abraham who are very dear to Allah? Consider the case of The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, recently defrocked as an Episcopal priest when she, over a journey of many months, began to consider herself both Christian and Muslim. See The Episcopal Church misses a Gospel Opportunity Yet Again.
Why muzzle the Holy Spirit?
To what truths are we now blinded by our prejudice?
What voices do we still hear as babble and confusion? Might God use the Holy Spirit to give us ears to hear and hearts to understand?
Like the poor benighted lector enthusiastic for the narrative in his readings in my parish, I sometimes have to work hard to restrain myself during the creed when we proclaim “We BELIEVE> in the Holy Spirit, …. .who PROCEEDS, not just proceeded but even now, present tense PROCEEDS from the Father and the son.” It would be much easier to keep Jesus up on that beautiful and safe altar, but Jesus keeps coming down from the cross and insisting on being intimately involved with us right now.