Thursday 25 May 2023

Can You Feel The Spirit?

Do you feel like you could use a little extra spirit right now? A little energy, some creativity or imagination, maybe some patience, but certainly some inspiration? Have I got a deal for you.

Pentecost is an important day in the church. It sounds like it ought to be expensive, with a name like that, but it’s actually all about something that’s priceless. And free.

The name on the day simply means fifty. For Christians, it’s fifty days after Easter, but for the Jewish characters in the story of the day, it’s the festival of Shavuot, a harvest festival that occurs fifty days after the first day of Passover. After Jesus leaves the disciples for the last time (the Ascension story), he tells them to go to Jerusalem, which is where they find themselves on the day of Pentecost.

As the story goes, they experienced a rushing wind and then tongues of flame appear over their heads and they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” They find they can now speak in the languages of the various diverse nationalities of the people around them, sharing the story of Jesus, his life and teachings, the good news of God’s love and grace. It’s the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise that they will be “baptized” with the Spirit and be empowered to show the world all that they learned from him. 

This is why we often call Pentecost the birthday of the church, because it’s the beginning of the spread of the message. Whether a literal language experience or a metaphor, the disciples were able to communicate in a way that made people feel “at home” with the message and relate to it.

That, in itself, is a pretty powerful story. But I feel we tend to tell it like the Spirit was was something that happened to them, that the spirit is in the wind and fire. I wonder about that. I wonder also how others “caught the Spirit” after that initial dramatic moment. Did they catch it from the disciples or did the disciples have to hand it over in some way? Was there more wind and fire?

Let me just gently “what if” this for a moment.

What if the Spirit was already in them, just as it’s already in us. What if the mighty rushing wind is the breath of fresh air, the surge of hope that cleans out all of the crap in our lives that gets in the way of us realizing that and knowing the Spirit that’s in our hearts and minds and hands. What if the tongues of flame were like the light bulb that goes on over our heads when we realize something in a cartoon, the moment of enlightenment or realization that the Spirit is in us and enlivening us. We’re suddenly - and sometimes not-so-suddenly - aware.

What if the message was so readily shared with others because what they connected with was the passion and authenticity of the disciples truth-telling. What if, in this moment, the words didn’t get in the way of the message. Remember that wind that blew? Maybe it blew away the need for my thoughts or my words or my way and  left only the way. What if the awareness of the spirit in each other allowed for language to be just a means for what is true to be heard, for it to be a means to “home,” a means to reach out, one heart to another, and what if hearts were listened to.

Where does the wind need to blow in your life? What would light your spirit “on?” Listen to your heart. It’s free.