On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion and death, he promised his disciples that he would abide with them forever: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth…will guide you into all the truth.”
When the day of Pentecost had come (Jesus’ promise was fulfilled, for) all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…about God’s deeds of power.
These deeds of God’s power, the psalmist succinctly, singularly declares: O Lord, how manifold are your works…You send forth your Spirit and (all things) are created.
The Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, bears, brings, bestows life, even out of death. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.
The people Israel, defeated by the Babylonian Empire, dislocated from their land, deported to Babylon, and, for nearly fifty years, in captivity, having lost their communal identity, without any hope of returning home, dwell in a living state worse than death. Beyond a decaying body, beyond skeletal remains, they are as disjointed and scattered bones.
Into this lifeless landscape of human misery barren of hope, Ezekiel prophesies a word of reconstitution, literally re-membering. First, the bones come together, then sinew, then flesh. Still, “it” is only a dead body until the breath of God, God’s Spirit blows. And so, as the prophecy goes, it does and life begins anew; the people, restored, “stand on their feet, a vast multitude”, preparing for God to “bring (them) back to the land of Israel.”
On this Day of Pentecost, I affirm, reaffirm that God, through the Holy Spirit, continues to bear, bring, bestow life. This I know, for my experience tells me so.
Last Sunday afternoon, I posted on my blog page my text of last Sunday’s sermon, “An Overheard Prayer”,(1) in which I spoke of Jesus, prior to his crucifixion and death, praying for his disciples then and now, us, that we be protected from evil in this world. During the course of this past week, two dearest friends, Loretta and Karen, the three of us born of different mothers and fathers and the three of us sharing the experience of mothers stricken with dementia, responded to the sermon and to each other in a life-bearing, bringing, bestowing way.
Loretta found inspiration in the sermon, for she, with a daughter’s boundless love, oft prays that her mother be protected, freed from the fears that beset her of all the things she no longer comprehends; her mother’s dementia, Loretta poignantly described, as “her version of the devil.”
Karen, with a measureless breadth of compassion, shared with Loretta the anguish of her mother’s struggle with fear and anxiety, which, with the loss of her memory and an associated loss of defensiveness, she, somehow, laid aside, becoming, until her death, a bearer, bringer, bestower of “pure love” to all around her. Karen prayed that Loretta and her mother, too, might know such amazing grace.
The more I reflected on their exchange, the more I recognized my regret, my guilt, deep and abiding, which has left my mind and heart, soul and spirit as disjointed and scattered bones, about medical choices I made that had the effect of prolonging my mother’s life; a nearly twenty-year trek into the shadows of Alzheimer’s disease; a life of the loss of her sanity, her self that I do not believe she ever would have desired.
There was much motherly care that my mother, for reasons of her upbringing and her being, was not able to give to me. Oft I thought, I hoped, doubtlessly selfishly, that, as long as she lived, one day, somehow, I would receive from her the grace of her blessing of me as an individual, a person, and not one who had to be conformed into her and my father’s image.
In her illness, she could not, could never grant my want, my need. And after so many years, in my calculus of care for her, her living, existing in seemingly limitless limbo overshadowed, outweighed everything, anything else. Finally, three years ago, she died. Now, she abides with the angels as, I pray, her soul long ago had done even while her body was still in this world.
This past week, through the Spirit-led, Spirit-filled, life bearing, bringing, bestowing correspondence of my dear sisters, Loretta and Karen, seeing all of this, for the first time, clearly, comprehensively, I could release all of this completely. Now, I have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.(2)
I share this with you today, for I believe that there is no one who at some time, for some reason has not, does not, will not bear the burden of regret and guilt to the extent that mind and heart, soul and spirit are as disjointed, scattered bones. If so, when so, I pray we know that God, through the Holy Spirit, continues to bear, bring, bestow life.
(1) Based on John 17.11b-19
(2) Philippians 4.7
The descent of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost, El Greco (1541-1614)
The vision of the valley of dry bones (1866), Gustav Doré (1832-1883)