Subtitle: What if?
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like…a violent wind…Tongues of fire appeared…All were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages (Acts 2.1-2a, 3-4a).
Jesus had promised his disciples power to continue his ministry. And it came.
What happened? I don’t know. The appearance of God’s Spirit defies concrete characterizations. So, the disciples articulated their awareness of the coming of the Spirit with natural images of wind and fire.
What else could they have done?
Jesus, during his earthly ministry, had a spiritual presence that soared to the heavens, yet his feet were firmly planted on earth. He spoke of spiritual mysteries in mesmerizing parables, yet always using ordinary subjects and familiar images. He was an honored rabbi welcomed in the homes of the great, yet he sought the company of outsiders and outcasts. He was destined for glory, yet he died ignominiously as a criminal on a cross.
In Jesus, as no one they had known, the spiritual and the natural dwelled in harmony.
So, when the Spirit came, the disciples, quite naturally, spoke of wind and fire.
Although I don’t know how the Spirit appeared – just as wind cannot be seen, but its effects known – I wonder about its impact on the disciples. Were they gifted with immediate abilities to speak in other languages? Or did they share an “Aha” moment, grasping instantaneously all Jesus had taught them, thus, with newfound conviction, speaking with clarity and transparency that all who heard them understood?
Again, I don’t know.
Nevertheless, for me, Pentecost celebrates an acute awareness that the spiritual and the natural are joined. Always. Thus, the disciples finally figured out that Jesus, the epitome of the embodiment of the spiritual and the natural, was the chiefest reflection of who they always had been.
If this is (or could be) true, then we, even in our natural bodies of flesh, blood, and bone, are spiritual.
Therefore, we innately are connected to the cosmos and all of life.
Therefore, we neither can deny the good that exists in creation, others, and ourselves nor can we distance ourselves from the evil in creation, others, and ourselves.
Therefore, we neither can deny the call of love and justice on our lives when inconvenient or contrary to our self-interested purposes nor can we distance ourselves from the judgment of love and justice on our lives when we act otherwise.
What might this mean in a world now simultaneously stricken by two pandemics. One, a novel coronavirus that destroys lives and destabilizes entire nations and people. The other, an ancient racism that continues to dishonor unto death the God-given dignity of people of color.
What if God’s Spirit again suddenly blew over the globe like wind?
What if God’s Spirit, like fire, set aflame (not buildings and property in misguided rioting, but rather) everyone with the power of love and justice?
What if we lived as if it already had happened?
Because it has.
(c) 2020 PRA
Illustration: The Day of Pentecost, Jean II Restout (1692-1768)