Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost: Communication Transformed by Fire

The feast of Pentecost was celebrated in great style here at the Monastery today. At Morning Prayer and Mass there seemed to be a sea of red blouses and skirts, a great visual allusion to the tongues of fire from Acts. In the chapel streamers were hung from ceiling, bright blues, greens, yellow, orange and red. As the breeze came up they swayed gently and reminded us that the Spirit still moves in our midst. Red flowers and vestments provided reminders of the first tongues that gave birth to the Church. The picture was completed by the “Holy Spirit” picture above the altar, the painting based on a picture from the Hubble telescope, the shape of a dove hovering over the cosmos. Tonight at Evening Praise we had statio. The community slowly processed in while Sr. Cecile played the theme from “Chariots of Fire” and we bowed to the presence of Christ in the tabernacle and to the presence of Christ in one another before going to our places.

The first Pentecost was a marked by diversity as people from all nations had gathered in Jerusalem. Our chapel and dining room this morning echoed the feast we celebrate. I don’t think we had any Parthians, Medes or Eliamites, but we had a great diversity of visitors, retreatants, volunteers and oblates. We came from the Prairie, from Seattle, from Boise, from Central Washington, we were Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists and others. Together we celebrated the Spirit that continues to blow in our midst bringing new life.

It struck me that one way to read about the account of Pentecost in Acts is to say it was about communication, communication that is birthed in transforming fire. When the Spirit came upon the apostles they were able to communicate with the diverse, multi-lingual group that had gathered in Jerusalem and share the Good News of Christ. This wasn’t simple or easy communication it required courage, compassion, honesty and trust.

In the cenobitic community we are looking at how we communicate, how we can be honest with one another about the things that really matter. Perhaps the example of Pentecost can be our guide and a guide for all who seek to be Church.

It took courage to speak on that day in the Upper Room. Believers in the resurrection were a minority, what they experienced seemed bizarre and impossible to many people, threatening and frightening to others. The disciples risked ridicule and punishment for speaking their truth and sharing the word. Speaking to the diverse crowd required trust, trust that the Spirit would give them the words to speak and allow the listeners to truly hear what was being said. It required honesty to jolt people awake with the news that in the coming of Christ their safe, known world was being turned upside down. The disciples needed compassion to share their life changing news that would shake each person’s safe and comfortable world.

So this is how we are called to communicate in our communities today. It is the Spirit that gives us the courage and allows us to speak truth to power. Only through the Spirit moving in our midst can we go forth in courage to say the difficult things that need to be said, to one another, to institutions of power. In the Spirit we speak with honesty. We are empowered to name the places in ourselves and others that are broken and need healing. When we speak in the Spirit we can speak the hard things, necessary things with compassion. When we are grounded in the one Spirit and we speak out of love and we hear one another in love and trust.

We don’t know the whole story of the first Pentecost. In Scripture we are given only the smallest glimpse of the communication that spread the fire of the Spirit burning through the world to create the Church, to animate believers and transform our world. As we celebrate this day let us call ourselves to speak in the Spirit, to communicate with compassion, honesty, courage and truth. Let us give thanks for tongues of fire that are still blazing in our midst bringing about the Reign of God.

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