Two short statements to ponder on this auspicious Spirit-filled day—one from us and one to us:
1: “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”
2: “Peace be with you!”
Another Saturday…perhaps a good time to take a breath, to put to rest all the troubles of the week now ending and to pray for more peaceful days in the weeks to come. We began the week with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We might ask ourselves how we have kept the fire of faith alive – even just during this week. How will we do so going forward? Here’s a brief prayer from Joyce Rupp to encourage us:
Flame of Love, Enkindler of Hearts, enlighten my mind to recognize where my love has grown dim. Spark renewed desire in my heart to give myself ever more completely to your service. Beam your grace through my being so I respond freely. May the fruits of your love be harvested through me. I will share them generously. Amen. (Prayer Seeds, p. 174)
This prayer reminds me that it is not always what we achieve that is important but how we go about the doing – our intention and motivation – that is key to “success.”
There’s no doubt these days that we understand the power of the wind. Climate change has given us countless images of the destructive power of tornados, cyclones and even just a strong wind. On the other hand, the same power that decimates towns and villages, if harnessed, is able these days to provide electricity for entire towns and villages. In addition, there is a feeling like no other in being outside on a spring day listening to the wind blow through the trees, bringing a freshness that seems to blow away all sadness and distress, if only for a time…
As I think of it, fire is like that too. The power of fire for destruction has been shown to us in the United States over and over as we watch acres of forest land gain the upper hand from firefighters in dry seasons. At this moment, cities across our nation are falling victim to rage against injustice, and fire is the most visible sign of the destruction. Nonetheless, we can find such peace in a campfire, providing warmth on a chilly night, or the quiet of a candle flame as we settle on a meditation mat…
Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost and consider the images of wind and fire. The power of the rushing wind speaks of God’s Spirit being poured out “through all the earth” and the fire of love being ignited in the hearts of those who caught the message. It is a day, perhaps, to consider our participation in the spread of God’s presence in the world of today. Some of us will be the “mighty wind” but more likely we will be among those whose presence shines a tiny light, reflecting God to others.
It is true that we have the power to raise up or tear down with our every breath. May it be our prayer today to know our place in the long line of believers who have read the signs of God’s Spirit and nurtured the turning of the world for those of us whose time is now.
It’s always a wonder when the weather outside reflects a state of soul, like a birthday gift that one has longed for but is not sure of receiving. That may seem like a great stretch as leaving the state of soul to the vagaries of the weather seems a bit shallow, but a glorious spring day can certainly lift one’s spirits and add hope to the daily routine.
Psalm 27 gave me that lift just now as the birds announced a lovely Sunday. This interim time from the feast of the Ascension of Christ to Pentecost is a perfect opportunity to reflect on possibility as we consider what is to come: the recognition of God’s Spirit lighting up the world. This “novena” of waiting is building the power of the Spirit in each of us and all of us, allowing us to respond to the call to be the light that we need to see us through the present—a difficult moment, to be sure—into whatever blessed future awaits us if we are willing to find the strength to persevere and create it.
The psalmist sings out: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom should I be afraid? Though the enemy should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, though war should rise up against me, even then will I trust. One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the loveliness of the Lord.
Can we spend this moment—this week of grace—gathering our willingness and trusting our ability to let go of fear and any weakness that clings to us, recognizing that God is indeed doing something new, readying us to step into a future that calls us together for the life of the world?
May it be so at Pentecost.
Sometimes the day after a big celebration can be a “letdown.” I have an image before me of a huge gathering space with folding chairs that need to be folded and all sorts of trash that (if you’re lucky) is gathered up into barrels or bags but maybe still needs to be picked up, decorations that are either able to be rescued for another day or totally useless now…and fatigue is the only thing left except for a memory of joy or love or something beautiful which makes the fatigue worthwhile.
Even with spiritual celebrations, the day after may be less than thrilling as ordinary life begins again. It is on those days – like today – that we must remember the peak times, going inside and turning our hearts to the ever-present Spirit of God. Macrina Wiederkehr is here this morning with the perfect prayer to help us regain the beauty of Pentecost. May it rekindle the fire in our hearts for this Monday and beyond.
O Spirit, come. Come with your transforming power. Breathe upon and into my thoughts and actions this day. Let my work be a labor of love. May those who come in contact with me feel sheltered and cared for. May I do or say some small piece of goodness that will help others feel affirmed and supported. Let your wind and fire move me into the places where I am needed. Let me become your breath so that I may assist you in breathing new life into places that are stale and unfruitful. Make me forceful and gentle, powerful and humble. O Spirit, Come! (Seven Sacred Pauses, p. 84)
As I sit waiting on this very special feast of the coming of the Spirit of God into us, I smile into a “letting go” stance because it’s as if I am back in the upper room with the disciples of Christ who have no idea of what is about to happen. Who could have imagined the whoosh of the Spirit that came upon them that day? Suddenly they comprehended so much of God’s message to the world and were able to speak to everyone in a language that could be understood. What was that language? Were they really “speaking in tongues” as we have come to understand that phrase? If so, that is all well and good but I wonder about another (perhaps concomitant) way that they might have been understood.
This weekend we are exploring “the original blueprint” of creation in a step by step journey back to the beginnings of the universe. Our presenter has shared in a complex but understandable theoretical presentation that before anything else the universe emitted two sounds that can be translated as lovingkindness and beauty.
In the book of Genesis (11:1) we read today that “The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words” until things got complicated and people began to gather into tribes in order to “make a name for themselves.” What if, before that happened – before they even had language, perhaps – they were operating in a manner based on the sounds of the universe where lovingkindness was the way and beauty the expression.
Just a theory – one more way to look at how the Spirit of God comes in order that we might heal the earth in service to one another. Today it certainly makes good sense to me. I will attempt to walk this day on the path of lovingkindness and be aware of the beauty in all that I experience.
Today we celebrate the outpouring of the power that we call the Holy Spirit. Every inspiration that leads us deeper into the transformation of our hearts in love is understood as an impulse of this face of God. This Spirit is as elemental as our breath, unseen but known in myriad ways great and small – universal and individual. It is as simple as the intake of my breath at the beauty of the burgeoning flowers in spring or as miraculous as the moment a young woman first holds her newborn child. The Spirit brings many gifts, taught in Christianity (traditionally and then in modern parlance) as wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel (right judgment), fortitude (courage), piety (reverence) and fear of the Lord (Wonder and awe in God’s presence).
Let us be grateful in this celebration as we pray: Spirit of the Universe, Spirit of my heart, I welcome you into my life. Come visit the places within me where Love has yet to find a dwelling place. Breathe within all of my existence with the power of your transforming grace. I open my entire being to you and thank you for the gift of your presence. Amen. (Prayer Seeds, p. 172)
Today we will have a meeting of the Sophia Center Advisory Board. It will be our semi-annual look back on where we have been since autumn to see how we think we’ve served the purpose for which we exist. It comes at the precise moment of gearing up for our new season at home – the Spiritual Center where I live – where we offer mostly weekend events during the six months of summer into fall. It’s a fortuitous dance of “changing partners” as the year unfolds. The purpose is the same: to afford opportunities for people who come to us seeking to touch more deeply into the spirit that keeps them on the path of their highest good with companions that share the journey with them.
It seems significant to me that this transition is coinciding this year with the feast of Pentecost. As we prepare at home for a sort of new beginning this weekend, an outpouring of what is always an exciting manifestation of Spirit, I will sit this afternoon in the small band who will share what we have known in similar, if not matching, Spirit-led experiences over the past several months at the Sophia Center.
Joyce Rupp has a prayer that reminds me of the need to remain constant in the desire to serve for the good of the world – even as our small corner of it has an effect on the whole. Pray it with me if you will for renewal of heart and hope.
Flame of Love, Enkindler of Hearts, enlighten my mind to recognize where my love has grown dim. Spark renewed desire in my heart to give myself ever more completely to your service. Beam your grace through my being so I respond freely. May the fruits of your love be harvested through me. I will share them generously. Amen. (Prayer Seeds, p.174)
When I think of the courage necessary to the first Christians as they shared their beliefs in Jesus and found resistance that led to beatings and vilification, I’m honored to have an opportunity to do the same with radically different outcomes. I am certainly not comparing myself to St. Paul and his gift of preaching! The only similarity is that I will leave in a few hours for a destination in Pennsylvania, close to 225 miles away. Unlike in Paul’s day, the trip will take me about four hours and the travel conditions will simply necessitate paying attention while I drive.
I’m going to lead a retreat for members of a parish in Maryland – a “getaway” weekend for them in what I’m told are beautiful surroundings. Of the almost 50 participants, I only know the person organizing the retreat. That’s always daunting as there’s no guarantee that my presentations about “putting on the mind of Christ” with a focus on centering prayer meditation will please them. It was the first line of the first reading that began to put me at ease this morning, however. I read, “One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.'” (ACTS 18:9 – I love those instances when it seems God is speaking directly to me!)
One of the pieces of information I received from the organizer of the event as she was describing the venue for the retreat was the fact that there is very little cell service unless you climb a hill to get it. Knowing just that fact, I’m thinking that it will be better to decide right now that I will not be blogging again until Monday when I will be back home after the conclusion of this experience. Given that we are in the moment and mode of expectation for the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, I ask your prayer for the retreat participants and for me, that we all give and receive what is needed for the word of God to grow in us this weekend. And we can be sure of God’s response as the last line of the gospel this morning has Jesus promising: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” (JN 16:23)
christians, disciples, Divine Law, Easter, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, grace, Hebrews, Holy Spirit, mosaic law, Moses, Pentecost, respect, Shavuot, spirit, The Sophia Center for Spirituality, understanding
Today Christians celebrate the great feast of Pentecost (from the Greek for “the fiftieth day”), the commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that enlivened the disciples of Jesus to spread the message of God’s love for the world. Lest we think that Christians are the only ones who celebrate faith at this time – 50 days after Easter, we need to look further back to recognize that there is a linkage to the Jewish festival of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, which falls fifty days after Passover. In speaking of this connection, Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes from the Christian viewpoint: This [feast] was kept as a commemoration of Moses receiving the Divine Law on Sinai. The Christians understood that as the law came down from heaven to Moses for the people of God, so the Holy Spirit came down on the church. The age of the Mosaic Law was therefore fulfilled and completed by the new age of Spirit and Grace. (CRUX, June 3, 2017)
This morning, then, as I give thanks for the workings of the Spirit in my own life and throughout the centuries of the life of Christianity – amazed often that we have endured – I remember also the fidelity of the Hebrew people who carried their tradition from the days of Mosaic Law to the hearts of faithful Jews today. My prayer is that the Spirit will be instrumental in drawing us and all the peoples of the world into deeper respect and understanding that in essence our humanity makes us all one. May it be so!