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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tangible pentecost

The 50th day after passover, the Sunday of Pentecost, in ancient times was the Festival of Weeks. Seven weeks counted, 7x7=49 days, the time of  the first harvest, of hope, of the seeds that went into the ground and that died now blossoming into palpable, tangible, tasteable fruits. Agricultural and holy, one of the main festivals that gave anchor to the annual rhythms. So . . . A non-random choice of the time for God to pour out the Spirit, to make it clear to the fragile post-ascension community of Jesus-followers in Jerusalem that the same Spirit that they saw as a dove at Jesus' Baptism was now fractionated into a sparking shower of flames, lighting a fire of presence in their community. 

Though the words "pentecost" and "spirit" conjure more of an almost magical other-worldly force, they story is actually one of incarnation. Of the deity not leaving our reality, but entering it. The Gospels begin with God incarnating flesh, and now the post-Jesus-on-earth pre-all-things-new phase of history begins with God's spirit IN PEOPLE. They are filled with an ability to communicate, and thereby pull the diverse tribes, nations, skin tones, cultures that have gathered in the major city of Jerusalem into the story the new community. 

The Spirit, one by one, enabling the most basic need of human community, expression and understanding. 

The tangible nature of pentecost today: a half dozen baptisms, growing this community. Babies and adults, speaking Lubwisi, Lukonjo, and English, the service a rainbow of tongues, doused with water and prayed into the family. God present in our little fellowship.  A half dozen team members left earlier in the week, and another half dozen will depart Tuesday. But the Spirit is still here, Jesus is still at work through the bones and skin and bodies and vulnerabilities of the church. Pentecost is not about escape to an intangible dimension, but about the very real daily interactions and needs that form our lives.     

It's been a week of needing to see tangible pentecost, for sure. If you were going to write the story of a team pulling together and collaborating to wrap up work and say meaningful goodbyes, things that you might not include in the final days: an epidemic of eye infections, one kid with some worrisome breathing, the biggest almost-finished project to bring clean water to a hard-to-reach area held up by people who want to stir questions and promote their own political credit for development, multiple meetings and angst about that, our upcoming Area retreat hotel canceling our reservation for almost a hundred rooms, struggling to respond to the disasters on other teams, one departing family's awaiting gift of a car to use in the USA being stolen, at least two couples close to all of us having the threat of relational rift, and a few medical consults on serious conditions then two deaths of family members of final-week family's workers . .  . leading to hourly changes in priorities and plans. 

But pentecost comes into the actual mess of our actual lives. With gifts of fruit, of love. We hold on to each other and to God and by prayer we persist. 

Annual review perks: when you get to travel to Fort Portal, hold sweet Zemirah, and have a Uganda team day of rest.

Bonus for reading to the end . . . Almost 400 years ago, the poet George Herbert wrote about today's holiday:

The stars coming down to earth, the once flowing connection now nearly shut but joy seeping through the chink . . love this imagry. Amen.

1 comment:

mercygraceword said...

That is so much..... praying...