Pentecost always seems like such a celebration at church. At our church everyone wears red, a sea of commonality for a change. Often we hear different languages and dissonant music; we celebrate baptism and hear the voices of our children.
It’s church in a messy cacophony, and everybody loves it.
I find this love for Pentecost curious because we church folk don’t normally gravitate toward chaos. You know it’s true: we like order. We like worship to stay the same, with deviating music style only occasionally (no drums, please); we like the children in the nursery, where they’re not disturbing worship; we like the bulletin to look the same every week.
When I was a little kid I would often spend summers in Chicago with my grandparents. These memories are some of my most cherished except — just being honest here — for when we had to go to church.
My grandparents did not attend a traditional church — they called theirs “meeting” — but there were many things about it that were just like any other church. The one thing that fills my memory and that was forever getting me and my siblings in trouble was the need to be quiet, solemn, and reverent for a VERY LONG TIME. In other words, we had to sit still for what seemed like hours and hours and hours (honestly, some Sundays it was) while speakers droned on and ladies wailed their way through unfamiliar songs and people who thought they were being anonymous started snoring loudly and sometimes we couldn’t stop giggling.
We didn’t know a lot about what was going on, but we certainly knew that giggling was unacceptable, that church was supposed to be reverent and holy and quiet, and if we ever forgot we were sure to be the recipients of plenty of disapproving looks to correct us.
But the story of Pentecost doesn’t sound like my grandparents’ church; they would certainly disapprove. The overpowering sound of a rushing wind filled the house where the disciples were, slamming doors, flapping shutters, blowing around so hard that they had to cover their ears it was so loud. And fire came down, a flame on each of them. And they were filled with the Spirit; everybody started talking in other languages. All of the sudden, what they’d been waiting for had arrived, and everybody there, all of the people visiting the city, all of the foreigners providing services, all of them suddenly understood the disciples, they heard their story in their very own languages. The Spirit arrived and the gospel was proclaimed, and a whole crowd of people heard it.
See? I feel like the story of Pentecost should make us church folks uncomfortable, because once we open the door to the unpredictable, who knows what kind of craziness might start happening? Even in church! Things could get out of control.
How do we, the modern version of the gathered group in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, nurture spiritual lives and create and maintain a community that is always open and receptive to the work of God’s Spirit among us?
We allow the chaos to happen; we try things that are uncomfortable; we think outside the box; we look at the world and at each other with new eyes; we never allow the dis-ease of the unfamiliar to keep us from the possibility that God could very well be working — right here. Because, remember that new birth and fresh possibilities and the creative process — they are messy, chaotic, out of control.
But when the light dawns … when understanding happens … when we hear the voice of God speaking so clearly that we know what seemed ridiculous or impossible or out of the question is now the clear next step our lives must take — that’s when the Day of Pentecost comes again, to our lives, to the church, and that’s when we know for certain that the Spirit of God is right here among us, moving and working and changing everything.
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Originally posted on Baptist News Global.