We live and move and have our being in the power of the Spirit given to us by God. What is that power? Where is it manifest in our lives as individuals and as a community of the faithful? How do we welcome or obstruct its influence?
It's hard for many mainline Protestants to get really excited about Pentecost. After all, if you get too into it, there is the danger that someone might do something embarrassing like speaking in tongues. What would you do? What would you say to the person at coffee hour after the service?
During my clinical pastoral education the supervisor was supposed to visit the group, but because we were off-site, she came only on the day of the final evaluation. Perhaps because of guilt she ravaged us individually and together….
[N]o one was in the mood for a closing worship. I suggested that we simply gather in the chapel and pray together. We stood in a circle, holding hands.
[A] student from the Episcopal seminary who had been involved with the charismatic movement… spoke saying, “I can't believe I'm going to do this.” He proceeded to speak in tongues for a minute or so. St. Paul would not have approved since there was no one present to interpret. But in that act of vulnerability, the student redeemed the whole experience….
Perhaps that is the meaning of speaking in tongues for our present day. It is an act of unguarded expression which requires trust in God and the assembled community. And, perhaps, that is why most of us are so wary of it. We spend our lives trying to keep up appearances, most of all in the church. So on Pentecost we read the lessons in various languages. This satisfies the requirements of the day. – Judith E. Simonson
John... speaks of the Spirit as another Advocate (Helper) who will be God's presence in the community after Jesus is taken up in a cloud. This Advocate/Spirit was given as an Easter gift, connected to the forgiveness of sin. Sin/flesh are synonymous; new life/Spirit are resurrection gifts.
Truth (alétheia) doesn't mean the opposite of falsehood. It means the opposite of léthé, oblivion. Truth is what is remembered. (Marilyn French, The Women's Room). – S. Marian Bohen
It is interesting to note the different reactions of people to the spirited disciples. Some were “[a]mazed and astonished”… “But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” This is one more example of the way God deals with humans, without compulsion, awaiting a free response. – S. Marian Bohen
[Here] we encounter an extraordinary exposition of what it means to have been gifted with the Spirit of Christ: “—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him.”
“The first question the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question. . . ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” (Martin Luther King, Jr., speech, Memphis, 3 April 1968) – S. Marian Bohen
On this birthday of the church, perhaps our prayer should simply be that the Holy Spirit helps the church “grow up” into a place that tells of the love of Jesus in any language people can understand. – Judith E. Simonson
Judith E. Simonson is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
S. Marian Bohen, a writer and editor, was engaged in formal education for twenty-four years in Indonesia, has taught at Marist College, the Maryknoll School of Theology, in Sing Sing Prison in New York, and in Stateville Prison, Chicago.
Homily Service 40, no. 6 (2007): 37-44.