Pentecost: Not the Season for Propriety (Nor, Quite Possibly, is the Holy Spirit)
Today, the Church celebrates Pentecost.
Were we to be gathering in person (as some will be), we’d be donning ourselves in red (or be embarrassed that we’d forgotten, sticking out like blue flotsam or yellow jetsam in a congregational Red Sea), harmoniously singing “O Holy Spirit, Enter In,” and chortling politely at that part in Acts 2 when the bystanders thought that the disciples were drunk when instead (obviously, we say with hindsight) it was just the antics of the Holy Spirit.
And then we’d call Her, and it, Good.
The Holy Spirit is many things, of course.
Good, yes, of course.
Polite, though (as we are so wont to be, especially in Church), I’m not so sure that’s an adjective to be assigned to Her so very much.
Arguably, it would even be a significant, risky miscalculation.
Probably it’s even a projection of what we wish She were instead of what She actually is.
Let’s take a quick look-see at the adjectival phrases about Her in our text from Acts 2.
“…a sound like the rush of a violent wind…”
“…the sound filled the entire house….”
“…divided tongues as of fire appeared among them…”
“…a tongue rested on each…”
Not exactly the description of someone sitting nicely in the pew.
Moreover, she’s an instigator of similar behavior!
Look what She up and influenced the disciples and others, people just minding their own business, to do:
“They began to speak in other languages…”
”Others sneered and thought the disciples were filled with new wine…”
”All who now believed were together and had all things in common, selling possessions and giving the proceeds to those who had need…”
Seems as if you run into the Holy Spirit, and next thing you know you could be communicating with strangers, acting in a way unbecoming of sober people, and you’ll realize that your property isn’t yours but is rather God’s to be shared with one and all.
This is definitely not the way that churchy people of propriety act.
*mental note: the Holy Spirit is not known for propriety either*
So it’s dawned on me that perhaps, in a well-intentioned attempt to be Holy for the Holy God, we have spiritualized the Holy Spirit.
In our theology and in our way of being Church, we’ve sought to make Her tame, pleasant, predicable, not to mention polite, exactly as we might (mistakingly) think we are called to be as followers of Christ.
In fact, though, in fact, the Holy Spirit is rambunctious, flamboyant, mischievous, and unrestrained.
She may have entered a domicile on that first Pentecost, but She is definitely not domesticated.
Moreover, wait for it: She invites us to be rambunctious, flamboyant, mischievous, and unrestrained too.
We can be, and in fact have been, set free and let loose.
Acts 2 reveals a Holy Spirit who pulls out all the stops with wild and gleeful abandon.
The obstructive presence of everything that could stop the unifying, celebratory presence of the Unifying God disappears.
Who needs them.
Who needs them.
Who needs them.
Who needs them.
The Holy Spirit is in the House, you see, and there, which is everywhere, all are welcome.
Turns out that this rollicking agenda has been God’s for a while now.
So not coincidentally, to defend himself and declare God’s presence, Peter pulls out this wonderful passage from the Old Testament prophet Joel:
In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
Sons and daughters (thank you very much).
Young and old (again, ahem, thank you very much).
Oppressed, men and women alike.
All will receive the Spirit, and all shall prophesy.
Everyone is surrounded by the Spirit of the Living God, summoned into the streets, beckoned to be bold, invited to the Holy Party, and, with a holy wink and a nod of mischief, invited to see new visions, dream new dreams, and prophesy in the name of the Lord (propriety and politeness not required, though some courage and an ability to withstand Holy heat and heat from those who aren’t ready for the Holy is).
With that, a rambunctious, flamboyant, mischievous, unrestrained, and abundantly joyous Pentecost, and Pentecost season, be to you all!
Yes, thank you very much. (I needed to hear this today.) And happy pentecost to you, too.
Well done! I love the Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit: The Wild Goose!