Year B, Pentecost
The only thing that does not change is that we are always in the midst of change. Tough to hear. Trite statement? Perhaps. Yet the more that I embrace change and learn to appreciate it, even when I chafe against it, the more I am in tune with the vital essence of God’s life. The constant conversation in the church these days is the need to change…to meet the adaptive challenges of the future. This Sunday we celebrate change, birth, rebirth, hope in the midst of the suffering change can bring. There is very little is stillness in our scripture passages this Sunday. Everything is moving, changing, as new life is revealed in surprising ways.
As we approach Pentecost this year I am particularly drawn to the text from Romans. Hearing it in the context of the Acts and Ezekiel stories brings new resonance to familiar words. In the midst of life changes, such as church growth and restructure, children becoming adults, parents aging and dying, job uncertainty (put your uncertainties in here!), I am deeply comforted with the image of the Spirit helping and interceding on my behalf. When I am overwhelmed by the changes, I can trust the Spirit, God in whom I live and breathe and have my being, to pray for the best and highest good in the midst of change. Often I do not even know what to pray for in the complexity of situations. What is the best outcome, process, vision for those affected by the changes that overwhelm me? Sometimes I don’t have the wisdom, much less the words, to know how to pray intelligently. Such a gift to lean back and rely on the Spirit!
This gift is made evident in the scripture stories this week, in the praise of Psalm 104 and Jesus’ prayer in John 17. The Spirit is active and interceding in each of these texts. In the literal and visionary birth of new communities and the ongoing creativity of creation we hear the echoes of Jesus’ affirmation of Spirit’s Presence. And it is through our cooperation with Spirit, our reliance on Spirit, that we receive power to midwife the new manifestations of faith communities in our times and renew caring collaboration with creation.
What are the stories you are living right now in your inner life, your work in ministry, your family that are stories of birth and rebirth, stories of mysterious Spirit movement?
Turning our attention to stories for the week images of surprising rebirth and unexpected presence come to mind. The Ezekiel text reminds me of an Inuit story that I first encountered in Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It is titled, “Skeleton Woman” and is a beautiful parallel tale to the Hebrew story of Spirit calling life into and breathing flesh upon the dry bones. You can find the story at the websites below.
- As told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes –http://www.arnellart.com/LaDeth.htm
- A very well-done YouTube animated version – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKgh4y4v8HU
- A lecture on the tale and implications of its imagery by Jungian analyst, Francoise Aline Cloutier http://www.apjq.org/en/Lecture%20-%20The%20Skeleton%20Woman%20-%20Final%20version%20-%20Nov%202011.pdf
Another very familiar story that comes to my mind as a parallel to the Pentecost tale is the story titled, “The Messiah is Among You” or “The Rabbi’s Best Gift.” It is found in many collections of sacred or wisdom tales. This is the story of the monastery that fallen on hard times and has a dwindling community. The abbot goes into the woods to consult the rabbi who lives a hermit’s life there. The rabbi gives him a secret to share among the monks, “The Messiah is among you! ” Living with this “secret” in their hearts new life begins to appear in their midst. M. Scott Peck used the story in his book, “A Different Drum.” You can find his version and links to other versions at http://www.community4me.com/rabbisgift.html .
Finally I invite you to draw upon your own storytelling and story-making gifts by telling the story of Pentecost from a child’s point of view. Give your child a name, age and specific family demographics. Be as specific as possible so the theme of the story unravels from concrete imagery. How did you get to Jerusalem? What are you doing at the moment you first sense/hear/see the Spirit’s movement?
You can choose a child that is in the crowd gathered in Jerusalem from all those far away places. What are the events/circumstances bringing you to the Pentecost festival? What happens to you and your family when the people begin to speak about Jesus in your language? How do they look and sound? What is your first impression of this Jesus? What is the feel of the crowd? What do you feel? What questions do you have as you listen? Does anything change in your life or your family’s life? What changes?
Or choose a child that is part of the 120 followers of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem to wait for the Spirit. What has it been like to be part of a family following Jesus? What do you remember about your travels? What has it been like since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension? Did you have a relationship with Jesus? What are you doing when the Spirit descends on this day?
Be sure to give your story a clear beginning, middle with a climax point coming out of a “conflict” situation, and a clear ending. Sometimes is helps to clarify that beginning few sentences/images that will hook the listener and something of the ending before fully developing the middle. You can also start with a clear ending image and then craft your beginning and middle to reach that point. Sit with the Pentecost scripture in meditation. Notice which of its images spark your imagination and then enter those from your child’s point of view. Rely on the Spirit to tell the story through you as you incorporate, consciously and unconsciously, your own experience of childhood into the story.
Blessings as the Spirit leads on your story journey this week,
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2015 and beyond. Photos and text may be reprinted with permission only.