Pentecost

Pentecost red ribbons

The manifestations of the Spirit are truly wondrous and as varied as creation itself. The living Spirit grows and even outgrows it earlier expressions. It freely chooses men and women in whom it lives and who proclaim it. This living Spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of humankind. Measured against it the names and forms given it mean little enough. They are only the changing leaves that blossom on the stem of the eternal tree.
                                                                                                                                                Carl Jung

 

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Under the Rainbow

rainbow over water  I often wish I had the spirit of Georgia O’Keefe, so I could paint beautiful close-up images like hers that take over your entire view when you look at them. Or the spirit of Walt Whitman in order to create a sustained homage to nature. Of course, I can imitate other artists, looking long at an O’Keefe painting or reading Whitman’s poetry hoping to catch the spirit from which their work sprang. Artist and poet look at the world more intensely, with more intentionality, so that every day things like a piece of drift wood or even the tiniest blade of grass come to life in a way that allows us into their singular vision, and enlarges ours. Mary Oliver meanders through the woods early in the mornings with her notepad, watching and waiting for the deer to come down and drink at the pond, or the flower to open at the first light of day. I often read her poems of a morning as I would the psalms, wanting to enter into the spirit of the world that she has been able to capture in well-chosen words. Her poetry also brings with it a sensibility for the sacred and the blessed in our world.  As the artists opens other worlds for us, we glimpse this world with more truth, beauty and grace.

Jesus left his Spirit with us in a very decisive and intentional way. Two thousand years later how do I come upon his Spirit? How does his Spirit enter into you and I so we might see more truth, beauty and grace in the world and in ourselves? Can I look at his life and his ‘work’, what is left to us of him, so I can enter into the Life of his Spirit? Shall I watch and wait for his Spirit to come down from Galilee to the river, or like St. Paul says, ‘walk according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:4) looking for the day to open its broad petals across the landscape.

We are the people of Pentecost. On that day Jesus poured his Spirit out upon the world, like a rainbow of colors spilling down, transparent, washing over us all, the felt experience of his life. His Spirit is like the rainbow in Genesis that the Lord set in the clouds as a sign of his promise and blessing upon the earth and all the people in it.(Gen.9:13) Christ’s Spirit remains too as both promise and blessing. The promise of our becoming and the blessing by which we are touched by his Life in his Spirit. He is with us too in a reign of words that comes down to us in stories about him. Whatever he did and whatever he said, he was unforgettable. Surely some sacred Spirit created in those whose lives he touched the need to tell others what they knew of him, so that we too might get a glimpse of him from the distance of two thousand years and today enter into his Spirit, and into the timelessness of his presence as it remains with us.  Perhaps all I need do is stand under the rainbow and believe.

The Earthed Spirituality of Christ

 

 footprints    Recently my twelve year old grandson said something rather profound. He wasn’t going for profundity, but rather was instructing his grandmother on the art of football. He said that in football never let your feet leave the ground. That’s when you get hurt. He explained: Don’t jump over people or jump on top of the other guy(s). My grandson knows whereof he speaks.

Seems to me this can apply to life as well. We often associate the spiritual life with living in some airy fairy world that is above or even beyond our all-too-real lives. That it floats above us in some rarified atmosphere that we must jump through hoops to access. That spirituality is something over and above human life, real life.  It seems Pentecost is saying something different. That the Spirit of Christ that comes to us is that of a real person who embodies both the human and sacred. His Spirit endows us with his image and likeness. With his humanity as well as his sacredness. This spirituality is a grounded spirituality. Grounded in Christ. Grounded in our very real and often difficult lives, as it was in his.  It is my experience that unless we have your two feet firmly planted in your life, God cannot put his two foot there either. And when we do and he does, nothing we do can separate us, as Paul says, from the love, the experience, the presence of Christ Jesus.

Paul talks about modeling ourselves on the lived example that Christ embodied. Paul often too refers to the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ seen in his actions. What we observe first and foremost is a man living an authentic life true to who he knew himself to be. He was in solidarity with others; celebrating their marriages, eating and drinking with his friends, for which he was roundly criticized, tending to their physical and spiritual needs, standing between himself and evil spirits, and talking to those who began to follow him, telling them stories about another way of being which he called the kingdom. He sought to give others sight, and new ways of looking at life, and at his Father, whom he said we could see in him. So why is the way we look at God, so very different from how we see Jesus? Or at least how he is represented in the gospel accounts of his life. He wanted others to hear, not the old ways, which obviously were not only not working, but were causing people more difficulties than intended. And what he intended, what he wanted for his followers, was a different kind of peace, a different way of living the faith of Israel, which he now embodies in his Spirit.

It is this Spirit, his Spirit that has been given us. One that gives life. One that is real, earthed, and is an abiding presence, the awareness of which he tried valiantly to bring to our attention by his very life and humanity, a presence that would was not, is not, deterred by those killing his body. The man who walked the Road to Emmaus and sat by the sea shore cooking breakfast for his friends, was again, showing us that the realm of heaven, of the eternal, of the sacred, is one with this world of flesh and blood, earth and sky, road and seashore, which nothing can deter, restrain, contain or destroy. For his Spirit is absolutely the Spirit of freedom. The Spirit of love. The Spirit of an abiding presence that is as close as the wind on our faces, as real as our heart beats and as available to us as our believing it is so.

Imagine the Possibilities

Pentecost red ribbons  Pentecost redeems the Tower of Babel. Many languages were being spoken out there on the streets beneath the upper room on that Pentecost day where a great wind caught twelve plus anxious men and women in the grips of something that changed not only their lives but the way we view the world and mark history.

We are in the season of the Holy Spirit. And in all truth, since the day of that first Pentecost, when the world was lit by the fire and language of the Spirit, Pentecost is the ever-present reality of our lives each and every day, no matter what church or natural season in which we find ourselves.

This Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. St. Paul tells us that it is this Spirit that has come to make its home in us. In his letter to the Romans Paul characterizes the essence of the spirit as freedom.  He interchanges Spirit of Christ and Spirit of God in this letter. But they are one and the same Spirit. The נשימה that breathed over the waters at the creation, the ruach which in the Hebrew Scriptures can be variously translated wind or spirit or breath.

One of the Hebrew names for God is Ruach Elohim. The first impression of those assembled in the upper room was of a wind. A wind that overtook their sensibilities. A wind that brought the fire of the spirit. In that moment we became lit with the Spirit of Christ moving in our lives. In that upper room a window opened to eternity. To divinity. To the sacred possibility within us. Opens us to the Spirit of One made whole, human and sacred showing himself fully alive, alive to the Ruach Elohim and now fully alive in us.

When Jesus showed himself risen he carried the Ruach Elohim to us. In him Spirit and Body became one indivisible reality of the human person. He crushed the head of dualism. And in him the Ruach Elohim came to its fullest expression in the human person. The Word breathed over the waters at Creation became flesh. And when the Word became flesh, as St. Paul would say, we became a new creation.

Like Mary seeded by the Ruach Elohim at Jesus’ conception, we are now in Christ, seeded with the limitless possibilities of his Spirit. Each day is a little pentecost. We are his first-fruits. The bounty of his becoming in us. In his Spirit, in the emerging pentecost of each new day, we rise to a new harvest, a new way of being, which holds the limitless possibilities of our humanity, now in him, made whole. Human. Sacred. Meant.

Pentecost and Peonies

Forty Days With St. Paul

  IMG_0828        Pentecost is just past and I am reminded that Pentecost was already a feast that Paul and the other followers of Christ celebrated. It is the feast of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit that transformed the world in Christ. Like the gift of springtime, Pentecost brings us the gift of the Spirit.
Also, during the Pentecost season both my peonies and irises bloom. Like Pentecost, peonies are my favorite flower. Each year I take copious photographs and make arrangements of them to paint and capture their fleeting beauty on canvas. It seems appropriate that peonies bloom at Pentecost because the word for peony in German is Pfingstrose. It means Spirit Rose. It is a gift in my garden just as the Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to us.
Moving throughout Paul’s letters, as he goes about guiding people in this new faith in Christ, is the Holy Spirit…

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With One Heart

 Pentecost red ribbons  They weren’t drunk. Although to most it sounded as if they were. They seemed to have been under the influence of some kind of spirits. And they were.

Jesus has appeared to the women, to Peter and the other disciples who came on shore to have breakfast with Peter and Jesus. Along with all the others he has been a presence to all those he loved in the world. Even Thomas who was not with the others, was given a chance to touch him in his wounded place. For like us, it is often in our wounded places that we touch and are touched by the presence of Christ.

It’s this presence that comes breaking through the walled barriers of the upper room on Pentecost. It is one of Jesus’ final manifestations after he came back from death. But it is not his physical presence but his Spirit that comes as fire upon the disciples. No closed doors, no walls, and not even their fears and doubts could keep the promised Spirit of Christ away from them. And it is Peter who realizes what is going on. Peter, who has gone through so much, been tested in his own fire, and the call to care for those he has been given, that is able to see that what has come upon them is the intoxication of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. In that same Spirit, the disciple who once ran away, now stands up. Peter has finally got it. He will keep the Lord in his sights for the remainder of his days. He knows now the way of life. Their fear and sorrow has turned to joy in the presence of the living Christ.

Jesus has stood on the hill just outside Bethany, blessing them and then appears to have arisen into the heavens, departing them this one last time.

Everyone in Jerusalem is overtaken by the sending of the Spirit, and they began to hear what the disciples were saying in their native tongues. It is the first convening of the United Nations. No translation or translator was needed. The disciples of Jesus would leave the upper room and the day of Pentecost and go out to live together with one heart. The heart of Christ.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the language of the soul was given voice. St. Paul talks about being in Christ. Being in Christ for him is about living in his Spirit. And when we live in the Spirit of Christ, who can come like fire, or like a gentle wind, or tug at your heart, as Paul says in Romans, the Spirit of Christ, has made a home in us. And abides with us in the absolute freedom of the Spirit which knows no barriers, no obstacles, no walls or door, not even death. Paul tells us we no longer live under the shadow of death. We now live in the unending time of Easter and of Pentecost. In the fire of the Spirit, in the heart of Christ.

The Journey of the Human Heart

 Pentecost red ribbons I’ve been facilitating a bible study in the past few months on Acts of the Apostles. In Acts Luke chronicles the early church grappling with what it means to follow Jesus as the Christ. We get a different look at St. Paul in Acts. We see him traveling around the Mediterranean, going from place to place in order to establish belief in Jesus and set up churches in his name. Even though Luke paints Paul in a favorable light (he was his traveling companion for a while) it becomes clear from the outset that their were many challenges Paul faced and difficulties the first apostles faced after Jesus’ resurrection.

But they were not alone as they began to proclaim the triumph of the human Jesus as the messiah, the Christ, as evidenced by his resurrection. His resurrection had a powerful effect on them. Suddenly the things Jesus said and did made sense. They finally got it. They understood. And at Pentecost it became the Spirit of Christ coming upon them, coming into them, that empowered them to go out and proclaim that this holy man from Galilee, who was their friend and teacher, was also the Christ of God.

Each of us over the course of our lives enacts the journey that we see in the first followers of Jesus trying to become ‘church’. The ecclesia –a gathering of believers who would now try to recreate/to tell Jesus’ life, his words, what he taught and what he believed. Their goal to form their identity based on the life of Jesus.

For us too today it is a matter of forming an identity. An identity we need to form and formulate anew as we grow in knowledge and awareness of our spirits as they join with the deepest God-centered self, which is Christ. We are Spirit led. Our creative spirituality is an incarnate spirituality. It is enfleshed in our bodies as we embody the Spirit of Christ.(1 Cor. 15:45) As we make our final march to Holy Week and to Easter, we embody his Spirit, left as legacy and identity.

He made his journey from the green hills of Galilee to the teeming metropolis of Jerusalem, to the shores of the Jordan, from the Kidron Valley, along with his those who loved him, committed to a journey they had no idea where it would lead them. It was enough to be with him. For us too, it is enough to be with him.

His life was a journey. He continues to journey with us as we make our unique identities in the world.  It is a promise kept. It is the promise of the coming to be of God in the human heart because he was the human heart of Jesus. A human and sacred heart that is enough.

Pentecost and Peonies

  IMG_0828        Pentecost is just past and I am reminded that Pentecost was already a feast that Paul and the other followers of Christ celebrated. It is the feast of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit that transformed the world in Christ. Like the gift of springtime, Pentecost brings us the gift of the Spirit.
Also, during the Pentecost season both my peonies and irises bloom. Like Pentecost, peonies are my favorite flower. Each year I take copious photographs and make arrangements of them to paint and capture their fleeting beauty on canvas. It seems appropriate that peonies bloom at Pentecost because the word for peony in German is Pfingstrose. It means Spirit Rose. It is a gift in my garden just as the Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to us.
Moving throughout Paul’s letters, as he goes about guiding people in this new faith in Christ, is the Holy Spirit. The word for Spirit pneuma occurs 140 times in all of Paul’s letters. If Paul’s letter to the Romans is the gospel of Transformation, then Romans Chapter 8 is Paul’s discourse on the Spirit. But Paul’s use of ‘spirit’ also has several layers of meaning in Romans 8. In v. 11 the Spirit is the one who has raised Jesus from the dead. Preceding that in v. 10 Paul says ‘that if Christ be in you…the Spirit of life is in you.’ In v. 26 the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is both divine immanence and the power of God to create. It is what the Spirit of Christ at Pentecost did and does.
For Paul the indwelling of the spirit (Cor. 2:10-16) reaches its deepest meaning in the human person as his way of making his appeal for spiritual integrity, for a change in behavior, for fellowship, for life in Christ. It is these three ideas that become central and surface in Paul’s letters as a program of sorts. Changing one’s behavior so as to reflect their belief in Christ. What fellowship now in the Body of Christ entails. And the heart and soul of his letters – what it means to live in Christ. Who and what Christ is.
Weaving through these themes or teachings is the Spirit. The Spirit that makes life possible, as in the creation of the world. It is this same Spirit that makes possible the new creation in Christ. From the dark void that became creation to the dark day on Calvary that became the Resurrection, new life, the ever-present and living Spirit of Christ with us, is the Spirit that blows, pours, breathes, blesses, leads, fashions, creates, speaks and sustains. Humanity is marked and invaded with the Spirit of the invisible God who has broken through the heart of darkness to the heart of Life. Broken through the intractable Winter to the promise and beauty of Spring. The vibrant peonies each year get more and more bountiful in my garden; so much so that I find myself making bouquets and giving them away to friends and neighbors. This I imagine is what lead Christ to give the bounty of his Spirit to us so that the church could bloom bountiful in his spirit and bloom and grow into something spirit-filled and yielding its bounty throughout the world.  It is the Spirit today that enables the beauty of Christ to come upon us, like each new Spring time, and live on as witness and wisdom, healing and transformation, bearing witness to the joy and blessing that is ours in Christ. This is the remembrance and reminder of each Pentecost and Peonies.