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.