Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Pentecost Sunday, Year B
May 20, 2018
Lessons: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:23-27; John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people open themselves to experiencing the Holy Spirit in new and fresh ways, stewarding God’s gifts and abundance as the Spirit guides them.
Key Scripture: “And now I
“If I write for anything, it’s to bring order out of chaos, but not too much. A wee bit of disorder never did any harm.” — Kathleen Jamie
Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie wasn’t thinking about Pentecost or the Holy Spirit when she spoke the words above, but she reminds me of two important points about that Wild Goose of a Spirit whose presence is ever with us. First, whenever the Advocate’s in the room, there’s likely to be some chaos there too. And secondly, a little bit of chaos is actually quite a good thing.
Pentecost Sunday worship often includes an air of celebration along with lots of the color red and maybe some balloons, or even a flaming baptismal font for the really bold and adventurous. Coffee hours may feature a festive “church birthday” cake or other sweet treat to mark the occasion of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the believers in Jerusalem. Yet geraniums and bright red buttercream fall considerably short of the holy fire for mission and passion for sharing the Good News that the Spirit ignited in the hearts of those early disciples.
I wonder, too, whether our celebrations of Pentecost function more like a church history day, similar to the way we celebrate Independence Day in the United States. Do such observances keep things manageable, happy, and maybe even a little tame? Do such ways of celebrating keep that wild and wonderful Spirit at safe arm’s length? If we’re talking history and celebrating the Holy Ghost of church past, then we don’t have to confront her raucous honking, flapping, and nipping at our recalcitrant heels.
We are, for the most part, I believe, afraid of this aspect of God because the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Wild Goose is untamable and will not be shoved into our comfortable compartmentalization of daily life. This is one reason I so appreciate the Celtic Christian image of the Spirit that is so earthy, unpredictable, and real. You see, geese are amazing creatures—powerful aviators, cacophonous orators, and unpredictable in their response to our human way of being and living.
For example, a flock of wild geese has taken up residence in a strip mall parking lot not far from where I live. One mama goose has even built her nest and is incubating eggs on a parking berm in the midst of traffic and city noise. This has caused some serious issues for those using the lot because the protective geese parents are prone to chase folks trying to go between their parked cars and the stores. The geese have taken over and will not be relocated, thus modifying human behavior to suit their purposes.
This, my friends, is how the Holy Spirit works—like a wild goose. The Holy Spirit will come in, set up shop, and CHANGE us and our behaviors both as individual disciples and as church. The Spirit will chase us down, bring us in line, and redirect our paths. Yes, the Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving from the moment we are named and claimed in baptism until we die to this world and rise to eternal life.
So, when we blithely intone, “Come, Holy Spirit!” in our worship and in our life, do we really know what we are calling for? Do we even partially comprehend what the Spirit may do to and through and in spite of us? I wonder.
The late author and scholar Phyllis Tickle, writing in The Great Emergence and the divine housecleaning that seems to take place in the church every 500 years or so, proclaims this 500 year period that we’ve just entered as the time of the Holy Spirit. We’ve had 500 years of God the Father, we had a Reformation and 500 years of Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. But now look out church—we’re in for a big dose of Holy Spirit on the loose.
Yes, the Holy Spirit is at work doing a new thing, re-forming us as church, reigniting a passion and fire for the gospel, and giving us a new language that speaks to this age, our time, and our contexts. We must, however, let go of the dry bones and dusty glory of some former decade. Then all we must do is be willing to risk everything and dream new dreams, embrace new visions, and speak prophetic words of hope, grace, and love that soar far above the status quo.
So this Sunday, whether you’re preaching, teaching, worshiping, or some combination thereof, consider the possibility that we are standing on the verge of our own Pentecost experience—that truly God is doing a new thing in our world. The mainline church as we know it is starting to look a whole lot different. That is disconcerting, especially for those among us who don’t do change well. Remember, we do not do this alone. Jesus has sent the Advocate, and this Holy Spirit will guide us always into the truth. This is our promise. So, indeed, come Holy Spirit, come! Bring it on, Goose on the loose!
Ever wanted to light a fire in the baptismal font or create a fiery masterpiece? Maybe this is the Sunday to step out on a limb and do so. Here are instructions for lighting a simple fire in the font. Want something bigger? Check out this option.
How about painting a Holy Spirit masterpiece? You’ll need Sharpies, 91% alcohol or alcohol-based paints. Click here for ideas.
Our passage from Acts today recalls words of the 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” (2:27). Ponder with your youth want it means for them to have a prophetic voice and to be the visionaries for the church present and future. What young church leaders do they hear and see as authentic and faithful leaders?
What does the Holy Spirit look like? That’s a good question! After all, we are told that we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit on the occasion of our baptism, but it’s a gift that doesn’t come all neatly wrapped in pretty paper with a bow. You can’t see or touch the Holy Spirit, but eventually you learn that the Spirit is truly with you. In the Bible, the Spirit is described as wind (ruach), as a dove, and as descending on the disciples like tongues of fire. Tell the children that early Christians in some parts of Ireland, Scotland and Britain thought of the Holy Spirit as being like a wild goose. If you have a goose puppet, now would be a good time to pull it out to help illustrate the story. Don’t have a goose puppet? Check out these instructions to make one from heavy socks or woolen tights, plastic flower pots, buttons, and a little hot glue.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Have you ever considered yourself to be a steward of holy chaos? When you’re guided by the Holy Spirit you may very well be called to live into situations that are somewhat chaotic and edgy. Pray for guidance, wisdom, and discernment to be a good steward of all the good gifts God gives to you and to the Body of Christ.
Stewardship at Home
Our world is a noisy place! In fact, it’s so noisy, and there are so many competing claims on our time, attention, and resources, that it’s tough to listen for the Holy Spirit moving, encouraging, and guiding us in our lives. Make time this week to sit still, listen, and pray for the Spirit to move in your life. When you feel a nudge to call someone or to reach out in some way, listen and respond. Then take time to journal about your experience or process it verbally with family or friends.
More into visual art? Consider making some “Holy Spirit” coasters to share with friends. They make wonderful and inexpensive gifts. Click here for instructions.
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/05/love-spoken-here/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/05/come-holy-spirit-really/
Photos: Jacob Spinks and ksblack99, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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