My good friend Cara Dublin has written a great little reflection on her experience of celebrating Pentecost Sunday last week at her church, Redeemer Presbyterian in Austin, Texas. I asked her if I could pass it along and she graciously agreed. Here it is!
A Pentecost Story
Today was Pentecost Sunday- stormy and threatening rain. During the first service, distant thunder had been rumbling. When we got to the central reading for the day, Acts 2, and the elder reading at the lectern came to the verse “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues,” our church began a beautiful ritual.
From amid the congregation, individual voices called out, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!”
They called it out in English.
Then in German.
Then in Portuguese.
They represent native languages, the languages of ancestors, and languages learned and mastered. They represent all nations of earth calling out in the words of the Psalms: Praise to the Lord!
From the lectern, the reader returned to Acts 2.
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
As the Scripture reading finished, in the grey of the dark morning sanctuary, he called out in a loud voice the words of our liturgical custom:
“This is the Word of the Lord!”
And the people answered him, in chorus:
“Thanks be to God!”
And the next instant a great thunderclap rent the heavens above us, and shook all the building’s windows and made the earth seem to roll amid a mighty peal of terror and of glory.
A collective gasp of wonder came over the congregation; then silence; then laughter. The nervous laughter of strange encounters. The disbelieving laughter of blessing. The joyful laughter of splendid, fleeting things that you wouldn’t have believed unless you heard it, too.
And then the choir began:
“Breath on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew…until this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine.”
We know that at that Pentecost day of old, it was tongues of fire, and the coming of many languages. The reversal of Babel – the Lord comes down, and scattered men suddenly understand one another once more.
But perhaps Pentecost is also great thunder and fear, silence and laughter. Reverence and joy for this gift we are given, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the very Breath of God.
May our united voices always end in reverence, and in laughter, and in song.”
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