Like most festivals in the Christian tradition, Pentecost displays interesting tensions. The community is gathered with one accord in one place. And yet the One Flame is cloven, and the words spoken are heard by people out of every nation under heaven, each in their own language.
The Flame of spirit is divided through us, for the purpose of communion, friendship, and transformation with persons of every possible variety. I spent last weekend running around with druids and assorted pagans, and today hanging out with a Unitarian minister friend. They speak to me, and I to them, in our tongues the wonderful works of God. As Carol Parrish would put it (see my interview with her, several posts down), this is the great divine salad – tomatoes are not lettuce and Buddhists are not Christians, but each has their place. We are all bound together in love and respect by the unction (salad dressing?) of the Spirit.
Jesus tells the disciples that the coming Spirit will teach you all things. This is a process which is still ongoing, and can be unnerving. It is not for nothing that Jesus admonishes his followers: Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Being led into all truth can be deeply disturbing. But when we lay aside our fear, we come to know the truth that each of our sisters and brothers is indeed the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in them.
Moreover, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. In the Orthodox liturgy for Pentecost, there is prayer asking that sinners be released from hell. While I don’t share the theology of hell expressed in the prayer, what a bold hope! The Spirit gives us the strength to stand up and ask God for freedom for the most bound of our fellow human beings. May we find such renewed courage this Pentecost!