One flame, many tongues

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!

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4 Responses to “One flame, many tongues”

  1. lainiep Says:

    Slightly off topic, but I have a question for you and don’t have your email address handy:

    Do you consider the ISM to be a “New Religious Movement”?

  2. boze Says:

    Now that is a VERY good question – one I’ve been wondering myself for some time now. I wonder – does the answer lie in what is the received definition of “New Religious movement”? Hmmm . . . . John, if you don’t mind I’m gonna swipe this one and post on it over at my place 🙂 . . . .this should be fun!

  3. boze Says:

    Just a quick follow up – I’ve posted some thoughts on the question here:

    http://gracecatholic.blogspot.com/

  4. hilbertastronaut Says:

    Hi Bishop John!

    Been a while since I’ve kept up with this blog — it’s not in my Reader’s blogroll because of the password thing (hm, I should check if my Reader can save the password…).

    That is a “bold hope” expressed in the Orthodox prayer for sinners to be liberated from hell! I think even if one doesn’t hold to a traditional theology of hell as a place of permanent torment after death, the prayer is still valid and important, because there are people who are imprisoned in a “hell on earth” of their own spiritual blindness and selfishness, whom it seems can’t be reached by anything other than a miracle. That is just as much a hell as any fire and brimstone! May all the prayers of our Orthodox sisters and brothers throughout the centuries contribute to the release of these captives from their prisons.

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