Let’s start with an interesting contrast of biblical paradigms:
Exodus paradigm: Revolution →→ Revelation
Pentecost paradigm: Revelation →→ Revolution!
The Pentecost paradigm can be illustrated with these two passages from the New Testament.
Luke 6:12-19 == Prayer (Solitude) →→ Community →→ Ministry (Mission)
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
The events at Pentecost followed the same pattern.
Acts 2 == Prayer/Spirit →→ Community →→ Ministry & Mission
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability….
[Peter preached to people of many races in Jerusalem…]
… So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe (φόβος) came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Can you see from that last paragraph why I speak of revolution?
Henri Nouwen wrote (in Bread for the Journey):
It is the Spirit who offers us the life that death cannot destroy.
Dynamic images for the Spirit – wind, cloud, fire, water – all essential to life. The dove? Ah, that was just God’s selfie – a one-time shot. Nothing more. The other images are the important ones!
So today we celebrate life. The life the Spirit gives. The life that is revolutionary. Pentecost is an invitation to join the revolution of God’s love and the love that we humans are capable of giving and sharing. Yes, we are capable, if we can just overcome the ease with which we fall into selfish and combative ways.
As the Spirit hovered over the darkness that covered the earth at the beginning of time (Genesis 1:2), may the same Spirit move among us in the prayer and community of this day, and prepare us for new life.
A beautiful blessing that I found in the book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. I slightly modified it so that instead of “the peace of the Lord Christ” I have “the Spirit of the Lord Christ.”
May the Spirit of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.
4 Replies to “A Community of God’s Spirit”
Thank you for this interesting post. I am also a fan of Henri Nouwen. Best wishes.
Henri Nouwen was a truly inspiring man. I’m so glad you also are a fan. His books are full of deep spiritual insight as well as showing his extreme sensitivity to human suffering. His death was a deep loss. Thank you for sharing your positive comments.
You have inspired me to re-post something I wrote a month or so ago about Henri Nouwen. He has played a really important role in my thinking. He has inspired my writing. “The Return of the Prodigal Son” actually inspired a whole collection of poetry! Good to connect with you and your work. Best wishes, Michael (aka Flowering Poverello!)
I like your post on the Return of the Prodigal Son. I’m always amazed by how beautifully you can express experiences and truths through poetry and images. I’m glad Nouwen inspired you to write this post and for re-posting today. Thank you for commenting today on my post! I don’t get many comments, and I have appreciated the ones you have posted.