I am struck by the contradicting tales reflected in the story of Babylon and the day of Pentecost. In the story of Babylon God does something that separates the unification of humankind. In those days, the story tells, all humankind had one language and they used their unity for works of vanity and arrogance. And so God confused their language and scattered them in all different directions to diminish their collective power. I think this story helps feed a religious suspicion of attempts to unite nations or build one world economies. This ancient story remains in our psyche suggesting it is evil and against God’s will that the peoples of the world unite for a better world. Well, my homily is not about that. It is about the contradictory and unpredictability of what the mysterious hand of God is up to at any time or people.
Juxtaposed to this story of Babylon, we have this move of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost where the disciples speak in their own tongue, and yet people from many other languages here them as if they were speaking in their language. It was like the very first U.N. Council right there in ancient Jerusalem.
I have experienced and witnessed a lot of wild ideas and behavior around this whole idea of what it means for the spirit of God to be present in our life. People read these stories from the Book of Acts and immediately want that sort of thing to happen, or definitely NOT happen in their life. I heard long ago, and have always agreed, it is silly business reading about a spiritual experience and wishing it for yourself.
It seems to me that the spirit does what the spirit does, and we have little to no power to invoke or dismiss. The only admonition I read of from the teachings of the gospel is to yield, and not suppress or deny.
Jesus promised his own disciples, that in his absence, God would send them an advocate, a helper, a companion. Paul proclaimed in his letter to the church in Galatia, that the children of God were all who were led by the Spirit of God. Paul, Jesus, the psalmist, and history’s long line of saints and mystics and storytellers all confess this idea of the world being filled with the unseen spirit of God and they implore us all to cultivate awareness and he connectedness to the Holy and unseen world around us in our own day.
Jesus spoke of Peace often, when he spoke of the Holy Spirit. Peace I give to you, peace I leave with you as he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. Paul wrote of seven attributes, or as he called them, fruit of the Holy Spirit: Love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The counter to being a person following the spirit’s path are hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions,and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Both lists describe very human behavior – one list points us in a much healthier and wholesome and communal life, the other list creates a lot of pain and dysfunction in life. I recommend the first and joyfully accept God’s companion Spirit to fill and direct me accordingly.
This morning is all about renewing and reviving our companionship with God’s mysterious gift of intimate presence. It is about our awakening or re-awakening to that presence that has been here since the earth was void, and it hovered over its vast wasteland to restore life and renew the face of the earth.” This same divine presence Jesus breathed upon his disciples that they may be awoken and revived.
Today is a day for receiving – renewing that call to walk according to the ways of God’s Divine spirit – the ways of love and peace and community – the ways of patience, faithfulness, and gentleness. Open your eyes and see – put out your hands and receive – a tune your ears and listen — to what the spirit is saying to you in your life, at this time.
And may we have the grace to yield.