November 19, 2017

Friday with Michael & Damaris: Pentecost

A New Era, Photo by Alessandro Pautasso

Pentecost

The room is still; the hearth is cold and dark.
A rancid smell of ashes fills the air.
The candles stand neglected. Windows stare
Like blinded eyes unlit by any spark.
How dead this place – no life has left its mark
Upon the icy floor, the table bare;
No breeze, no breath, no sound, no movement there.
No grave could be as bleak, no tomb as stark.

A scratch, a flare – its spark dispels the gloom.
From candles, dancing leaves of light aspire.
Their brightness fills the corners of the room;
Dead ashes glow, and warmth breathes from the fire.
My lifeless hearth has blossomed into flame,
And in the room a voice calls out my name.

• By Damaris Zehner

• • •

From 2007.

We had our Pentecost worship gathering at soli deo this week, and I once again was amazed at what bad press the Feast of Pentecost usually gets among most evangelical Christians. How did such an important part of the Christian story become so lost and muddled?

For example, if you read the Gospels, you are bound to notice that no matter what happens, Jesus never tells his disciples, “OK…that’s all there is. Time to get to work.” There is always something more to come.

The disciples not only saw some incredible demonstrations of power, they experienced some of that power working through themselves on the two occasions when Jesus sent them out on missions “two by two.” I’m sure that after seeing the miracles of Jesus, the disciples would have said, “the Spirit of God is here. What are we waiting for?” Jesus said things about the presence of the Holy Spirit in his ministry that sounded like the age of the Spirit had arrived. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” What more could anyone ask for?

Of course, that was exactly the point. There WAS more to come. The Spirit that the disciples experienced in Jesus was coming to everyone in the people of God in fullness. In John 14 and 16, Jesus said that it would actually be better for him to go away so that the Spirit could come to all of his disciples in an intimate, advocating, comforting and consoling way. The Holy Spirit was coming upon the church in a way that had been predicted in the prophetic scriptures and previewed in the ministry of Jesus.

Even after the resurrection, the disciples are being prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The resurrection does not do for the church what the coming of the Holy Spirit does for the church. Imagine setting around with Jesus for those 40 days after Easter, being told, “Wait. Not yet. The Spirit hasn’t yet come.” If we put the overlap of the book of Acts onto the end of the Gospels, then the disciples believe the Kingdom simply needs to be announced by Jesus, but he is saying, “Wait until the Holy Spirit comes. Then you will be my witnesses everywhere.”

In other words, the entire Bible is waiting for the day of Pentecost to arrive, for all the work of Jesus to be completed and the church to be born. What an incredible event! It is the church’s “Third Great Day.”

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?

 Act 2:1-8

It seems odd that non-liturgical churches marking the birth of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus often lose Pentecost completely. The coming of the Spirit is a major event in the New Testament; a defining event in the history and identity of God’s people. For Christians, the first great act of the ascended, reigning Christ was to pour out the Holy Spirit on the church. The gathered disciples are really not the ekklesia of Jesus Christ- the New Covenant people of God- until the Holy Spirit comes. It is the birth of the church.

How unfortunate then that evangelicals either lost Pentecost or put the focus entirely on the wrong aspects. For example, I recall being in a large church where the pastor- with a seminary doctorate- was preaching that the point of Pentecost was….to draw a crowd. Yes, Pentecost was a way for God to create some fireworks and get a crowd together for the first big church event. It’s almost comedic to think of Pentecost being an attendance stunt. While Acts tells us that the crowd in the temple that heard the first Christian sermon was amazed at what they heard, how did the emphasis ever fall on Acts 2 as a lesson on justifying whatever we need to do to get a lot of people in the building?

Of course, the recent Azusa Street Revival Anniversary celebrations remind me that there are millions of Christians who see Pentecost primarily in terms of the arrival of power for the operation of the Gifts of the Spirit. The increasing influence of “Pentecostal” evangelicalism brings with it many positive contributions in worship, body life and evangelism, but the over-emphasis on spiritual gifts makes the letters to the Corinthians more pertinent than ever.

While the Holy Spirit is the author and giver of gifts, the place of spiritual gifts in the church seems to be one of the most distracting, misunderstood issues among Christians. I believe the New Testament compels us to be open to all the giftings and operations of the Spirit that God may send to his people as they witness, minister and serve. At the same time, the Holy Spirit does not give gifts as a way to divide the church into the “spiritual” and the “unspiritual.” Incredibly, some of those evangelicals who most loudly proclaim the heritage of Azusa Street seem determined to view the Holy Spirit in terms remarkably similar to the divisiveness and immaturity of the Corinthians.

The Holy Spirit did not come to divide the church, but to birth it, equip it and unite it. In I Corinthians 12, Paul says that the one thing all members of the body have in common is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is a clear reference to Pentecost, and the promise that the same “Pentecostal blessing” that came on the Apostles will come on all who believe. (Acts 2:38-39) Pentecost itself is repeated in Samaria, in the home of Cornelius and in the case of disciples of John the Baptist, not to teach a universal experience of tongues, but to show the apostles that the same Holy Spirit that came from Jesus to them was given to all peoples, just as the old covenant had promised.

The clear purpose of Pentecost was to bring into birth a new people of God, the beneficiaries of the ministry of the one mediator between God and man and all that he accomplishes in his life, death, resurrection, ascension and session. Pentecost is not a show or the dividing of the church into a spiritual competition between those with spiritual gifts and those not yet blessed. Pentecost is the creation of the people of God that scripture has always looked toward, from the covenant with Abraham until the consummation in the Kingdom.

The celebration of Pentecost should be among the church’s most important days because everything that it means to be the church- election, inheritance, salvation, empowering, community, mission, hope- all comes in the Holy Spirit that is poured out on Pentecost. Let’s reclaim the meaning and significance of this day, and make it a day that belongs to all Christians as our joyful, common birthday.

• • •

Photo by Alessandro Pautasso at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Susan Dumbrell says:

    Hi Imonkers,
    To Chaplain Mike and Mike the Geologist, I pray you will give me air. Give me grace.
    I know it relates to yesterday’s topic and I again ask you that I may contribute today’s Holy Moment.
    As I have said previously, my Priest offered to take the Sacrament to my husband late today.
    A time I will have engraved on my heart. The Holy Spirit is just waiting for the opportunity to heal our hearts.
    My husband does not speak but the words came from his lips as we said the old prayers.
    Where in the back of the mind are these words stored.
    May we all be blessed now and in our dementia.

    Don’t look. It is just around the corner, waiting. May our Lord be with us now and then.
    Susan

  2. Damaris,
    I love that poem. It transported me into that death and into that life.
    Chris

  3. Robert F says:

    sunlit cross
    empty sanctuary
    tongues of silence

  4. Robert F says:

    Thank you, Damaris. A beautiful and beautifully crafted poem.

  5. Dana Ames says:

    Damaris,

    I’ve always wanted to love poetry, but somehow I’m not equipped for it… Maybe the proliferation of (mostly bad) blank verse in the last 50 years has contributed to my dullness. But I looked at your poem and even before reading I said to myself, “A sonnet! Oh boy! Some real art is going to be here!) And it was so. You’re sharpening me up. Would so love to take your classes.

    Dana

  6. No one led me to Christ. I should have been killed in a car accident hitting a 6 foot wide maple tree at 60. My head hit the tree. They found me on top a case of elephant beer. A pound under the front seat a quarter pound in my jacket and coke in my wallet. The night Ali and Frazier fought in the seventies. They took me to Holy Spirit hospital and I was dying. They needed to do emergency surgery to save me from my massive head injury……Like the cat I found on the street. It wasn’t inside my brain but the blood clot was the size of a fist and it was killing me. Never have I known that pain again. I chased the father out of my room who had come to give me last rites and I shouldn’t have been awake at all from the drugs they gave me. Somehow a fit of rage filled me and I cursed him and threaten to kill him and everyone came running to control me. He left. Last thing I remember before waking up in the most awful pain and not able to move for 2 days. No hair and they punched a hole in my skull to remove the blood clot. Drilling didn’t work. Quarter still in my jacket and coke still in my wallet. Never got charged.

    I never caught up that year in school just to much and a month or more off. It was impossible. Try geometry when you missed weeks worth of building. First period i would just lay my head down and sleep and the giant gentle man left me and put his hand on my head and said it will be okay. Sure didn’t seem like it. Everyday I asked God why would you do this to me. Six months of asking. I was still working 40 or more hours a week. All my friends left me alone now. I can’t explain hurt on these levels.

    It was spring and I walked on the back porch and the blackest skies I had ever seen were approaching and I was asking why God. I asked him that a lot even before I was hurt especially why people did the things they did in hurting others and good people dying. The wind blew and lightning came down but i noticed very little of it and at 15 he spoke and said ” I am not the one who did this to you I am the one who saved you and I love you” word for word and that was it. I cried for hours knowing firsthand the love of Jesus. I remember walking around saying to everyone do you know Him. I got a lot of blank stares. I asked my mom please take me to church so I can thank Him in His house. She did but no one knew what to do with me including me. I knew I was saved and never knew till after that people actually believed that saying the right words was how it worked. He said I love you and I said I’m sorry Lord.

    I went back to the old ways for awhile and after the birth of my daughter my life changed and I got clean and raised my children. Never once did I have to hit them to correct them and they have turned out quite well considering and I have a hard time believing they’re mine. Never once have I believed I wasn’t saved.

    I have heard this voice many times. Me the least of the saints. For real the sins are to much to count in my brain especially if you count thoughts. I drug a man through his car window once and if it wasn’t for Bill don’t… I don’t know. He almost wrecked me with my children in the car. You have no idea what a man who use to hit I beams for fun and break blocks with his hands just for fun can do. Especially at 280 with 21 inch arms. I can’t hit no one. I don’t want to hurt nobody. Same man hold’s 1 pound kittens and stare at their blue eyes and his heart melts inside him. Most beautiful.

    Anyways the short of it is it’s there and no one has to train you. You do have to listen and when you ask stop long enough to try or you could go quite awhile like 6 months or a year or maybe a life. if they say cats can have 9 I’m close to my 9 now. Hake i could be over that for sure. Holy Spirit touch them In their special way. It’s just me asking but it is honestly. Why I don’t know only I felt what You just did. Frankly I don’t know what you see in us at all.

    Oh yeah the father came back days after I had awoke and said to me do you remember me and I said no. I didn’t. He smiled and left and it wasn’t till years later it came to me that was him.

    • Just to be sure Damaris the poem is great and I appreciate the way it flows in and out to make the whole. To be sure very unalike but at the core the same in ways we are. All of us….Thought about Lorraine a lot today. Not sure why. Trapper was in my thoughts and his flashbacks of the trap I witnessed. Pretty horrible to see something in so much pain that wasn’t even there anymore. Thank God love is able to put them away and that happened for trapper. A cat. Had my foot in traps metaphorically speaking. Did I say I thought about Lorraine a lot today????Oh my how and why does my heart ache this way.

      • Bill, if you have never done so, try reading up on “empath” online and see if it makes any sense. ~Charley

        • So where do I go from here. Do You know what it’s like to not be able to watch the news for most my life. How early in the morning as a young man the pain was so great i would weep uncontrollably. No one sees these things in me and only here have I let them out. Do you know what its like to feel things come at you from everywhere all the time. Where do I go??? I just got woke up to the fact of why I always wanted to use. I prefer my imagination to TV. I can actually be anywhere doing anything when ever I want. It’s this place and the hurt I can’t shut it out. It seems a lot further than a green mile to me.

          • Sadness and weeping
            My life in awakening
            From first light to end
            I have started dying

            My hope, My Morning star
            Promises I hold like treasure
            You said and I believe
            When I shut these eyes for good
            Do with me as you would.. I want to be in the land of the living with You
            I hang my head
            You lift my chin
            You see my eyes
            My head falls and my knees hit the ground
            It’s to heavy for me I can’t hold it
            Take a finger wipe the tear away forever and ever

          • I dunno. Last week I unsubscribed from the Babylon Bee. It had shifted over recently from giving people a gentle poke with their finger to jabbing people’s eye with a sharp stick. It’s sure not much fun on Saturdays anymore here like it used to be. There is a strong spirit of rancor and division in the world, much stronger than normal, and it seems to me crucial to be aware of that so as not to be swept along in it out of ignorance or lack of awareness. This to me is an indication that the Dark Forces of this planet are up against the wall and making moves of desperation in the attempt to retain control, and the outcome is still uncertain at this point. The more people can be manipulated to be at each others throats and feeling hopeless and discouraged, the longer the Dark Side can hang on.

            It seems important to me to make every effort to be thankful for everything given to us, whether it seems good or bad to our limited understanding. I rate each day with the ratio of my cries for help as against my times of thanks, and some days are much better than others. This is hard to remember, it’s even hard to even remember to ask for help remembering. What counts is effort and intent and overall improvement and I regard each instance of anger and rising to the bait as deducting major points. It helps a lot to live as much as possible in a way and situation that does not trigger negative reactions, but when slipping it helps to regard it as another opportunity for practicing the immediate and permanent release and surrender to God of the negativity like letting go of a helium balloon.

            I have reached the point of seeing centering prayer as the absolute skill and requirement for anyone wanting to walk with God in this 21st century, and I believe that this is what Spirit is trying to get across to the followers of Jesus at this time. If you followed things here this past week you can see that most people here are not only not ready for the fundamental act of receiving Spirit, they are fiercely resistant to it. Be that as it may, for those ready to keep up, twenty minutes a day practicing moving away from the center of thoughts and feelings to the center of peace and stillness in the Presence of God is worth a whole lot more than a seminary education. This is generally thought of as moving from the head down into the heart. In that your see your heart as a receptor of pain I’m at a loss to know what to say to you except that my heart used to be filled anguish and anger and despair, and now it’s like it contains a place of stillness and peace where all that other stuff goes on somewhere else when I’m on top of things. Certainly not all the time, all I can do is try to get a little better at it every day, and some days are better than others.

            I’ve never studied up on empaths other than to know they exist and that I share certain of their traits without being devastated like you and some others are by this assault and barrage of the feelings of others. It would seem that barriers or the lack of them is at the base of the problem. I try to keep a six inch thick energy barrier hemisphere over me when I’m under attack. If a situation gets too much for me I just leave if at all possible. If it was crippling to me as it seems to be to you, I would certainly read as much as I could on what others with the same problem had to say. I feel like I have enough on my plate as it is trying to get my own act together while there is yet time. There must be a wealth of information about it online and in books, and I would guess like most collections of information that it would take discernment to sort out the helpful from the unhelpful. I trust God to guide my research and learning, which has always worked for me. I would assume that you have been given this for very good reasons that you agreed to before your life on earth began, and perhaps it might give a different perspective to look on it as a gift for reasons not yet known rather than torment and a burden beyond bearing. I dunno, that’s probably not much help. Know that I lift you up in prayer every day for blessing, healing, relief, restoration, peace of mind, and a peaceful heart.

            • This article titled The Difference Between an Empath, a Sympath and One Who Practices Compassion just came to my mailbox today. As with all things, take whatever resonates or helps, if anything, and let the rest go. This is not a “Christian” article and is one of many areas where as far as I can see the church is clueless and asleep at the wheel:

              http://humansarefree.com/2017/06/the-difference-between-empath-sympath.html

              • Thanks Charley, It’s a shock when you read about yourself in a way you were never aware of. 27 of 30 things describing yourself. I think the info was actually the place of breaking a cycle. I’m aware…..Think of when Neil said that and then took off flying. I can recognize now and say I don’t want to and practice. Sis died 4 years ago now. It was a slide for me. I spilled into these pages me and in many ways I shouldn’t have been imposing…..sorry to everyone. I didn’t know or was being self centered here because no one else or for that fact even here could identify.

                The help sections seems a little to wacky to me and therapy from any one less than half my age won’t work. I was to therapy sessions and wasting time and money to shoot the **** is not my cup of tea. Anyways having painted the sadness and hurt there is an opposite side of the story too.

                Nature does provide so much joy to me. God is gracious. Centering prayer is something I don’t know about but I think I might start investigations in how to start. My biggest wonder if given to me then there has to be a way to help others with it. Worth a try.

                • This all sounds good, Bill. In my view the way out of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which affects a lot more than combat veterans, is to revisit the trauma enough to find a place where you can stop resisting the pain and fear, and consciously release it to God without slipping off into self-indulgence. May take multiple times, hundreds, whatever it takes. Not the easiest balance to gain and sometimes the hardest part is finding an open ear, so your time here has been worth it in my view. This is where centering prayer can help, one of many ways it is helpful.

                  I just sent you a used book from Amazon by Cynthia Bourgeault called Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, which is still the most helpful book on the subject I have found, tho there are others. She herself has other books on various subjects, not all of which I find helpful, and she has a new book called The Heart of Centering Prayer, which I don’t especially recommend to non-academic people. As with all information, take what resonates and let the rest go, give the book to Goodwill if it’s not your cup of tea. She gives background to the practice but also is good at giving practical nuts and bolts as to just how to go about it and what to expect and how not to get discouraged by your own imperfections at it.

                  She recommends two twenty minute sessions a day, a worthy goal, but I would say even one twenty minute session a day for a month would tell the story one way or the other. I started with that and gradually increased it, but it helps that I’m no longer working a job. I’m still learning, still practicing, and even people like Richard Rohr who have been doing it for years say the same. I do find the place of peace and Presence of God becomes more crucial to be able to enter in at will as the world continues to deteriorate and the bickering increases. Once you start learning the trick of diving down from your head into your heart whenever you catch yourself focussing on head thoughts or feelings, you can learn to do it on the fly when someone cuts you off in traffic. Hope it works for you. Take care. ~Charley

                  • In actuality and I was going to e-mail but why not, I have been set free from the stuff that has plagued me in the last years or so and understand my life almost moment by moment in awakening. It’s starting to make sense in away I could never quite grasp.
                    Don’t worry I won’t go into some quirky addiction of being an em-path. One of the things that I said no to is I actually love antiques and second hand things because the thinking of the hands that touched them and used them bring me joy and I actually dislike new things. I’m not a hater of humans I just don’t understand them. On the highway the way they behave is they would rather die or kill someone getting to or coming from work or soccer or name it. It becomes hard for me and I feel anger which is hurt turned wrong. Example only as there are many ways we humans do this.

                    Now within the middle of negatives becomes the ability to love and actually find it. Like the cat that kills the mouse as I concentrate on how a mouse might feel I fail to recognize that there actually had to be love that allowed the cat to live and the mouse had to lay down the light to give it to the cat. Maybe not the best example but I’ll look for more.
                    On a side note I have always talked to God like you spoke of the other day in chores. I have been so blatantly honest at times too. Like the time I walked the mountain the whole way up I’m asking why did you make me so attracted to females if you didn’t want me to feel this way. On the way back down I got why do you want to boink all your sisters? I gave you one and your not doing so well at that. lol You just know that’s right. Of course he showed me more later in why I was attracted to them and that would be he is in them and I got attraction mixed with lust.
                    I want to tell you I’m not afraid to go into the depths of my heart because the darkness that was there only outlines the brightest of light. Darkness is of the world and all that’s in the world is …..Can’t quote and do justice to that scripture right now. I do trust him and always have ending now with a big period

                    • Oh yeah thank you, blessings poured out to you and all you touch…heart felt and I speak the truth Bill

  7. I was pleased to see this piece this morning, pleased and surprised. It had seemed to me that Wednesday had not wrapped up this week satisfactorily with a subject that I consider of utmost importance. I was most surprised to see such a positive welcome coming from Michael. I still smart from being smacked down here with “enthusiast” and “experiential” as pejoratives, but this was after Michael left and I just assumed he shared the prejudice, glad to learn it was apparently not so. I’m not so sure that Michael would have tolerated me very long in any case, but anyway it was nice to find him on good terms with God’s Holy Spirit, at least in relation to the church, I’m not clear how far he extends this to individual persons from this piece. Certainly calling Pentecost the church’s “Third Great Day” is remarkable in the western church as a whole, not just the Evangelical wing. Mostly it would seem if you want to find God’s Holy Spirit in the west, look under the rug where the church has swept, and maybe not excluding a lot of Pentecostals from that..

    This site can score blue ribbons in special categories of sonnet, as today, very nice Damaris, and haiku, which Robert makes look easy, and does real well in the arts in general, poetry, photography, and essay in particular. Impressive. Maybe one of these times a Friday with David Cornwell again.