It’s a great day for creative liturgy. And I like creative liturgy. And we’re still in a season of listening and gathering in our new experiment in church, so there’s no liturgy to be creative with. And I have been ignoring that it’s pentecost.
And then I read this post from Christine Sine this morning. This particular line was powerful: “As the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, the barriers of language and culture were broken down – not so that everyone thought and looked the same, but so that everyone understood each other in their own language and culture.”
At Pentecost, I feel like we are often focused on the power of the Spirit and the things the Spirit empowers us to do. Such as speaking in tongues. Or miracles. Or social miracles like housing for the unhoused or once-and-for-all ending global slavery. Or relational miracles like reconciled marriages or melting our way through that Seattle Freeze with some Holy Spirit fire and forming relationships with neighbors we barely say hi to. Or our elusive miracle: people joining a movement to live after Jesus in an inclusive community that little-by-little (I like better the phrase my Rwandese friends say, slowly-by-slowly because Lord is it slow) changes neighborhoods and - as neighborhoods link together - the world…(no tall order or anything). Or, and this is the even bigger one: a community of faith sharing the things they have across race, gender, and socioeconomic status so that everyone has what they need (Acts 2:44-45).
Because, dang! Those people in Acts were literally speaking languages they did not know. And this crescendoed into, as Acts 2:44-45 tells us: A church body “had. everything. in. common” and gave generously so that everyone’s needs were met. So, yeah, on Pentecost we talk big and dream big and try to expect big and big is so big that we need wildly creative liturgies to capture these extravagant images of the miracles God’s Spirit can do amongst us if we let Her…
...And I like creative liturgy. And I have been ignoring that it’s Pentecost.
But then Christine Sine drew my attention this morning to the greatest miracle. And it’s not some exciting thing that someone did. And it’s not speaking in a language you don’t know.
It is that “everyone understood each other.” That is a miracle. (This is a blog, but, come on, can I get an amen?)
Have you had one of those eternal moments where you understood someone in a way you never thought you could? What a gift. Have you had one of those moments where you were understood in a way you had given up hope on being understood? If you have - because I believe many of us have not - I guarantee that is one of those sacred moments that you either cherish and replay over and over in your mind tending the flickering flame of hope that it will happen again...or try to forget it because it’s too painful to know it happened but it might not happen again. You might not be understood so deeply again.
And on pentecost, they understood each other. They saw each other. They knew each other. They heard each other. The greatest act on pentecost was not and is not the preacher preaching or the liturgist liturgizing (that cannot be a word, but I wrote it anyway). The greatest act on pentecost was listening so deeply that they understood.
So I have my creative liturgy for tomorrow and let me invite you to join: Listen. Throw out the flaming tongues. Take up the flaming ears. And listen.
Is there someone you disagree with? Is there a cultural phenomenon you don’t get? Are there people you are angry with? Is there a faith tradition or a people group you just don’t understand?
May we all celebrate pentecost with miraculous understanding that pushes to understand all of the various languages of living that are speaking in the sometimes-cacophonies in our neighborhoods. Let cacophony become harmony.
I hope you will join me in praying, slowing down, and seeking to listen - to understand - neighbors I have not understood. This will be my creative liturgy and I will be praying that it is our collective miracle.