I had the privilege yesterday of spending time at two events led by J.Philip Newell, author, poet and former warden of the Iona community on the island of Iona, Scotland. I have long been a follower of his work which finds its home in Celtic spirituality helping readers to reclaim some ancient wisdom of the early faithful. It was an inspiring day, filled with hope and new insights for these renewing days of Lent. While most church leaders can paint a fairly bleak picture of the future of the faithful, Newell describes what he believes to be a 'New Pentecost'. From his eye view he sees the 'Spirit hovering over us bringing a 'new consciousness of Oneness.' His descriptions of co-leading retreats with Jewish and Muslim faith leaders are humbling. The ways in which he shapes words and stories to show the unity of different faith traditions rather than their division fills me with hope and excitement. Truly, as a world, we can no longer continue to further divide and alienate one another. We see the fruits of this kind of destruction all around us, in our churches, in our governments, in our warring, in our brokenness.
Perhaps, like J. Philip Newell, we might embrace the idea, the hope, that we are in the midst of a 'New Pentecost'. Perhaps the Spirit is moving in ways that, like the story of Pentecost in the Book of Acts, shines the spotlight on people being able to understand one another even though they spoke different languages. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Wouldn't that be a sure sign of the kin-dom of God in our midst? I can imagine Israelis and Palestinians talking across fences seeing, not the long years of divisions, but the human longing in one another's faces. I can dream of seeing all the places of war in our world being healed by conversations about how both sides love their children, their partners, their homeland and each one understanding how more alike they are they they ever imagined. I can see our politicians opening their hearts, minds and very spirits to pursuing the common good, laying aside their party language for words that move toward healing and a renewed sense of what it means to be a nation that cares for the least, the lost and the left out. I imagine a time when young men won't need to join a gang to find identity and belonging but will be so secure in their home and school that they will stand strong in knowing they are unique and blessed children of God.
This kind of systemic change will take more than legislation. petitions and votes. It will take a 'New Pentecost', a stirring of the Spirit so full and vibrant that there will be no turning back. We will have understood one another so fully and will have seen the Holy in the other's eyes. I pray J. Philip Newell is right. I pray that what he has been speaking of and experiencing is signaling a new way of being in the world that allows us to see our unity, not only with one another, but with the One who breathed us all into being regardless of the color of our skin, the faith we proclaim, the political party we support, the size of our checkbook, the place we call home.
As we finished our day with worship at the lovely Pilgrim Lutheran Church in St. Paul, we sang this chant from the ancient Gaelic writings Carmina Gadelica: 'May God's goodness be yours, and well and seven times well. May you spend your lives.' I woke this morning with those words still echoing in my head and my heart. Perhaps this new Pentecost will allow these words to be the silent greeting we offer to all we meet. May we spend our lives, literally, embracing the goodness of Creation that is our gift. And in this embrace may we hold one another dear, as dearly as we are held by the One who breathes over us.
"When the day of Pentecost has come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came 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.Amazed and astonished they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? …..All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" Acts 2 selected
Have a blessed weekend………………………..