On Sunday, we celebrate Pentecost, the fourth big event chronicled in the New Testament.
Christmas names the first one: the incarnation of Christ. God comes into our lives–into our joy and suffering. They called him Immanuel, “God with us.”
Reading the gospel stories, we, like Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the disciples accompany Jesus and come to love him dearly. And he loves us as no other has ever loved us before. Then, we are heart-broken. At 33 years of age, Jesus is crucified. Good Friday marks the second event.
On Easter, we rejoice in the third event: Christ has risen. Death does not have the last word. Jesus is alive again. But he has changed, and he doesn’t stay. Jesus disappears into a cloud, and we are without him again.
Though there is no feast to celebrate the fifth event, it is a watershed moment. Peter has a vision and hears, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The message is clear: non-Jews are to be allowed to worship in the synagogues and temple as equals. As Peter tries to wrap his mind around the unthinkable: uncircumcised Gentiles are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The outcast and marginalized are included in God’s family.
Here we have the pattern for our lives. Jesus spells it out for us.
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. –John 12:24
Christ comes and awakens us to the reality that God is with us, in us–divine Love at the core of our being. Then there is a death of something good that we thought we could never live without. But after it, comes a resurrection and an anointing. Not only do we survive what we thought would kill us, we’re transformed.
Our transformation is not for us alone. Our eyes are opened. We see those who are poor, unfree, blind, and oppressed. Like Jesus, we are moved with compassion and see ways to alleviate suffering, end injustice, and participate in watershed moments.
This cycle of life>death>resurrection>empowerment>acts of compassion>life doesn’t just happen once. It happens again and again, and each time there is a death. Remember the Soul of Christ prayer.
On each of my dyings, shed your light and your love.
So here’s a question for you. What have you lost? What good thing is life releasing from your grip?
In your grief, look to the light. Look to love.
New life is coming with power, enlivening the Spirit of Christ in you, and you’ll be able to do things you never thought possible.
The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
∗ ∗ ∗
It’s hard to believe that not long ago some people thought of other people as less than human and bought and sold them as slaves. This story of William Wilberforce and those who ended the slave trade inspires me to keep doing the good work we were created and empowered to do.