Pentecost and Day Six of General Conference

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It has been a day of rest.  A day of Sabbath.  A day without legislation and large crowds and layered conversations.  It is Pentecost, after all, and Pentecost is a time for pausing and allowing God’s Holy Spirit to make his rejuvenating and transformational presence known.  Tomorrow, we will re-enter the rhythms of legislative conversation and administrative responsibilities, which have their own significance.  Today, however, we step away from polity and protocol in order to allow the Holy Spirit to fall afresh upon our busy minds, our weary hearts, and our fragmented lives.

At this, the midway point in an eleven-day conference, my introversion has begun to organize a coup d’état on the rest of my temperament.  When that happens, crowds begin to feel claustrophobic.  Voices begin to lose their uniqueness.  Responsibilities begin to feel oppressively heavy.  The only doorway out of the exhaustion is prayerful solitude, which is precisely what I have experienced today.  This morning, I traveled to the 10:00 service of worship that was held in one of the ballrooms of the convention center.  A number of gifted and gracious souls led us in worship. The music there celebrated the Holy Spirit’s redemptive agency throughout history.  The Scripture and proclamation painted a vivid portrait of a God who breathes the Divine Breath into even the most painful segments of our journey.  The celebration of the Lord’s Supper brought me to tears as I looked around the room and saw people from different parts of the world, speaking different languages but partaking of one bread, one cup, one Spirit with a unifying gratitude.

The words on the front of this morning’s worship bulletin were these: “Come and Find the Quiet Center.”  It feels to me like the Holy Spirit met me there—right there in the “quiet center” where Father, Son, and Sprit experience a sweetly intimate fellowship with one another and with the souls that will dare to pause there and be still.

This afternoon has been wonderfully quiet and prayerful.  Apart from an enlivening conversation with Tara (whom I desperately miss), the only other voice to which I have attempted to listen is that of the One whose love does not depend upon my accomplishment and whose grace makes it completely unnecessary for me to hide my own brokenness.

This evening, I will gather with the members of Western Pennsylvania’s delegation at a nearby restaurant for a time of bread-breaking, laughter, and playful engagement.  It will be a wonderful way to step out of the solitude that I am currently experiencing.

As I reflect upon the Scripture from Acts 2 that I heard proclaimed this morning, it occurs to me that perhaps the most miraculous thing about what the disciples experienced at Pentecost was not the rush of wind or the flames or even the spontaneous languages. Perhaps the most miraculous thing was that a new era was being initiated—an era in which people would be valued and measured differently. Gender would no longer limit the full expression of a person’s giftedness, since, after Pentecost, both “sons AND daughters” would now prophesy God’s Truth. Age would no longer be a disqualifying factor, since both the very old and the very young would experience God’s “dreams and visions.” Humble servants and marginalized people, instead of being cavalierly dismissed, would now be recognized as precious souls through whom God could accomplish miraculous things. Herein lies the deepest miracle of Pentecost. It is the miracle of the Holy Spirit ushering the world into a wonderful but demanding new reality in which people are valued, not because of their gender, their age, their station, or their ability to dominate, but because of their giftedness, their sacred worth, and their willingness to be obedient to God’s life-altering call in Jesus Christ. Come, Holy Spirit!

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