In August our community celebrates our founding as a multi-cultural, peace and justice and Kingdom-oriented community of seekers growing into beloved friends in Christ. In honor of 37 years of ministry together, here is a poem, a song of the Holy Spirit. Enjoy!
When we pick up the Bible,
we meet God’s Spirit before any other,
She’s right there with the Creator
“In the beginning,” we read in Genesis
“God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1-2)
And the Spirit of God sweeps across the dark waters.
How do you picture Her sweep? Majestic? Disruptive?
Across the chaos and unformed muck
The divine wind instigates.
This is no cool breath on a hot day.
No, this sweeping exhale makes waves.
God speaks something new,
speaks creation into being
with the breath of the Spirit.
Speaks day and night, stars and star-fish and star fruits,
whales and mustard seeds and even weeds.
God speaks as the Spirit sweeps:
Dry land for creeping things, dry tinder for starting fires
and honeysuckle, to stop and smell,
God breathes breath into humankind… and the dance begins.
The Bible speaks of God’s Spirit as breath:
pervading all, invading all, enlivening all.
Present across the first dawn sky
and on the lips of a broken messiah on a tree crying “Why?”
Refusing grammar and the compact thinking of theologians,
The Spirit wafts around the corners of the Scripture’s pages
And finds Her way into every place
of ecstasy and decay.
In ancient Israel, Spirit-talk was quite common.
Spirit had Her way of choosing and using prophets like Ezekiel
Lifting him up and bringing him down into a valley full of dry bones, (Ezekiel 37)
Re-speaking life into God’s dismayed people
Re-breathing their wilted bodies until they stood tall together.
Spirit-talk in those times took hold
When the temple and traditions were toppled
with dizzying force,
When God’s people weren’t sure where to find God anymore,
How to know God’s voice when
the comfortable places were destroyed?
How to live God’s ways, sing God’s songs, in strange lands?
Spirit needs no temple of stone,
All the Spirit needs are prophets, like Joel,
to speak God’s hope to God’s despondent people:
“You will know that I am … the Lord your God…
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters,
Your old men, Your young men.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:27a, 28-29)
Yes, in those days, those days that only the Spirit knows.
Those days like at Pentecost,
when the Spirit went multi-lingual, Ecstatic
Told the story of God’s glory, God’s powerful hand
reached into the grave and brought Jesus, the Son, the Christ,
Lover and Beloved, out of death into life.
Spirit that day spoke
in whatever language the people needed,
Met them where they were, did all sorts of things
Probably re-taught some hearts to sing
Probably got some sinners to re-think their thoughts, return to God.
Spirit that day was poised flame and a rushing wind.
Spirit a river flowing in all directions
without the current losing strength.
Spirit drawing the folks into Her current
That tumbles and tows and churns with the life of Christ.
The Spirit is the only one really who knows those days.
The Spirit sets the rhythm, dances in step while we wait,
or try to catch a glimpse,
Hoping at best to possibly catch a ride on the tops of Her shoes,
Get a sense of that beat, see the sparks as Her feet
slide and strike, starting fires wherever She dances.
Dare we get close, let it catch us?
And it is possible to miss the Holy Spirit, you know.
Spirit does not always sit with the cozy.
Sometimes She’s a cold wind,
making gums shiver and teeth crack.
Spirit does not always weep and wail in the public square,
sometimes She passes by in silence.
The Spirit moves in these days, sometimes quiet-like,
not always center-stage in Her boldest Pentecost red.
Very alive, but working with nudges, sideways glances,
Giving vision and clarity in moments of confusion.
The Spirit spoken of in the Bible is nurturer, helper
But Spirit is also the kind to break right through barriers,
the hardest hearts, emancipating,
setting free mangled souls,
liberating whatever aches for freedom to live in God’s ways.
In these days of the Spirit,
the Spirit still dances and waits for partners.
The Spirit doesn’t sit around,
The Bible says She flows, pours, burns, breathes,
beats her wings, blows wherever She desires.
She’s the movement
at every moment
where life shifts.
She’s the movement!
We do not possess the Spirit. Church does not possess the Spirit.
The Church does not tell the Spirit who She is,
or what she ought to do, or how She ought to do it or
who She ought to use. The Spirit possesses us.
The Spirit breathes in and possesses
whoever She chooses, whenever She desires.
And She desires. Oh yes, the Holy Spirit desires!
There’s a cute joke that goes around our church:
“Why is it that we Episcopalians don’t raise our hands up in worship?…
Because we’re afraid God might call on us if we did!”
As I said, a cute joke, but what if the Holy Spirit
Called us out to the middle of the floor to dance in guttural, unfamiliar rhythms?
She is a desirous Spirit, determined.
She does not trifle with curiosities and fads, but is building up the church:
It might be you the Spirit is calling to use in this moment.
But it also might just be, if we look closely,
That these flames burning here on our altar
have already left the building and
are resting (like the Spirit did on that first Pentecost day)
on other heads, other bodies, other tongues “out there,”
and the Holy Spirit calling us to
be the crowd that gathers in awe and wonder
to hear of the power and deeds of our unchained God.
If the Spirit is a voice, She is groaning,
She is groaning in us,
praying us to closer intimacy with our God,
Lending prayer to this divided temple –
this temple that is us.
She is lending prayer to this temple
and then whisking us out into the wilderness
Where we just might walk with Jesus, follow the Risen Christ
And find new well-springs, new ways to sign hope and sing new life.
She waters the tree that bears the fruits,
Gives life to all things that seek shelter at her breast,
But if the Spirit is mother bird, as She is named in Scripture,
If the Spirit is mother bird,
then She’s beating her wings in the nest,
And sending us out, it’s time to fly,
rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.