The Spirit stirred a bit in a city park yesterday. So why am I surprised?
It had been a long time since the group of us had gotten together in person – eight weeks? Ten? (I mean, really: who can keep count anymore?)
Even as we gathered, I was viscerally aware of what we had lost. Our Saturday morning faith-sharing group had never before had to practice “social distancing,” for example. Nor had we ever resorted to holding our meeting outdoors.
The headcount was down significantly, too: Just seven or eight of us showed up – about a third of the crowd our weekly meeting has typically attracted over the past 16 years.
Despite all this diminishment, I found myself savoring the human presence – recalling, as it did, this memorable moment recounted in the Acts of the Apostles: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.”
Indeed, it was good to be gathered with my brothers-in-Christ at the park, even if elbow-bumps had replaced our traditional hugs and handshakes. It made a difference to me – the chance to bridge a kinesthetic divide that a Zoom chat is powerless to address.
As our faith-sharing continued, this presence manifested itself as a gift of the Holy Spirit – to me, anyway. Deep into the discussion, I found myself unpacking a particular spiritual defect that I’ve noticed rearing its head in recent weeks – anger. All kinds of things, indignities large and small, seem to set me off lately. And each time I rage against the machine, I notice how it tends to darken my heart and poison my spirit.
Intriguingly, while I spoke of “anger”, my brothers heard some entirely different things coming from my lips. (Another Pentecost gift, perhaps? “…they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language…”)
As I confessed my anger…my brothers instead heard things like “fear” and “entitlement” and “ingratitude.” Guilty, on every count, I realized. Especially that last one. When I focus on loss, it utterly blinds me to the manifold blessings in my life. I lose sight of the forest for the trees.
And so then as I sit with, and ponder, this gift I received in the city park on Pentecost eve, I am moved also to share it with you.
As the Spirit descends…yesterday, today, and evermore…let us begin by declaring our dependency on our loving God for each heartbeat of our lives, for every breath we take.
And then let us lift our eyes, in gratitude.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Call it what you want: anger, fear, ingratitude…frustration! Some days I feel like a “human volcano” and all the lava, hot mess feelings, come pouring out! Hopefully the Spirit guides the lava flow and not too much damage occurs in the process. You did give me an idea for our prayer groups–hadn’t thought of a pavilion at a park. They should be pretty empty at 7 am!! Bring our own chair and coffee!