When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a 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.
So many nonempirical influences affect how we remember people and events. Some of those are neurological, emotional, or educational, and others might be generational or cultural. This weekend our nation observes Memorial Day, and the Church celebrates what happened on that first day of Pentecost, fifty days after Christ’s resurrection. With some political factions propagating Christian nationalism, we are cautious about conflating or contrasting the two. There might be similarities between the factions present then and now. And we also might assume that the schisms between them were never bridged and are irreconcilable. However these national and religious observances converge in time, perhaps we can marvel at the evidence that we’re still on a learning curve and could have easily fallen off long ago. How are we still bound together in this struggle — or dance?
What are your family’s memories of Memorial Days past? Is yours a Gold Star family? Do you memorialize a relative who died fighting in war, or those who died as prisoners of war, as was the impetus for the lesser-taught original Black Memorial Day in Charleston? Do you privately honor a beloved who died recently? Or are yours personal, nostalgic memories of, say, the commencement of summer weekends at the beach, barbecues, picnics in the park...
What about Pentecost? Being reared in a church doesn’t necessarily mean you observed Pentecost as a major holy day. Depending on the denomination, or non-denomination, the liturgical seasons are followed closely, not at all, or just sometimes, while in some churches Pentecost is foundational.
Though it was written two or three generations after the fact, the dramatic Pentecost narrative in Acts reads like a news bulletin, with its sequential timeline, beginning with the disciples emerging from fear and mourning, its detailed identification of those present, and its vivid descriptions of natural and supernatural phenomena, importantly without telling us what all of it could mean. And yet, two millennia later, we can still imagine the extraordinary events that somehow launched a global and enduring movement in ways that perhaps no other single-day event has in recorded history.
Surely the events were digested and retold in countless ways, languages, and contexts across all this time and space. How can that degree of heterogeneity add up to a single corpus, a body of Christ, oneness with God?
Perhaps our shared spiritual memory is what endures beyond death.
Maybe it wasn’t about the historical events, or their witnesses’ memories, or anything like personal nostalgia. Perhaps our shared spiritual memory is what endures beyond death. The evidence that was both indescribable in human terms and undeniably real was the presence of the inexhaustible Holy Spirit which transcended all barriers and boundaries, including time, place, language, and human condition, and continues to animate the breath, voice, and body of Christ, the Church.
“Each and every one of us who is created by God — and that’s everyone who has breath or has ever had breath — each and every one of us is a child of God’s. That’s a fact. And so it is that coursing through our very being is the divine DNA…” preaches the Very. Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas at the Ordination and Consecration of our new Bishop Coadjuter, the Rt. Rev. Matthew Heyd.
“Among the names for God in Scripture is one that means ‘advocate.’ Or, you could say, ‘counsel for the defense.’ In other words, someone who is for us, a divine protagonist…A protagonist who lets us in on the divine secret: the world is headed for a party, not a purge,” writes Ken Sehested.
May is AAPI Heritage Month. Enjoy this collection of colorful and varied Pentecost images from Asian artists.
“Come Holy Spirit,” or “Veni Sancte Spiritus.” As the body of Christ, summon the Holy Spirit.
“Iyáaní. It means all things. It means our shared and precious life. It means the spirit that is imbued in all life, in all human people, in all natural elements, in all things that are; it is the breath and pulse that reverberates at the core,” writes Sara Marie Ortiz about her poem, Iyáaní.
Over the summer, join the Trinity community for a parishioner-led study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians in Summer Sundays, June 11–August 27.