Monday, June 9, 2014

Experiencing Pentecost: Go where the spirit leads and build relationships

Acts 2: 1-13
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 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. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

The true experience of Pentecost in the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church is one of renewal and re commitment. It is knowing that God is reality in the trinity and the speciality of the trinity is being in relationship with one another. It is also knowing that the Holy Spirit will lead and that true discernment comes from feeling, listening and going along with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ advises his disciples that the way to the Father is through him and now that he has ascended the Holy Spirit will be there to guide and empower. But he tells his disciples that the best way to know God is to love each other just like the love of the father for the son, the son for the father and the spirit for the father and son. In essence it is saying that no one is great or greater but all are equal and all bring true value to the relationship.

The Jacobite church has a detailed and long service for Pentecost which is divided into three parts. The essence of the Holy Spirit is explained and the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is expounded. This brings about a clear picture of what and how things should be. The Father has no qualms in sending the son into the world and he believes that the son will do the job. The son on the other hand keeps promoting the father and in the end paves the way for the spirit. There is no staying back and saying that the son is capable by himself of doing what is needed. Jesus understands it is time to move away and make way for the spirit and in all humbleness and without any qualms or regrets he does just that. There is a special collegiality being expressed here. It is a special relationship of believing and trusting in the other person. This is not easy but we are shown that it is not impossible.

We are shown that relationships are not planned and have no emphasis on one person. Rather, relationships come across as something which celebrate each other and use the opportunity to work on what one is given but at the same time share the accolades that come along.

This being the case one needs to come to terms with the experience of Pentecost. What happened when the apostles received the spirit? They started speaking in tongues and others assembled there understood what was being spoken as each of the assembled one’s language. The relationship that Christ had with his disciples extended through his admission to the relationship Christ had with the Father and therefore the disciples were initiated into that relationship. The relationship Christ had with his disciples was then opened up to include the spirit in the relationship. This does not end here but rather becomes the extending of this openness and relationship to all people whereby the experience of the indwelling of the spirit during Pentecost leads to the opening up of the relationship to all.

The experience of Pentecost calls upon us to open up. It asks us to include, accept, celebrate and be free. There is no road map and there is no plan. The map and the plan are where the spirit leads us and frankly we don’t know where that could be. One should use this opportunity of the Pentecost to follow the spirit, open ourselves up to the liberation offered by relationships and have the courage to follow God even when we actually are uncomfortable with the initial paths that the spirit is taking us through.

(Picture courtesy