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Pour Out Your Spirit, Lord!

June 3, 2017

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Following the US Air Force Academy graduation on May 24th, we headed to Crestone, Colorado for a couple of days. It was to be a combination retreat and opportunity to work on our paper for the Columbia Theological Seminary Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation class we finished during Lent (The Wit and Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers). Reading the information we could find about Crestone, we thought it would be a good place for a retreat and one of the hoped for opportunities was to worship with a Carmelite Hermitage/Community.

While the chapel itself was beautiful, the lack of a spiritual resource library (as promised on their website) and daily prayer opportunities (also promised on their website) was deeply discouraging. When I called to ask about the library and daily prayer, the woman on the phone said, “Oh, we don’t have the library any more and we don’t have daily prayer. However, you can come to mass tonight (Friday) or on Sunday. The website hasn’t been updated in about ten years. Sorry.” That was the first of many instances of “false” advertising we encountered during our stay.

Sadly, this pretty much summarized our time in Crestone. While we did meet some nice locals, for the most part, the atmosphere was heavy on the weird and light on spirituality. So, were we disappointed by our time in Crestone? Yes. Was it a complete wash? No. We did write our papers at the local pub and wrote our initial outline for the final project at the local coffee house. Did the Holy Spirit show up at all? While I can’t say that I felt any good spiritual vibes in the house we rented, we were able to spend time with the Spirit in the chapel and on a walk around town and out to the cemetery.

It also helped me to understand some of the struggles the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the Third and Fourth Centuries. They went off to isolated places seeking God. They struggled with loneliness and isolation as well as with their own inner demons. The house we stayed at was a place where you could feel the struggle of the woman who owned it. A lot of spiritual confusion and pain was evidently present. The house was not, as she advertised, a place of spiritual welcome and healing.  Yet, in the midst of all that, the Holy Spirit did speak to our hearts and our minds despite the spiritual dissonance present there.

So, Padre, is this a bad review of a trip or is there something more to it that? As I have reflected on that time in conjunction with my study and reflection in preparation for Pentecost Sunday, I have seen how the experiences of the Apostles and our experience in Crestone intersect.

When Peter and the others began speaking in other languages on Pentecost, the crowd marveled. There were many gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks (seven weeks from the second day of Passover) leading up to Shavu’ot. Jews had gathered from around the known world as recorded in Acts, Chapter Two for this festival. Shavu’ot was a festival that lasted two days. It commemorated the giving of the Torah (Law) to the people. It is one of the three big festivals in Judaism in addition to Passover (commemorating the night when God spared the Jews from the final plague which killed all of the first born) and Sukkot (commemorating the forty year journey in the wilderness).

Combined with Passover, this would have been a significant time for the faithful to gather in Jerusalem for prayer and worship. It would not have been uncommon for large groups to be gathered together. What was unusual was what happened as Peter and the others began to speak. These were a bunch of not-so-well-educated Galileans who were speaking. The wonder was that the people from far and wide who were themselves divided by differing langues, all heard the message being preached in their own native tongue!

“Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?'” (Acts 2:7-12)

Of course, the cynics scoffed and said that these illiterate Galileans were simply drunk on new wine at nine in the morning! How else could you explain such an occurrence? Well, if they were drunk and uneducated Galileans, why could the gathered crowd understand what was being said in their own distinct language?

The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon Peter and the other Disciples for a purpose. It wasn’t so that they could babble in some unknown gibberish. This was the first opportunity for the Disciples to share God’s message with the people. For seven weeks they had been in hiding. For seven weeks they had been in a spiritual wilderness. For seven weeks, Jesus had been teaching them and preparing them to take the message to the known world. Finally, on this holy day of Shavu’ot, the new commandment which was the fulfillment of the Law would be revealed.

In a place of great struggle for the disciples, the Spirit came just as Jesus had promised! Out of a time of great personal and spiritual struggle and darkness, the light of God’s love which Jesus had spoken so much about shone through. As John’s gospel states: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) With these newly given gifts from the Spirit, the disciples were equipped and sent out to spread the good news of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ!

Dear reader, there have been many times in my own spiritual journey when my soul has been parched. There have been times when it has felt like I was lost and alone. There have been times when I have wandered around in the darkness, in storms of my own making (as one survivor of Hurricane Katrina told Denise’s youth group in New Orleans). It is at those times especially that I realize I cannot do this on my own. After my own desert wanderings, God has always spoken words of hope. It may not be the mighty rush of a wind or flames appearing over my head, but it has always been a deep sense of the presence of the Spirit blowing through my life and bringing renewal.

This gift of the Holy Spirit was not given to the disciples for their own personal edification. It was not given to them to make them somehow superior when compared to others. This gift was given to them in order that they might go forth and share the gift of God’s redeeming love with the world. And, I might add, it is often done not so much through words, but through their actions. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times; and if necessary, use words.”

That, dear reader, is the call of Pentecost! Will you join with Jesus in this revolutionary way of serving God? Serving by loving… by humbly loving God and others… this is our calling. The Spirit calls and equips us to do exactly that.

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on WilliWash.

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