WelCom May 2018:
Pentecost celebrates of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It is commemorated on the 50th day after Easter – the day on which the Holy Spirit came to the apostles and others gathered in Jerusalem. This year, Pentecost is on Sunday 20 May.
Breathe! Be aware of your breath! Breathe again, filling your lungs, your body, with life. Then breathe out into the world. Know that the air you exhale contains minute particles of you, gift to the person sitting next to you. Extend that thought! You are sitting on a crowded bus. Everyone on that bus is God’s unique creation, a spiritual being on human journey. Everyone is connected by a web of breath whether they are aware of it or not. Our breath is actual touch. Our breath makes us belong to each other.
Now push your thinking further. In both Hebrew (ruah) and Greek (pneuma) the words for breath and wind also mean spirit. So, what do you imagine happened to Jesus’ last breath on the cross? When he said to his Father, ‘It is finished’, was he referring to the end of limitation, imprisonment in a cage of flesh? And did his final sighing breath float away as spirit, growing in freedom until it was a wind-storm released in that upper room? The timing was exact.
“…the spirit of Jesus brought the new law of love.
On a day that celebrated the law given to Moses, the spirit of Jesus brought the new law of love. We are told of the way people were changed. That spirit of love blew right through them. It set them on fire with love. It was not a timid experience. What they felt, was not the sort of love that was needy or made conditions for itself. This love was a freedom without boundaries.
Their hearts glowed with it, their minds were filled with light, and when they spoke in the language of love, everyone understood and marvelled at how these people had changed. They were radiant with new life.
We all know the ‘before’ and ‘after’ stories. We, who read the gospels with the benefit of hindsight, have experienced frustration with those disciples who just didn’t get it during their master’s mission on earth. Their egoic vision of Jesus made his teachings seem incomprehensible. They were competitive, judgemental, fearful and generally as thick as bricks. When Jesus needed them most, they ran away. Yet, in the Acts of the Apostles, we see the disciples enduring extraordinary hardship to bring the love of Jesus to the world.
What was the difference? Jesus was with them in a new way. He was no longer confined to one human body in a set place and time. His spirit was free to make a home in all who made space for Him, and He dramatically transformed lives.
“The Spirit of Jesus is transforming lives, and Pentecost is ongoing for us.
In all who make space for Him – it’s as simple as that, isn’t it? It’s about being available. The Spirit of Jesus is transforming lives, and Pentecost is ongoing for us. Like those folk gathered in the upper room, we are present and holding out our lives like cups to receive Him. I’m aware we don’t have to ‘do’ anything. Love replaces the old law. Love doesn’t demand conditions, nor does it demand that I leave a part of myself behind as payment. It took me a long time to discover this. Knowing Jesus is not about changing myself but simply making space for His spirit to be at home in me. He is everywhere for everyone. It’s just a matter of making room for Him and allowing His love to make that change we call ‘transcendence’.
It has been said that God walks behind us, picking up those parts of our life we choose to discard. I like that image. The imperfection and failure I tried to leave behind in my desire to live a ‘good’ life, was, in fact, God’s treasure, the true gold of my life story. It was precisely that part of me, and not ideas about my ‘goodness’ which was open to divine growth. Carl Jung put it another way. “Befriend your shadow. Embrace your darkness and watch it turn into the light.”
“Befriend your shadow. Embrace your darkness and watch it turn into the light.” – Carl Jung
Whatever images we use to describe the process, we come back to Jesus who preached the message of love until it made him so unpopular that the ‘good’ people killed him. Those obsessed with their own virtue, he called ‘whitened sepulchres, tombs painted on the outside but corrupt within’. They seem harsh words until we realise his judgement was not about the imperfection but the refusal to acknowledge it. Of the woman who wept while anointing his feet, he said, ‘She loves much because she has been forgiven much.’ This woman had not tried to disown her story. She had embraced her shadow and it had turned into the light of divine love.
When I join my friends at ongoing Pentecost, I find it helpful to look beyond specific personalities, to the principles involved. After all, the shadow and the light, the slayer and the victim, the Pharisee and the loving giver, are in each of us. It seems to me that Jesus spent more time talking about this, than anything else – the need for me to claim my whole story and bring the entire person to the God who made me. When that understanding moves from my head to my heart, there is profound relief coupled with a deep sense of Jesus as the bridge between us and our loving God. Love does not judge. It is I who judge myself and if I don’t claim the wholeness of my story, I will then project that judgement on other people. In my head, I may even project it on God.
So how do we reclaim those parts of our story that we felt we needed to discard?
When I reclaim story, I usually find what I tried to throw away as unworthy, actually contains the voice of God. This is apparent in the recurring patterns in life. The lesson that is ignored or put aside, will come back again and again, each time stronger until I pay attention to it. Whatever that particular lesson is, it will be about growth and it will involve moving away from the shadow of fear and into the light of love.
“The lesson that is ignored or put aside, will come back again and again, each time stronger until I pay attention to it.
I believe God does indeed, walk behind us, gathering bits of discarded story and giving them back to us. When we accept them as gift, we discover the truth of forgiveness. The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears, did not give Jesus her love because God had forgiven her. She gave him God’s love because God had shown her how to forgive herself.
All of this is my Pentecost journey. I pray in gratitude for the wind of movement and the fire of love, both gifts of Jesus spirit. I pray that my capacity to receive will be increased alongside the capacity to give. I give thanks for those people who have been a presence of Jesus for me, and I ask for greater awareness of the connection between breath and spirit, and the way we are all held in a web of love.