“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). We tend to rush further into this lectionary reading, seeking to learn more of the divine pyrotechnics and instant Rosetta stone linguistic capacity, and we miss the significance of being together to welcome the Spirit. Yesterday, my congregation celebrated the birthday of the church by gathering with a daughter congregation, the Lao-American Baptist Church of Lenexa, Kansas. My pastor, Dr. Heather Entrekin, suggested that one of the roles of the Spirit is to introduce us to one another—which means that gathering greatly facilitates this pneumatological work. And besides, it is hard to eat sticky rice together if not together in one place!
Only a few decades ago, talk of the Holy Spirit was more relegated to Pentecostal traditions or charismatic wings within mainline denominations. In our day, however, there is renewed interest in the holistic work of the Spirit. No longer regarded only as the “stealth weapon of the church,” to be summoned when we have run out of other ideas, the Holy Spirit is welcomed as the vital presence of God in congregational life as well as all creation. Hildegard, 12th century Abbess of Bingen, employing lovely gardening imagery, described the work of the Spirit as “the power of greening.”
Listen to her poetry:
making life alive,
moving in all things,
root of all created being,
cleansing the cosmos of every impurity,
You are lustrous and praiseworthy life,
You waken and re-awaken everything that is.
The Spirit brings to completion all the works of God through Christ; the Spirit provides the power for life to flourish as God intends. When we welcome the Spirit, we learn how to be together in ways that transform the world, ways that “cleanse the cosmos of every impurity.” Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Molly T. Marshall