Pentecost is ever more prominent in Baptist churches, for which I give thanks. With flaming colors and simulations of wind, sanctuaries pronounce the coming of the Spirit in power—not only fifty days after the resurrection—but continuously.
Yesterday our congregation sang one of my favorite songs of the Spirit, composed by James K. Manley. The fourth verse has these words:
You call from tomorrow, you break ancient schemes,
from the bondage of sorrow the captives dream dreams;
Our women see visions, our men clear their eyes.
With bold new decisions your people arise.
And the refrain offers this perspective on the gentle, yet powerful presence of God:
Spirit, spirit of gentleness, blow through the wilderness, calling and free.
Spirit, spirit of restlessness, stir me from placidness, wind, wind on the sea.
I am particularly moved by the description of the Spirit “calling from tomorrow.” The Spirit is always ahead of the people of God and calls us into the future God purposes.
This past Saturday Central celebrated its largest graduation in history. It was Pentecost in action as we witnessed students from Korea, Africa, Myanmar, and North America decked out in their regalia. We heard languages other than English; some students bowed before receiving their degrees; some celebrated afterwards with big bouquets or extravagant leis around their necks. The future is on display as global Christians come together in Central’s student body.
Our commencement speaker, Judge Wendell Griffen, exhorted the students to be about the work of breaking down barriers so that the oneness, the unity of which Jesus preached, would become reality. The mission from God is to enact the Reign even now. As among the best trained theological minds in the world, he observed, God expects these graduates to be transformative agents.
The Spirit does not let things stay put, be static and then moribund. The Spirit of restlessness keeps calling from tomorrow, nudging the followers of Jesus to “put the world to rights, “ as N. T. Wright writes in Simply Christian. God has poured the Spirit into the church for this very work.
As we live into this season after Pentecost, we live in the assurance that God continues to call ministers who carry tomorrow in their hearts. With earnest fervor, they believe that being faithful to their calling can relieve suffering, strengthen justice, and transform systems. They carry the power of the Spirit, albeit in earthen vessels; this “momentary affliction” does not hinder Gospel work, but only serves to remind them of the source of their spiritual vitality. They go forth from Central well-equipped, especially with the supply of the Spirit.
Molly T. Marshall
Central is Baptist in heritage and ecumenical in practice.