Spotlight on the Spirit
by Katrina Pekich-Bundy
Pressed for time (like most ministers) I decided to write my sermon in the car as my spouse drove. About 10 minutes into the ride I realized I had grabbed the wrong commentaries. Lent was beginning but I had hurriedly snatched the Epiphany commentaries. I mumbled about changing seasons and my spouse pointed to a sign along the road: “Jesus is the REASON for the SEASON!” He commented, “Someone needs to tell them the seasons are changing.” I argued that Jesus was the reason for all theological seasons, so the sign wasn’t incorrect. After thinking, he exclaimed, “Pentecost! Jesus isn’t the reason for Pentecost!” Touché.
For one Sunday of the year (two, if you count Trinity Sunday) we celebrate the Spirit. At times, we sneak the Holy Spirit into a sermon, like in Advent when the Spirit overshadows Mary, but many Presbyterians only focus their energy on the Spirit one day a year. It is the one day when we can pull out those Holy Spirit hymns and sing them proudly! The Spirit is often forgotten, or misunderstood, so Pentecost does not always shine like the other high holy days. If Easter was the Super Bowl, Pentecost would be the Pro Bowl.
Perhaps Presbyterians are cautious in celebrating the Spirit because so many metaphors are used in trying to comprehend this intangible aspect of the Trinity. The Spirit can be a wind or a flame, a breath or a mist. Jesus was a breathing, physical being. God may not have a physical body (other than Jesus’) but certainly has a booming voice in stories like those of the burning bush or Jesus’ baptism. The Spirit is more of a feeling. Presbyterians are often very cerebral because of our emphasis on education, and feeling rather than thinking might seem uncomfortable at first.
What we know about Pentecost comes from Acts 2. The people were celebrating the Feast of the Tabernacle, which happened fifty (pente) days following Passover, so they gathered in one place. They had traveled from various places and spoke many different languages. In one moment, a huge wind rushed into the place and the people were understanding in their own language. It was amazing! There were “tongues of fire” on their heads. The Spirit was with them through wind and flame – and this was all as Jesus had promised. In John 14 Jesus reassured the disciples that after he left they would not be alone – God would send God’s Spirit – the Advocate – to guide, empower, and equip them to continue in the journey.
Pentecost is a celebration of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. God gives us each a gift and we are called to use that gift in the world. Yet, we are not to use that gift alone – we must work together as a community.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts the Spirit gave was that of comprehension. The people no longer had a language barrier but could understand one another and work together. As Acts continues we learn how the new Christian communities were living together, sharing food and drink and stories and experiences. They supported one another and worked together. The Spirit gave purpose, motivation, and fellowship.
The Belhar Confession proclaims how God’s Spirit connects us to one another in a new way: God’s life giving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s life giving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world.
When we understand one another we can build bridges and seek new possibilities.
I love that Presbyterian ordination questions include: “Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?” Ministry in all its forms is healthiest when these four components are involved – all Spirit gifts. As you celebrate Pentecost this year reflect on the gifts God has given you and how you will serve with energy, intelligence, imagination and love within community.
Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy is minister at Hanover Presbyterian Church in Hanover, Indiana. She is a liturgical dancer, runner, and mother of two. You can follow her blog at cairnlivingstones.wordpress.com.