December 12, 2019

Pentecost: How to Convey the Un-conveyable?

Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!
Oh blessed times!
God will prepare our souls to be his temples.

• • •

How to Convey the Un-conveyable?

At Working Preacher, Karoline Lewis makes a good point about preaching on Pentecost Sunday.

I think too many of us preachers go into Pentecost Sunday with the pressure of coming up with a pneumatologically correct sermon, worrying that we get the doctrine of Holy Spirit right, so as not to lead our congregations astray through false teachings and heretical claims. But once we start going down the homiletical road of explaining the Spirit, we subsequently explain away her inspiration and imagination. I’ve said it before and I will likely say it again and again — no one wants to hear a sermon on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; a sermon that tells people what they have to believe about the Spirit. One might call that a performative contradiction. As soon as we insist on absolutes when it comes to the Holy Spirit, I suspect we’ve forgotten that we are talking about the Spirit, who blows where she wills.

That, my friends, is a conundrum.

The mystery of the Holy Spirit takes more than words to convey. How can we help ourselves and our congregations to imagine the Spirit’s reality and influence?

Perhaps we can try and find ways to help people meditate, with striking images and sounds from nature, on the mystery and majesty of the Holy Spirit.

From Fuller Studio

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Perhaps we reenact the ancient rite, possibly dating back to 609 AD, of dropping rose petals onto the faithful to symbolize the descent of the Holy Spirit, as they do at Rome’s Pantheon.

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How about we throw a big birthday party for the church, and celebrate with joyful abandon, serving flaming cupcakes?

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Or, let’s have a parade!

For the feast of Pentecost, Spanish people from all over the Andalucian region set out on Saturday for the journey to El Rocio. They typically dress in bright flamenco dresses and other regional costumes, playing traditional music and dancing along the way.

Or, let’s take our worship public!

Weather permitting, why not reserve a local town park and hold Sunday worship outside, in public? Pentecost was a public phenomenon — why shouldn’t we have one too? Include lively music, testimonies, proclaiming the good news, and do it all in a festive and exuberant manner.

• • •

I’m not a person who is into gimmicks, or for doing things just to have something different.

But we have found innumerable ways to convey the spirit and truth of the Incarnation in Advent and Christmas in ways beyond words. We can do Holy Week and Easter up big with tangible, sensory, imagination inducing commemorations.

Are mere words and business as usual sufficient to convey the intense, liberating mystery of Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit?

I think not.

Go crazy.

Comments

  1. anonymous says

    love the imagery of the Pantheon celebration!

  2. Vega Magnus says

    It’s been a bit odd to revisit iMonk around this time because the concept of feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit is totally foreign to me. I’m way too skeptical to believe that I am feeling it in any context. I’m the sort who would attribute it to a dopamine rush or head trauma or the wind. Pretty much anything that isn’t a supernatural explanation. That’s just the way my brain works. I assume that if God does indeed exist, He understands that about me and accounts for it though.

    Oh, and hi again everyone. I’ve got iMonk rebookmarked on my phone and am reading semi-regularly once again. Been experiencing something of a crisis of faith, I guess, but to be honest, I don’t think much has changed about how I view the universe; I’m just consciously thinking about it more than usual. Still very disillusioned with most Christianity, still pretty much only in posession of hope in God’s existence rather than what most would call concrete faith, but still unable to deny His existence and walk away. It’s a weird wilderness to wander, but it’s the best I have.

    • Welcome back!

    • john barry says

      Vega M. I like your honest post. My faith is the size of a mustard seed and that does seem to be enough as reported.
      As I mature, which some so politically incorrect call getting old, I am glad I maintained my belief in God even though many times I was were you are. Anyway, take it for what it is worth as I know more about Miss Universe than the universe. Seek and you will find, do not seek and you will not find.

  3. I’ll have the cupcakes please. 🙂

  4. rhymeswithplague says

    Her? She?

    I couldn’t concentrate properly on the rest of the post after that.

    Sorry.

    Some old dogs simply refuse to learn new tricks.

    • The gender of the Holy Spirit has been a ages long debate. The Hebrew words ruach (spirit) and shekinah (the glorious presence of God) are feminine.

      • When we use the masculine pronouns in this context everyone claims we’re not saying the divine is biologically male, right? Interesting how hard it seems to make that same formulation using the female pronouns. Ho ho, maybe we WERE saying god is male after all!

  5. Christiane says

    poetry, art, music, nature . . . . that which is ‘unconveyable’ in the ‘rational’ realm sometimes finds expression in those forms, yes . . . . . the ‘unseen’ that DOES exist, the Presence to which our hearts testify
    . . . . don’t believe? wait until you are grieving deeply, and comes to you gently the blessing of peace that remains ‘with you’ in your pain.

    ” . . . And I have felt
    A presence that disturbs me with the joy
    Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
    Of something far more deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
    And the round ocean and the living air,
    And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
    A motion and a spirit, that impels
    All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
    And rolls through all things. . . . ”

    (from Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’)

  6. I think that consistent, lasting, this-is-not-me love is the closest thing you’ll get to ‘proof’.

    If you find that you can love (i.e. actually get alongside and spend time with) people who you know you naturally wouldn’t, and keep it up over a good amount of time, and not have the if-this-lasts-much-longer-I’m-going-to-die feeling associated with “trying to be a good Christian”, then I’d say there’s a miracle afoot.

    Of course you’ll never know, if you systematically avoid those people, or if you attend a church where they’ll never pass the threshold.