Wednesday, May 28
When the Spirit Shows Up
When I breathed the prayers last August, heart breaking from the betrayal -- "Holy Spirit, move your people toward me," -- I envisioned that Spirit, He, coming swiftly, stretching his ear out long, or just turning around to face me. I also envisioned that he was already there beneath the surface where he'd just pop his head up over the ripples made when the boat sank in my soul. If he wasn't already with me, then he could redress swiftly, like a Peregrin Falcon. However, I'd lived for years in faith so I knew that if anyone had really wandered it was veritably me.
I, thus, imagined that he was already with his people. That he was in the control room and I could cut to the chase by talking to him instead of the person. He'd provoke them to do the right thing and, daily, as I prayed that prayer, they did. They sent cards, stuffed money in the mailbox, called, asked us our names, and said yes. They showed up because the Spirit was doing his job and they were doing theirs. That's how healing happens to us all.
It was the most affirming time I can remember. It was the time when the Spirit seemed to move to the head of the Trinitarian conference table. The very first time when I vowed not to keep him silent, kicking my Baptist roots aside to hear his voice and witness his power. What I've seen of him this year gives me such joy and gratitude. It makes me want to throw him a party. Turns out, Pentecost is already on the calendar.
In all kinds of places the Holy Spirit is depicted with wings. In Scripture, yes, but poetry and literature too as well as our own delimited minds which make things up until we're unsure if they were ever true. Monstrous wings, like a dragon; gilded and bright; golden expanses fanning the innards of my soul. I considered this metaphor yesterday morning, out on the deck, beginning summer's liturgy on a fresh journal page.
And then I saw gray wings above me, alighting on the phone pole. And I heard a cooing that isn't a normal part of our dawn chorus. For years I've sat on the deck in the early summer mornings watching nature for signs of God and I've seen him in so many ways. But on this morning he showed up as pure an image as my mind could grasp. He showed up as a morning dove.
I shooed him off. "I see you. Don't sit around here. Go move your people."
You never know how the Spirit will come to you... mighty wind, tongue of fire, feathery wings. But I'm convinced that we ignore him much of the time and wait for some other great sign, as if the transformed human heart wasn't evidence enough. As if causing the dead to live again wasn't a wave of a brand new ship coming in.
There is another sure sign of his presence though. And this one cut me to the quick.
In John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."
The newly risen Jesus sees his disciples for the first time and the first thing he says is "Peace." Isn't that the symbol we attribute to a dove? And then he breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit, right out of the depths of himself.
When I read this scripture my White Pine tree pollinated right in front of me, blowing a cloud of yellow dust around the yard like I had just waved a magic wand and disappeared beneath it. It was a silent release of all the tree's hopes, a breath of new life. "Receive the Holy Spirit" happens just like that, in the quiet back yard of a wandering pilgrim mother trying to find the way forward.
Nature is amazing me this week.
I read it again and I didn't have to wonder long, "Who were they to forgive?" The answer is evident; the people they were hiding in fear from, the ones who had killed their Master Rabbi. The people they were now sent to. How hard that had to be -- to move past the crime in order to begin the craft.
I won't be effective if I believe people are defective. If I believe there is no hope for them, no value, no worth. If I believe their incompetence is the greatest thing about them and if I can't forgive them for their violent acts that turn my world upside down.
Forgive their maligned allegiances. Forgive their abandonment. Forgive their pride and arrogance. Forgive them for condoning the evil, supporting it, calling for it. Forgive them for building faulty bonds, for calling something virtuous when it's really cowardly. For their silence, for their absence -- forgive them. We can't do it on our own, it's the work of the Spirit of God, breathed into us, knowing that the way forward leads to crosses of our own. I thought I already had, but did it again. I forgave them.
The Holy Spirit gives us new breath in our stale lungs. And with that breath we speak new words, the first being the hardest of all, "I forgive you."
And if you can do that, then you know that the Spirit is probably alighted on your telephone pole, cooing at you to go move your people.