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Reflections with Fellow Sojourners – Entering a Blessed Season: Speech, Spirit, and Transformation

by Rev. Dr. James D. Findlay

James Findlay As longer warmer days now grace the Earth, our communities gather to experience Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and the growth and expansion of God’s Reign during the many days and months of Kingdomtide.  Listening to the texts of the Word from our ecumenical lectionary in these days can provide guidance and clarity – especially in experiencing the nature and work of the Spirit.

The first text of Pentecost Day, Gen. 11:1-9, tells us that “the whole earth had one language (literally, ‘tongue,’ ‘lip’) and one set of words” (11:1).  Humans then journey together, and decide to build a city and a tower.  YHWH the God of Israel then arrives, is amazed by human ingenuity and ability, and responds by scattering humanity over the Earth, confusing and separating their speech.  Though this is often seen as a tale of divine punishment for human arrogance and sin, it can also be read as a description and discernment of human capabilities and cultural differences.  And though humans spread out and become particular peoples, the “one language, one set of words,” is never lost.  It simply multiplies into many.

Interestingly, though human speech and creativity are in the foreground, as well as Divine concern, if not jealousy, over what humans can accomplish, the Spirit is not mentioned in Gen. 11.  In Psalm 104, however, a celebration of Creation and the human place in it, the Spirit does appear.  When present it brings forth life; when absent, creatures wither and die.  In Acts 2, the well-known story of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church, unity occurs, but without eliminating differences.  Rather than overcoming the distinction among languages begun in Genesis, and without rediscovering the “one tongue” of our shared humanity, those touched and empowered by the Holy Spirit are able to speak in “other tongues” which they had not known, and communicate with neighbors and immigrants who were previously strangers.  What the Spirit does at Pentecost shows that difference is no longer the cause of conflict, but an opportunity for celebration.  The power of the Spirit makes community possible – but the “one tongue” is still hidden from us.  Or is it?

In John 14 and John 16 Jesus prepares us for his physical departure and absence.  Yet his words and his speech are precious gifts, through which He is always present.  He tells us his words are not his own, but given by God, and that the Paraclete, the Advocate (Defense Attorney!), who stands with us in every trial we face, will speak with us and for us, and will dwell within us (John 14:10, 16-17).  This Spirit within is the Spirit of Truth.

If we are open to the Divine in this season of the Spirit, can we hear this inner voice?  Can we listen to what comes from Christ’s presence in an inner place, rising from silence, blessing us with guidance “into all the Truth”?  I sense that this Sacred Truth, known from relation to Jesus, is not a fact or proposition, clearer to us than an opinion or a perception but something deeper, nurtured, cherished, shaped in us by Christ’s Spirit abiding with us.

As the Spirit is born from silence and becomes sacred speech, nurturing our lives with its Truth, we may find further insight from images of the Child and Lady Wisdom.  In Proverbs 8, Wisdom stands and speaks, proclaiming to all who live her acts of creation, delight, and partnership with God and humans in a joy-filled universe.  More than an alternative or antidote to patriarchal conceptions and power structures, Wisdom is a Reality: the living power of the Divine Feminine to birth, to bless, to celebrate, to bring beauty.  She preaches a Truth we all know: “Hear instruction and be wise, do not neglect it.” When the Spirit leads us in Wisdom, we find Life (Proverbs 8:33, 35).  Would that we might grow in Wisdom, and speak and act wisely

Finally, amidst the tumult, difficulties, and pain of our world, the “one language, one set of words” is still accessible to us.  What the Spirit gives us, in addition to Community, Wisdom, and Truth, is POWER – a power at the heart of life.  As one translation of Psalm 8:2-3 reads: “the glory above the heavens is chanted by the mouths of babes and infants, to set up a bulwark, because of your foes.”  Perhaps the laughter, the smile-sounds, the cries of infants – all infants – is the “one tongue, the one set of words,” that is our shared human nature.  The speech of infants, of “sighs too deep for words,” is powerful, praising the Creator who makes us all Children of the One – and which we know in smiles, embraces, dances, and the comfort of silence.

As we journey through this season of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s coming rule, may we seek, find, and be blessed by the Spirit’s many gifts.  And may we know Her Presence, each in our own ways, shared deeply, in community and communion with all brothers and sisters who breathe the Spirit, the Breath of Life, with us on this Earth.

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Note from author: Please feel free to post here at the Conference website, or contact me via e-mail at sleight_of_time@yahoo.com. I wish to engender a conversation among us about how the Word and Spirit are active in our lives, and how we might nurture these gifts further. I also am happy to work with groups and individuals on how to nurture the Word and Spirit among us. Please visit my Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Accompaniment-Services/219750211459838 as another way of being in this sacred conversation. I look forward to hearing from many of you soon!

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