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Rector's Reflections

Pentecost Reflection

Beloved St. John’s community,

I went to high school at a small Catholic school in Waterloo, Belgium called St. John’s International School (apparently our patron saint has been making regular appearances in my life!). About a third of the students were Americans, and the rest came from all over the world, but predominantly Europe. Everyone spoke English, and most also spoke at least one other language. Some of the students had parents whose jobs required them to move to a different country every few years, so I had friends who had lived in Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Japan, Mlawi, China, and many other places.  Our everyday high school conversation was peppered with words from many other languages that we all eventually learned. ¡Cállate! Dépêche-toi! Bitte, danke.

What I learned during those years was that there truly was not only one way to see anything, or only one way to express anything. It continually astonished me how different our experiences were. Ronald Reagan was president at that time, and I remember mentioning him in passing to a classmate, having only ever heard good things about him from my Republican parents and conservative church back in California. I was shocked when my European friends rolled their eyes and called him “that American cowboy.”

After 2,000 years of Christianity, it can be hard to remember just how diverse, explosive, surprising and unexpected our church’s origins were. People tend to like the familiar—our own Episcopal church has scripted liturgy, and we’ve been reading the scriptures that have been canonized for 1700 years. But in those early powerful days, the words of the church were spoken by individuals who had been given voice by the wild, untamable Holy Spirit. Apparently the effect of that first day of Pentecost was such that onlookers thought they were drunk!

Pentecost is the feast we will celebrate together on May 19. (Don’t forget to wear red!) And, although we have the gifts and the burdens of 2,000 years of tradition and institution to support us in faith today, it is so important for us to remember that the Holy Spirit is still an active presence among us, and that She is still speaking to us. How else should we honor Pentecost, than by listening to Her? As I mentioned in my Sunday sermon, I went to a Quaker college and was exposed to the beautiful and egalitarian philosophy of that denomination in which church services are formed of people sitting in silence, until the Inner Light that inhabits each one of us would move an individual to speak.

However you understand the Holy Spirit, She resides within us and is a teaching, comforting, provoking presence to whom we should listen, and on whose behalf also sometimes speak. Each one of us holds a piece of divine wisdom that is unique to us, irreplaceable and priceless. Let us open our ears and hearts to the Spirit, and have courage to speak of that wisdom when we are moved.

In Christ’s love,