I don’t know if you have heard, but the well-loved collaborative blog A Deeper Story is closing its doors next month. Some of the contributing writers are re-releasing their Deeper Story pieces in their own spaces, and I am joining them. I began writing for DS in the spring of 2013, and loved every bit of it — especially the opportunity to connect with the brilliant, fierce, and kind writers there. Many thanks to Nish for putting her dream out in the world.
This post was originally published on Deeper Story on May 23, 2013.
Hail thee, festival day!
Blessed day to be hallowed forever;
Day when the Holy Ghost
Shone in the world full of grace.
The song that ushered us in to Easter upon the first alleluia-shout leads me through the park, over a bridge, to the riverside. We, the parish, gather here, outdoors today. Today we’ve traded stained glass for leaves, a full choir for one or two shaky speakers. It’s Pentecost, when things get wild.
Well, at least, our Episcopal version of it—with folding chairs to sit in and folding walkers set aside, with vestments, with bulletins, and a Table set for Body and Blood. We’re gathered in the shade and the wind is in the trees the whole time we sing and speak and stand and sit. I’m trying to think of that Lauren Winner quote about how only Jesus could get us together to do such strange things.
Today, though, it’s the Holy Spirit who comes with fire, who descends like the wind of creation. Today, we plan to read the Gospel simultaneously aloud, in different languages, though no tongues dance above our heads.
It’s lovely and odd when the time comes, with a handful of myriad tongues loose with scripture, disparate paces making swells and lulls with an underlying hum, just like the cicadas that will take this place by force in the heat of the coming months.
When the last language stops speaking and we’ve bookended our reading with the bolded proclamation, Praise to you, Lord Christ, I look down to realize that I’ve been clenching the edge of the picnic table the entire time, the grooves leaving marks of anxiety in my fingers. The mixed and hurried murmuring in the crowd, though spoken from a page, stopped my heart with the forgotten familiarity of the old days with phrases forced, to conjure the gift, of rally-cries, of tears streaming for healing, healing, healing in strange sounds in a land with no interpreters, the healing that never came or at least, we couldn’t see. Those were the days when falling out in the Spirit felt a lot like being pushed down by a human hand, and Tongues turned into just another pretty way to sing. The Holy Ghost became a prop to push our own agendas, that otherworldly Prayer Language another way to add our own footnotes.
I haven’t had to look back, not really, in a number of years, but here I am, enveloped by such strange sounds. And as soon as I feel smothered by them, I wonder if I’ve tamed God.
But then I steal a glance at the Table prepared in this version of wilderness by the river—I think of the Creator ordering chaos, of Christ walking and dying with us only to rise again, of the Companion and Comforter of the Holy Spirit. God does such strange things with Body and Blood, with Water and Flame, and it all still seems pretty wild to me.
I pray for my tongue to be afire with it all.