Trinity Movement Choir, photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
Pentecost has arrived. Did it feel to you like the longest fifty days ever? If your current experience of this important day in the church calendar doesn’t match expectations, join the club.
The apostles didn’t expect to be covered in “tongues of fire.” Nobody expected these men who had recently cowered in fear to preach the love of God to a huge crowd. Members of the diverse crowd could never have expected to hear the apostles’ words “each in our own native language” (Acts 2). “It’s a miracle,” as the theme song of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt proclaims about the fictional women unexpectedly found alive.
We might be forgiven for assuming that, with the gift of “speaking in tongues,” all humanity would soon be one. What went wrong? We get a clue elsewhere in the New Testament. In Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth, he cautions them not to spend too much time speaking in tongues, since others can’t understand them. If you do it, he says, don’t let more than one or two people go (1 Corinthians 14:29–30). Why would he be so down on such a great gift?
It helps to remember that Paul wrote “occasional letters” — as in, something happened to give him occasion to write each one. We need to reverse engineer what he says in order to catch a glimpse of what they were doing that he wanted to correct. In this case he’s seeking to heal divisions by trying to curb toxic behaviors. It’s amazing to find speaking in tongues on that list. Apparently, some were undermining worship by speaking in tongues at great length and without being understood. Paul says it was for self-aggrandizement, not the good of the community. And we can imagine it was downright annoying.
You know those magazine articles, “Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us”? So were the early Christians. This bit of biblical realism reminds us that we humans have an innate tendency to misuse and mess up even the most wonderful gifts.
At Pentecost, let’s ask what gifts of God we may be messing up. Relationships? Diversity? Our planet? The economy? Paul urges the Corinthians to focus on building up the ekklēsia — the community (1 Cor. 14:4). What would happen if we went out of our way to take better care of one another? Share benefits more equitably? Look out for the most vulnerable?
Would we mess up? Sure. When that happens (not if), could we then forgive, embrace, and move forward boldly, striving to work together as one?
That’s what Pentecost is all about.
Director, Faith Formation and Education
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Photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
Day of Pentecost
Bob Scott, Director, Faith Formation and Education
While the vivid story of the coming of the Holy Spirit described in the Book of Acts gets most of the attention on Pentecost, it’s worth noticing that scripture also records less dramatic moments of receiving God’s gift. In the gospel appointed for this Sunday, the Risen Lord comes to the disciples hiding in an upper room, shows them his wounds, and shares the Holy Spirit by breathing on them. We might take this narrative as a reminder that your experience and mine might differ — tongues of flame or a gentle breath — but both can be valid and life-changing.
In this excerpt from a reflection from The Spirituality of Conflict project, Ellis Barnsley looks at how Jesus’ actions in John 19:20–23 draw the disciples’ life stories into the divine story.
“In displaying his wounds, Jesus provides a way for the disciples to be open to their own vulnerability. As they are welcomed deeper into the pain of his story, they are welcomed deeper into their own stories, deeper into themselves and into the gospel.
“The place of fear and pain can become also the place of healing or letting go. A therapist friend explained it to me this way: ‘We need to see our wounds and feel our pain. That’s where God can be closest. And then our attention is not on holding pain, but following it to learn how we can release it.’ There is no simplified roadmap to forgiving in this text, only the exhortation to the journey with the example of Jesus and the Spirit leading us to into a better truth.”
- What do the words “Peace be with you” mean to you?
- What are the stories in us and around that need to be recognized and affirmed?
- While Jesus grants authority/permission to forgive sin he also gives permission to withhold forgiveness. It is not a journey that can be rushed, as long as we keep our hearts open to the possibility.
- What tools do you have at your disposal for acknowledging your own wounds/trauma? Who guides you on your own path to healing?
Photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
Gifts of the Spirit: What a Disciple Felt
Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Associate Director, Faith Formation and Education
Have you ever tried cutting letters out of felt? Without very sharp scissors, it can be a challenge. What I remember most clearly about preparing for my Confirmation, at about age 12, was cutting out of brightly colored felt every last letter of the Gifts of the Spirit (that would be more than 75 letters, including the title!): Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord. The cutting was a spiritual practice in and of itself. Then I glued these onto a gold burlap banner, which also featured my cut rendition of a dove descending and tongues of fire. To this day, this is the image that comes to me at Pentecost, well, that and a memory of a photograph where I am seated on my bed, in a navy-blue patterned dress with a big pink bow at the waist, beneath my prized Spirit banner. I can actually detect a look on my face in that photo that suggests I felt changed in some way. Elated. Empowered. (To be honest, my face in my first Communion photo has a similar look, but that’s a story for another time!) Looking back, though, I know that, in my own way, I took quite seriously the challenge to live in the Spirit and to cultivate the gifts of the Spirit, even as an adolescent.
Pentecost, the birth of the Church, is a time when the believers in Jesus Christ received the gifts of the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the saving power of God through Jesus Christ, to all the people from every nation gathered in Jerusalem. On Pentecost, God breathed the Spirit into Jesus’ disciples and friends to remind them that, even though Jesus was no longer with them physically, they were not left alone. The Holy Spirit would accompany them into the future, comforting them in their uncertainty and their feelings of loss, working within them and calling them to the fullness of their potential.
We have also received the Spirit of God, who comforts and guides us throughout our lives. Remembering the labor of love to create my Confirmation banner reminds me of my part in cultivating or living into the potential for new life offered in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. How is the Holy Spirit inviting you to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in creative and life-giving ways? How is God inviting you to new life this Pentecost? And how will you share this good news with a world in need?
- Pentecost: Celebrating the Gifts of the Spirit from Spirituality and Practice — Ways to celebrate Pentecost at home
- Pentecost in Two Minutes — A brief illustration of the birthday of the Church
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
Kathryn Carroll, Interim Program Manager, Children and Families
It’s Pentecost! Sometimes we celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the Church and we have a party. That day, as described in Acts 2:1–21, was so amazing and dramatic that we mark it as our beginnings as a global, multi-lingual Christian community. Not only were there flames that didn’t burn them, but they were all able to understand languages that they’d never heard before. And there was a great wind! In Hebrew, it’s call Ruach and it is considered the breath of life from God, which we also know as the Holy Spirit. All the people left the mountain “fired up;” full of the life and languages of the Holy Spirit to share the good news across the world and across time.
- Family Worship: Home Edition — A simple family-style service for you and your family to follow together at home
- ParentSpace — Parents are invited to gather online Sundays at 10am for a time of sharing and support
- Youth Drop-In Call — Fr. Matt is hosting a weekly drop-in call for all Trinity Youth. Text or email Matt at MWelsch@trinitywallstreet.org for more information.
Each week, we’ll share a song of the week to help you go deeper with each Sunday’s theme. The playlist will be updated weekly, and the song of the week will sit on top.