Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!
Oh blessed times!
God will prepare our souls to be his temples.
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How to Convey the Un-conveyable?
At Working Preacher, Karoline Lewis makes a good point about preaching on Pentecost Sunday.
I think too many of us preachers go into Pentecost Sunday with the pressure of coming up with a pneumatologically correct sermon, worrying that we get the doctrine of Holy Spirit right, so as not to lead our congregations astray through false teachings and heretical claims. But once we start going down the homiletical road of explaining the Spirit, we subsequently explain away her inspiration and imagination. I’ve said it before and I will likely say it again and again — no one wants to hear a sermon on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; a sermon that tells people what they have to believe about the Spirit. One might call that a performative contradiction. As soon as we insist on absolutes when it comes to the Holy Spirit, I suspect we’ve forgotten that we are talking about the Spirit, who blows where she wills.
That, my friends, is a conundrum.
The mystery of the Holy Spirit takes more than words to convey. How can we help ourselves and our congregations to imagine the Spirit’s reality and influence?
Perhaps we can try and find ways to help people meditate, with striking images and sounds from nature, on the mystery and majesty of the Holy Spirit.
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Perhaps we reenact the ancient rite, possibly dating back to 609 AD, of dropping rose petals onto the faithful to symbolize the descent of the Holy Spirit, as they do at Rome’s Pantheon.
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How about we throw a big birthday party for the church, and celebrate with joyful abandon, serving flaming cupcakes?
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Or, let’s have a parade!
For the feast of Pentecost, Spanish people from all over the Andalucian region set out on Saturday for the journey to El Rocio. They typically dress in bright flamenco dresses and other regional costumes, playing traditional music and dancing along the way.
Or, let’s take our worship public!
Weather permitting, why not reserve a local town park and hold Sunday worship outside, in public? Pentecost was a public phenomenon — why shouldn’t we have one too? Include lively music, testimonies, proclaiming the good news, and do it all in a festive and exuberant manner.
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I’m not a person who is into gimmicks, or for doing things just to have something different.
But we have found innumerable ways to convey the spirit and truth of the Incarnation in Advent and Christmas in ways beyond words. We can do Holy Week and Easter up big with tangible, sensory, imagination inducing commemorations.
Are mere words and business as usual sufficient to convey the intense, liberating mystery of Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit?
I think not.