This month’s liturgy is loosely based on a wild and unsettling story about a group of people who gathered in an upper room.
And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Now, what is one to do with a story like this?
Why would people continue to talk about such a story today when we know the scientific difficulties with such things as flaming, floating tongues?
Well, there is another story we think might help put things in perspective for us.
Once upon a time, there was a place in deepest outer space where a tiny blue gem danced circles around a golden orb.
If you looked closely at the surface of the gem, you could see tiny fragments of nothingness that had collected and organized into larger fragments of somethingness. All of these tiny creatures of nothingness and somethingness would rush to and fro across the surface of the magnetic blue gem, many guided by curious orbs of liquid, connected by little red strings to grey squishy stuff within them, helping to animate and guide them.
There were all sorts of fascinating creatures and landscapes to be seen on this little blue gem doing circles around the golden orb.
Big fat blobby creatures and tiny little crawly ones. There were living things that grew right up out of the ground and grew tasty treats out of their limbs for other creatures to come snack on with tongues and taste buds made of magical bits of fields and atoms and electric pulses.
All of these creatures were glued to this blue gem as it twirled around the golden orb over and over again. The golden orb burned bright with a ferocious fire. Fire so fast and hot that it shined a trillion directions at once, every bit of fire careening off all the surfaces of the blue gem at a speed that was nearly beyond belief.
The creatures that swam and danced and crawled to and fro across the surface of the blue gem used their orbs of liquid and red strings and grey squishy stuff to help them maneuver around the gem, using the bouncing golden fire as a guide. And what a world the golden fire revealed.
A world filled with jagged peaks of rock and deep cuts in the gem that fill with a gorgeous blueish liquid. Sometimes, when the golden fire bounces a certain way, the blueish liquid transforms into billions of ornate pieces of jewelry-like crystals that hover slightly above the surface of the gem within large, dark wisps of vapor and then fall to the surface, transforming the colorful surface of the gem into a simple blanket of pure white.
There are a trillion scenes like this to see on this magical and mysterious planet. The creatures capable of experiencing exquisite colors, tastes, sounds and feelings. It a sensuous and magical place, this blue gem twirling around the golden orb of fire. And it is also your home.
You are one of the magical creatures on the blue gem. Your body made of trillion bits of nothingness and somethingness, all working together without your knowledge or your will. You simply get to experience the wonder of it all.
So back to Pentecost.
It’s a story about a bunch of creatures glued to a blue gem who reported that the golden fire communicated back to the grey stuff in their heads via the red strings and liquid orbs that something particularly crazy happened to them. Something that seemed like tongues of fire rather than the normal magical tongues of atoms and fields and electric pulses. Something that seemed like a mighty, rushing wind, as opposed to the normal rushing wind.
And for these people, and a lot of people in the centuries that followed, this magical, mystical experience was somehow the birth of something new in the world.
Suddenly, God was no longer a man, or a bush, or a box, or a tabernacle, or a temple. God was not the god of a region. God was everywhere, and in us, and working through us.
Suddenly, reality was bigger, more expansive, more beautiful.
You see, for a lot of people on the blue rock doing its circles around the golden fire, reality has lost its magic. Somehow the orbs of liquid and red string and grey squishy stuff for many has all gone a bit cold, and the world appears as boring and lifeless. The crystals that fall from the sky, the colorful and mysterious creatures that fly through the blueish liquid that rushes over mountain ranges, the exquisite colors and tastes and sounds… It all has grown dull and grey.
Pentecost is a story that invites us back into the Spirit and wonder of our existence. It’s a story that’s easy to scoff at. ‘Tongues of fire’ we laugh, using our own magical tongues of atoms and fields and electric pulses.
Pentecost reminds us that the old magic of our stories might not be as out of the ordinary as we thought. In fact, perhaps burning bushes and tongues of fire are child’s play compared to a giant yellow orb of fire in the sky.
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