When you picture the Holy Spirit, what do you think of? Unlike Jesus, the Holy Spirit has no physical form. The Holy Spirit is not something we can touch or objectively see. Even though the gospels describe the Spirit of God in the form of a dove, the dove is merely a metaphor. The metaphor describes what the Holy Spirit is like but the metaphor shouldn’t limit what the Spirit can do. For centuries, the translation of Holy Spirit as Holy Ghost misidentified what the Spirit can do. We know ghosts. Ghosts go by the name of Casper. They are something we see in a horror film. They can walk through walls, vanish in an instant, and help us make pottery when we star in a Patrick Swayze film. But because ghosts are recognizable, they seem containable in some way. The Holy Spirit, as depicted in scripture, is the opposite. The Holy Spirit, as we see in our reading from Acts today, is not contained by anything. Like the cry of a dove across a large valley or a rush of wind blowing through a small room, the Holy Spirit moves, breaking the ways we keep to ourselves and forcing us out of our self-imposed containment.
Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21) is sometimes described as the “birthday” of the church. That’s a metaphor that’s not quite right. The church is always the community of believers who proclaim Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. This new kind of community began the moment Mary and other women told their friends that Jesus was raised from the tomb. Pentecost is really a celebration of the different kinds of people God is calling into this new kind of community. The city of Jerusalem is filled with Jews from all over the world. These pilgrims speak many different languages and have many different nationalities. The Holy Spirit gives the apostles the ability to make Christ’s story heard in many different languages. The miracle of Pentecost is not the apostles’ ability to speak different languages. The miracle of Pentecost is God calling many different kinds of people to be part of this new community because Jesus’ message of hope, reconciliation, and love is for everyone.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Pentecost, 6/04/2017.