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The Flame That Heals: Pentecost


7 May 2024 | Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

How do you feel the Spirit moving in your life? 

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 

Acts 2:1–4, NRSVUE 

Join me in an exercise of prophetic imagination. Imagine the whole world, all 8.1 billion of us across the planet, in a moment of stillness. Imagine that we are captured momentarily by awe, that across every divide that separates us, we suddenly and truly can understand each other. 

Imagine the sacred, rising within us as flame and heat that unifies and heals. Imagine that, for a moment, we drop our weapons and defenses and rush to aid anyone hungry or suffering. Imagine we see in each other the Holy we yearn for, shining vibrantly and alive. 

It may seem foolish or idealistic to imagine such a reality. But what do you think God sees? For what do you imagine God yearns? Can we dare to glimpse the divine reality as we are intended to live with one another, as one sacred family of creation, whole and at peace? 

Theologian Amos Yong reflects on the power of the Pentecost moment, the immediacy of the Spirit’s presence among a diverse people that renews and transforms. Yong suggests that the church today develop a “pneumatological imagination.” Pneumatology is what we understand of the Holy Spirit and how we think of God. Pneuma is the Greek word in the New Testament for breath, or Spirit. 

This kind of imagination would empower us to ask in all contexts and circumstances: 

What has the Spirit done? What might the Spirit be doing? What would the Spirit do? What would the Spirit wish for or empower us to do?” 

Amos Yong, Renewing the Church by the Spirit:
Theological Education After Pentecost

In Community of Christ, we refer to this kind of discerning, expansive vision as prophetic imagination. With the prophets, whom I am sure were empowered with pneumatological imagination, we dare to envision the world as God yearns for it to be. We trust that the Spirit is working within and among us. This trust is more than an intellectual affirmation. It is soul deep, life-forming deep. 

It is a way of showing up to life each day as though Spirit is present and alive, deep within our own selves and in all the places and people we encounter. This kind of daily spiritual vitality brings fresh life and purpose, grounds us in a source so deep it can sustain and hold us in all circumstances. It can bring renewal, transformation, possibility, hope. 

Pentecost is one of those sacred stories that lives in me continually. It is foundational to my personal faith. It is a story that influenced the richly spiritual experimental impulse at the beginnings of our own movement—to dare to imagine holding “all things in common” and living sacrificially and sacramentally together to bring dreams to life and to pursue justice in ways that felt unimaginable at the time. 

There are many moments when I am astounded by the beautiful, complex diversity of the human family and yearn for us to see each other with the unity that might bring the healing we long for in so many dimensions of life. It is not just a wish, but an invitation to praxis in daily life. 

The Mission Prayer is another example of nurturing a pneumatological, or spiritual, imagination in us–“God where will your Spirit lead today?” It is an invitation to awaken to that movement of Spirit that is already—always—at work, and to align our lives and efforts with this life-giving happening. That this prayer begins concretely is intentional and important. Where will your Spirit lead today, in this relationship, this moment, this situation? 

God where will your Spirit lead today?

It is a prayer meant to be repeated throughout the day, arising when things get tense, hopeless, or stuck, prompting us when we see injustice, calling us to precise action in the places we witness greatest need. 

This has been stated in many ways. Our collective understanding of Christ’s mission has been growing into a willingness to listen for where the Holy Spirit is leading and courageously take the next faithful step into that future before us. This is at the heart of the call to discernment—watching attentively for God’s action in and around us so we can join the movement. 

Amid this shifting understanding, the world has been shifting beneath our feet. For many around the planet, life has gotten harder. The urgencies that claim us are more dire. The hope of peace might feel further away, the zionic dream simply that. We are faced with the reality that things might not “get better” in the ways we wish. 

Yet, here we are together on this planet, sacred creatures, beautifully complex and undeniably interdependent. No matter how difficult things seem, this inner flame still is rising. When we gather, it can bring enough heat and light for the next step into a future of hope for all our children. 

It’s harder and even more necessary in times like these to hold onto Pentecost hope, to see the world and our daily interactions through the lens of spiritual imagination. It is a radical act of trust that even when can’t yet see, feel, or perceive, the Spirit is working with and ahead of us, always with the aim of unifying, healing, reconciling, making whole. To hold this other way of seeing reality while in the heart of what is most unbearable and unthinkable is the call of a prophetic people. 

So, dear friends, gather your courage and join me in an act of prophetic imagination. Imagine us—all of us across our aching planet—standing together.

So, dear friends, gather your courage and join me in an act of prophetic imagination. Imagine us—all of us across our aching planet—standing together. Imagine the Sacred, rising within us, as flame and heat that unifies and restores. Imagine that for a moment we drop our weapons and defenses, that we rush to aid anyone hungry or suffering, that we see in each other the Holy we yearn for shining vibrantly and alive. It is all still possible. 

The planet and our children are crying for us to be whom we say we are, to trust what is most alive and real in our sacred story, to embody the heart of the gospel by following the Spirit that empowered Christ’s action in the world, to trust the power of Pentecost as a living promise of unity amid what may seem hopelessly divided. No matter what is occurring, the Holy Spirit cannot be withheld. 

It is rush of wind, breath of life, flame that heals. This is my deepest conviction. I wish I could share it with each of you to bolster your hope and vision for what may be—a source of renewal we always can draw from, a sacred reality that never ceases, a presence with us in every condition. There is no deficit of spiritual life and imagination to form us as we move into the future. Together we sing, pray, and act “the Spirit of God like a fire is burning.” 

May our imagination and the Spirit’s evident, persistent presence guide our vision and actions today. 

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