Saturday, May 14, 2005

Strange Fire and String Theory

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday -- the reddest "red-letter" day in the Church year. Liturgically correct person that I am, I've ironed my strobing red blazer and am practicing my umlauts for my lectoring duties tomorrow...which is about as wild and crazy as it gets among the "frozen chosen" here in Lutherland on this day when we celebrate God's incendiary presence in our midst. Considering our love of hot dish suppers, it's probably appropriate that the Spirit takes more of a crockpot than a flamethrower approach when it comes to firing up Marty's kids.

Actually for me a better metaphor for the Holy Spirit moving through the Church is...a ball of string.

Personal flashback: It's 20 years ago, more or less, and I'm sitting in the drafty, smoky lodge of a camp somewhere in Indiana with a roomful of other rumpled, sleepy college students from around the Great Lakes states. We've just spent the past 36 hours on retreat -- Godtalking, singing, praying, meditating, laughing, weeping, eating, late-night euchre playing (it's a Lutheran thing). Despite our having arrived relative strangers to one another, community has been formed in the catalyst of quiet time away from the world, of safe space, of hospitality, of prayer. Now it's almost time to go; we're holding our final worship service.

The officiating pastor takes a ball of string, grabs onto the end, then throws the ball to one of her student parishoners. "Take hold of the string, then throw the ball to someone else," she directs. The student does so.

The ball gets thrown back and forth across the room. Some people grab for it in mid-air. Other people seem terrified when the ball lands in their laps. Some people don't quite get what's going on, and need gentle coaching from their neighbors so that they keep a grasp on the string while they throw the ball to someone else.

Finally everyone in the room has a hold on the string; it's criss-crossed in our midst like a limp fishnet.

"Everybody hold up your part of the string," directs the pastor. We do, and a spiderweb of string forms above our heads. "Keep it taut."

She gives her end of the string a tug. We all feel it. "Somebody else tug your section of string." Another worshipper does that, and we feel that too. We all give a little tug to the string, and we feel the energy move back and forth.

This, the pastor explains, is the Christian life. We are all connected as the people of God and as sisters and brothers of Christ. What we do affects all the rest of us. What happens to one of us touches all of us. Our worship, our prayer, our service, our giftedness, our common life bind us together no matter who, no matter where, we are. But we keep the ball rolling. We always look for the next person to gather into our net of love and connection.

I remembered this experience this past Sunday, when I read our Augsburg Fortress bulletin burb that talked about "bonding" and "bridging" capital. To me this sums up the dynamic of Pentecost as described in this coming Sunday's lectionary readings. The Holy Spirit draws us together in community and becomes present for us; then she sends us out, gifted and empowered, to bring others in. And so it goes, on and on, from person to person, from place to place, from age to age, all the way into eternity.

Every day I thank God for my own immediate connections to my sisters and brothers in Christ...for the moving of the Spirit that has brought us all together, somehow, in this amazing network we call the Body of Christ.

Veni Creator Spiritus.

"Pentecost" by Gisele Bauche Posted by Hello


*Christopher said...

The Holy Spirit as string, I like that connecting with the Church in all times and places. One of my favorite images is of the Celtic image of the Holy Spirit as a goose. Geese nip at you, get you to move.

LutheranChik said...

I certainly need to be "goosed" by the Holy Spirit every day! LOL

BTW...wonderful Pentecost service today at my church. The worship committee did such a splendid job decorating the church -- a festival of RED (as Esau said of Jacob's bowl of pottage, "reddy-red"!) They took red bedding plants like petunias, cockscomb, impatiens and begonias, wrapped the pots in red paper and had them in all our windows and all around the altar. They also had a special banner, and red and white balloons and streamers at each row of pews. Our Sunday School kids did a song with red crepe-paper streamers, and our lessons, as has been noted, were read in different languages. This was also the Sunday we commissioned one of our parishoners who graduated from the same lay ministry program I'm in now. So that was nice. Full house of worshippers, too. "A good time was had by all."

Bag Lady said...

I really like the ball of string. It also is a perfect illustration of systems theory, which I keep trying to figure a way to discuss On The Corner.


LutheranChik said...

Bag Lady: Then I must have been visited by the Holy Spirit, because I'm not that smart...just reading the words "systems theory" is making my head ache.;-)

Thanks for stopping by!