Here is a thought experiment: picture yourself as a parent looking upon your child. (For those of you blessed with this role this should be easy.) As you look upon your child imagine all the love and care that is present in your heart. Now, multiply this by infinity. This is what God feels when God looks upon you and me – love multiplied by infinity. Yet, this depth of love (God to us and us to one another) is so easy to overlook and even forget in the rush and stumblings of life.
Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday – the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. In our western Christian tradition we often associate the color red with the Holy Spirit (i.e. the “tongues of fire” that come upon those gathered for Pentecost). Red is indeed a powerful color. It is a color that flashes and holds ones attention. In the Orthodox Christian tradition another color associated with the Holy Spirit is green. If we reflect here for a moment this makes perfect sense. In the creed we profess our belief in the Holy Spirit as “the Lord, the giver of life”. Here, in East Tennessee, all we have to do is look around at the myriad shades of green to recognize it as indeed a color which signifies life.
But, just as the depth of love is so present that it is easy to overlook in our lives so is the presence of green easy to take for granted (until, that is, life becomes dry).
I share this because I believe it is helpful when we think of the Holy Spirit to allow some shadings of green into the equation. I believe this allowance may expand our thoughts of how God works and even enable us to come to a deeper awareness of true power.
Today, in our society we like our heroes and superheroes. It seems that every other movie marketed out of Hollywood is based on some comic book hero (i.e. Superman, Spider-man, Batman, X-men, Thor, Green Lantern) and the plot line remains the same. In all the scenarios power is strength and determination and it is exercised through brute force and clashes that are anything but subtle and easily overlooked. In fact, it seems that in every story the whole world both hangs in the balance and holds its collective breath as it stands by and watches the great clash … just hoping for the best. Power is strength and it forces attention.
But, is this how God (the creator of all and also the “all-powerful”) works? It does not seem so. At least, this is not my reading of Christ hanging on the cross. God’s power does not need to point to itself nor force attention, it seems. Powerful nations have clashed with great armies throughout the centuries but can any nation cause the sun to rise or set? Can any nation or science create from nothing even the smallest form of life? It seems that God’s power is humble – not found in clash and conflict demanding attention – but in love and in life. That which is easily overlooked.
The gospel today tells us that the disciples had locked themselves in the room out of fear. But that Christ, risen from the dead, came to them demonstrating a different form of power than that of the world. This is not a power that points to itself and demands attention but rather one easily overlooked yet it is the power that overcomes fear and brings life and love. Then Christ breathed on the Church and said, “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” God’s own power, God’s own Spirit – so much at work, so present and yes, so easily overlooked.
“Come, Holy Spirit and enkindle in us the fire of your love!”