Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost: fire in the fog

The brilliant birds of paradise flowers always grab my eye. They are so dramatic, so geometric, so un-flowery. I never miss seeing a bird of paradise flower. I think that's how Pentecost was; it was so out there, so new, so different, so unavoidable. When the Holy Spirit rained down and filled the disciples from the inside and enabled them to communicate the good news of Jesus to a foggy world. Rain down fire into fog again.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Like a Tree

Who does not have powerful memories of trees? A shady tree of childhood? A climbing tree of youth? A particularly beautiful flowering tree? A rich, fruit-bearing tree? A tall majestic tree? Memorial trees along road sides? Windbreak trees along fields? Massive sequoia and redwood trees along the coast? Gnarled and wind-shaped trees of the upper elevations?
Tree is a word richly used throughout the Bible, from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis to the tree of life in Revelation.
So it comes as no surprise that Psalm 1 uses "tree" as a template for the life of the righteous person. The happy/blessed/righteous person is like a tree planted by streams of water, yeilding its fruit in the right season, with leaves that are rich and green, not withering. The source of that tree's life and strength? Medidation (absorbing, eating, drinking, dwelling) on the Word of God (Psalm 1 says "law of the Lord") day and night.
The altar-piece evocatively shows lush branches in resting in blue waters, undergirded by righteous waters flowing down. May we so dwell there!

Friday, May 04, 2007

OK...what's next?

The 10 days between Ascension and Pentecost are easily skipped over because it seems like old news. It's the same old upper room, the same old players (less Judas). It's a recitation of what we already know about Judas. The new component is the election of Matthias (far right tall blue candle) to fill out the compliment of 11 to make 12. What's also new is Peter's leadership.
As I lived with this text, I realized that it is a vital pause (concept comes from theologian Karl Barth). It's a pause between one era of Jesus' physical leadership among them to the new era of Pentecost (next week) and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
This group of believers (120+) obeys Jesus, goes back to Jerusalem and waits. While waiting together in the upper room for 10 days they pray together. The word for together means "in one accord" and with deep unity. This is something new; a unity without Jesus being the controlling presence. They wait, they worship, they turn to Scripture (the Psalms) and then they agree with Peter to move to replace Judas' apostle-position with Matthais.
These are the baby steps of the church, obedience, worship, scripture, and boldness. So, what's next for you?