Enemy of Apathy

She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
hovering on the chaos of the world’s first day;
she sighs and she sings, mothering creation,
waiting to give birth to all the Word will say.

She dances in fire, startling her spectators,
waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
she weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.

From John L. Bell & Graham Maule, ‘Enemy of Apathy’, in The Iona Abbey Worship Book (Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications, 2003)
This Sunday we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost, often casually referred to as “the birthday of the Church”. Reducing this feast to a birthday party can limit the apocalyptic scope of this pouring out of the Spirit. Pentecost reverses the spirit that was active in the ancient story of the Tower of Babel, where power was consolidated into the symbolic structure of a building reaching to heaven which would secure the dominance of one group by uniting people into a single language group and culture over all others. The rushing wind of Pentecost brings not just tongues of fire and rushing wind but the eruption of languages into the speech of other nations and groups. The Spirit disrupted imperial uniformity by an outpouring of the Word that celebrates diversity, so that divine speech could be heard and understood in the tongues of people of every nation and culture.
More than that, the Spirit’s coming reminds us that the last days become the first days. We call it the birthday of the Church because it is a new beginning. The events of Jesus death, resurrection and ascension are followed by this universal unleashing of the Spirit for the first time and forever. We celebrate Pentecost because we are the people of the Spirit who are called to resist the pressure to contain Jesus and keep our religion in a safe institutional box. This idea is captured beautifully in the hymn, Enemy of Apathy which we will sing on Sunday. The Spirit is endlessly patient, brooding like an expectant mother, waiting for the time to be right to bring each new thing to birth and endlessly dancing around the barriers that seek to contain and restrain the power of the liberating Word amongst us. May we be Pentecost people, waiting to give birth to all that the Spirit of love will reveal.
Grace and peace,