By D. Thomas
“In those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophecy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs
on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,…” [ACTS 2:18-20, Peter quoting JOEL 2:29-31]
I wanted to write sooner about Pentecost, because it is fascinating, and the Christian celebration marks one of the most important things in the Bible, and because something wonderful happened on that day during church, but over this week and a half I have been a weepy mess. Of course, there was that Moon– again, the Moon, the Super Moon!
The Blood Flower Super Moon, and its eclipse– the only total lunar eclipse of 2021.
The moon has been in Sagittarius, a mutable fire sign. According to astrologists and anyone who works regularly with children, full moons always affect and intensify emotions, personally and collectively. The astrologers say that the effect is more potent in these close super moon phases, and it is all amped up if you happen to be of a mutable sign–Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces. The thinkers and philosophers of the zodiac, it is said. I’m a Sagittarius, a fire sign, so…
The moon appears blood red in these “Blood Moons” because the light from the sun bounces off the earth’s atmosphere with all its particles and molecules and dusts, which, glittering, reflecting, light the moon’s surface even as the earth’s body blocks the sun’s direct light– which at night we see reflected, calling it moonlight.
Every day and night our eyes are seeing reflected and refracted and bending, not direct, light, within a narrow spectrum (without various cameras, lenses and filters). And every day and night and tide change, we on earth and the sun, we on earth and the moon, pull, bend, influence each other– moon and water, sun and chlorophyll; life.
Air, fire, water, earth: existence.
“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him all , all His host!
Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” [PSALM 148, 1-4]
So, Pentecost: in the Christian calendar, this marks the day that the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and apostles, and they began to preach and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ Who had risen.
(For the mythology/ theology/history nerds:)
Jesus had been crucified and died (and the sun went dark, dark as an eclipse, and the earth quaked and, Matthew says, graves opened), risen, and appeared to and talked with and taught His followers for forty days, and then He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Spirit that He had promised. (I love the scene in Acts 1 when He left them– He rose as into the sky and disappeared, “And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” [ACTS 1:10-11] — it’s sort of like, in John 21, when He appeared to them on the beach at Galilee where the men were fishing: Christ the Risen LORD called from shore, “Did you catch anything?”)
In Jerusalem, then, ” they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James …together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers,” [ACTS 1 : 12-14], and, while I wish names of more of the women were also listed, I must point out that female disciples were present with the eleven (Judas Iscariot had hung himself). And:
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on them, each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit” [ACTS 2 :1-4].
They began speaking in languages that they did not know, telling about Christ Jesus, who was killed (“You killed the Author of life” Peter put it another time), and rose. Peter quoted the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” [2:28].
Peter and the disciples were speaking in all the known languages to the Jews and God-fearers who had come from throughout the diaspora to the city for the Feast of Pentecost.
Passover was the beginning of the Festival of First Fruits– which is older than Moses, older the Joseph and Jacob and Abraham, as old as humans’ consciousness of the need of food and the harvesting of food, thanking the gods of the fruit-bearing trees and vines and the grains, and celebrating the first wheat grown in the nation of Israel. Israel was intended to be ruled by God, not a human king, and governed by judges (such as Deborah), a holy– or, set apart– people, according to the Covenant God made with them, through Moses, at Mount Sinai (sealed by the blood sprinkled on the altar and the people) This, the giving of the Torah or Law to Moses and the people of the Exodus from Egypt is the Jewish element.
Fifty days after Passover (pente=fifty) was the Feast of Pentecost/First Fruits. Jesus (the Lamb, the sacrifice, sealed the New Covenant with his blood and body) was called the Firstborn, and all who believe are called His sisters and brothers and will rise as He did, and are children of God as He was, and have God, the Spirit within– a particle/wave kind of thing? I do not know exactly what this means or how it works, but can go with the “force and bundles of excited wavelike force becoming particulate force- bearer” analogy. We talk about “fruits of the Spirit”– or manifestations of the Spirit of God in us, Love and all the behaviors that flow from loving and helping and teaching and healing instead of hating and fearing and fighting.
On the feast day the city was crowded, as it had been for the Passover, and Peter and the rest preached the Good News of Christ’s resurrection, and believer’s adoption, and how being sons and daughters of God, “co-heirs of the Kingdom ” with Christ, made of them– or us– a “holy people”, a “nation ” and “royal priesthood”. Any of us can preach, can witness, testify, help and heal; do what Jesus did and, Jesus said, even greater things (advancement in knowledge and technology has wrought wonders, moved mountains, saved lives; unfortunately the demonic and evil have gained these same tools.)
We are supposed to reflect God. God is Love. We are supposed to be “the hands and feet of Jesus”, feeding and clothing the poor, healing the sick, visiting the prisoners; we are supposed to show compassion– this is the Spirit in us. Why are many so-called Christians so blocked? So hateful? There are brightly shining Christ-followers in our world, though, too– that is how we know Spirit is.
On Pentecost, two Sundays ago, during the church I worship with online, a family in the chat said a daughter, aged nine, asked if and how she could accept Jesus; she can’t talk. We all chimed in, crying Oh Yes! God can hear thoughts and silent prayers! We all prayed and encouraged, and were crying happy tears and she accepted Jesus and we welcomed her into the family. We returned the next Sunday eagerly; the little girl has not reported miraculously being able to speak, but she did take over the typing/talking on the chat for her household, and brought us to tears again: she likes to paint; she has to hold the brush in her mouth. She said, and I quote; “I have become able to do many things since I am broken.” The church is in the Pennsylvania boonies, and the streaming service was glitching and being lost, but we of the chat church have found that great things sometimes happen then; our host sighed that they tend to lose internet when it rains; the little girl said, “We are your rainbow.”
The Spirit is still more powerful than our science and technology.
I have been a weepy mess. Good tears– thanksgiving and Joy– and sad tears, loneliness, sorrow and grieving, and a dose of self pity which leads me to admit that I surely am both ends of the centaur of Sagittarius. Oh, and I got my second vaccine, right before the Eclipse and full moon, on Pentecost. I am wary of things opening up too much, too quickly; I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the mask. I know I’m not ready to go out much into the world. I think I am most afraid that humans will not retain and learn and live what they have been taught in this pandemic. In this nation, especially, memories are short.
Remember the “opioid epidemic”? My friend would be fifty today if he hadn’t kept using pain-killers for the wrong kind of pain, if he hadn’t found it so much cheaper to get heroin. (When my Mom was dying I told her to give him a big hug and a kiss and a smack upside the head, in any order.)
I’m afraid the huge Pharmaceutical and Natural Gas and Oil profits will keep us and our habitat destroyed and sick, and that the White Supremacists will stride around with guns and act so pro-life that they’ll shoot anyone they don’t like the general look of and call it “Standing their ground.” I’m afraid the idolatrous nationalisms might lead to War. The next World War could go nuclear, if the Superpower enemies standing off aren’t both predominantly Caucasian, if trump-lovers win in ’24, and see China as the evil, as Americans once called the U.S.S.R. (remember that?) The USA used nukes in the Asian Pacific already– against two Japanese cities in World War II, and detonated hundreds in the air as tests. (Just warning: stay awake, watch!)
I do not trust humans much, including myself. But I believe in the Spirit, and Spirit is greater than nations, than kingdoms and dictators and moguls, vaster than the internet, than space, and as close and intimate as breath, and that this Being gives and loves life.
The past weeks have been lushly, richly, gloriously green! Cheers to the Big Guy as my friend wrote.
“Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons and all deeps;
Fire and hail; snow, and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling His word:
Mountains and all hills; fruitfull trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl…” [PSALM 148 :7-10] (KJV)
I pray that the Spirit will roar over us and through us, opening hearts and eyes and minds, igniting creativity and change, igniting love for one another and love for the earth, setting us on fire.