ON THE WILD, RADICAL, FREE, STRANGE AND WONDERFUL WIND-RUSH OF THE SPIRIT...
It was a Carnival-like atmosphere. Celebration was in the air. It was a day for multi-culturalism. People swarmed in from all over the place: Jerusalem, for the feast of Pentecost. The place was filled with people with strange foreign names from cities as far off as Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and Libya, Pontus and Asia. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cretans and Arabs, among the many others. While one may wish to question Luke’s geography, according to his known world this was indeed a representative gathering of “every nation under heaven”. There were young, old, rich, poor, men and women. The guest list would have included the immigrants, refugees and non-citizens, orphaned and widowed, the homeless and those on the margins. The human-made barriers that divided throughout the year were removed for the day of celebration. The varied bouquet of peoples with the orchestrated symphony of languages is not without significance. “God does not speak only one language” (Kosuke Koyama). Here is the wind-rush God re-directing the Babel trajectory of homogenisation and the enforcing of a petrifying uniformity. With hurricane force wind and flaming tongues, God’s “YES” to the diversities of identity, taste, style, culture, ideology and vision is loud and clear. Indeed, “culture shapes the human voice that answers the voice of Christ” (World Council of Churches, 1973).
Compared with the recent Windrush debacle in Britain and the current Tory government policy of ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants, the so-called Christian Britain seems to have lost her heart and soul. Under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain - but the right to free movement between Commonwealth nations was ended from that date onwards. Consider the incompetence: the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it. So, these individuals now must prove they are in the UK legally. Many even had their rights as legitimate citizens removed! They must now prove they have the right to remain. Most likely if you are white that is enough proof that you have a right to stay here! In this sense there may be racism at the root of the issue. Race and legacies of colonialism matter here. The writer Andrea Levy herself a progeny of HMS Empire Windrush, said: “For Britain to treat its former colonial subjects in such a way is a violation of natural justice and of its historical responsibility. Beyond the individuals concerned, it sends a chill through entire communities. It suggests no one, not even your granny, is safe.”
Our wind-rush God, though, is not in the business of creating a monochrome community of one flavour. The Divine’s gift in terms of accent, culture, race or ethnicity and much more is variety. This is nothing to fear; it is something to appreciate about God. In God’s landscape the variety is recognized as vibrant, enhancing each other, dull without the other, independent and interdependent. Differences should not lock us into divided categories. For while the Spirit of the wind-rush God affirms the identity of each, she binds us together in a common community. We are more connected than we imagine. That’s good news then, now and always. You and I don’t have to pretend to be someone we are not, to be a part of the God’s vision of beloved community.
Luke’s description of Pentecost is an alternative proclamation: a Gospel of the poor, not that of empires. It is a public demonstration of a new reality of life beyond Empire, which was made real in the ‘upstanding’ (resurrection) of Jesus. Pentecost ought to remind us of protest at its best – chanting down oppressive Babylon in all its reincarnated forms and chanting up a vison of full life for all.
The lonely small group of men and women, friends of Jesus “all together in one place” would never have imagined that the Spirit would grab hold of and lead them into the “dance of their lives”. This conspiracy, (from con-spire - with breath or breathing together) as one writer puts it, resulted in about three thousand of that crowd (including the lonely little group) having their lives radically transformed.
The wild, radical, free, strange and wonderful wind-rush of the Spirit of God pulled down the barriers and evoked a rainbow collection of people to begin “breathing together” and “fired up” for the adventure of their lives. There is a kind of “dangerous restlessness” with our wind-rush God that would make all our contemporary risk-assessment look like a joke. The wind-rush God disrupts our ‘neat categories’ and frees us to embrace new life and a new spirit across our variety – empowering us to breathe together. When that can begin to happen then the wind would become a gust and the gust a storm and our diverse and colourful community would “catch afire” with dreams, visions, prophecy, hope and new life. Empire is not the final word. Our wind-rush God in Christ is waiting expectantly to power up a transforming storm in the House of Living Stones.
Michael Jagessar (United Kingdom)
[traveller who no longer desires any affiliation]
Art: Kenneth Burns. Photo: Stephen Burns.