Pentecost as Movement Metaphor

1997-2020 Copyright Lebanon sacred art

Happy Moltmann Monday!  Happy Pentecost!  (Could there be a better duet?!)  In honor of my favorite Christian holiday, today’s excerpt comes from The Spirit of Life p. 278ff:

The early Christian experience of Pentecost is presented with metaphors about the rushing of a great wind, and a flaming fire…I am calling these metaphors movement metaphors because they express the feeling of being seized and possessed by something overwhelmingly powerful, and the beginning of a new movement in ourselves. They describe a movement that sweeps people off their feet, which possesses and excites not only the conscious levels but the unconscious depths too, and sets the men and women affected themselves on the move towards unsuspected new things. Deeply moved, we ourselves move, and go out of ourselves. The primal image is the Pentecost story, which tells how the experience of the Spirit turns a crowd of Jesus’ intimidated disciples into free witnesses to Jesus Christ, apostles of the gospel who carry the tidings ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). I am relating the movement metaphors of tempest and fire to the experience of the life-affirming, life-giving love of God–that is, to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Last night at Journey I was trying to briefly summarize (again) why I love Pentecost so very, very much.  I should have just read this paragraph, because as usual, Moltmann says exactly what I want to say, exactly how I feel it to be true in the depths of my being, but far better than I ever could.

Pentecost is my kind of holiday because it’s a day that not only allows but practically requires you to respond in celebration,  affirming how and where you and all of creation are wildly and passionately ALIVE.  An event as powerful as Pentecost beckons us to respond, and to respond with GUSTO:  ALL CAPS GUSTO.  Moltmann’s words capture this spirit of gusto and celebration and response perfectly. The rushing wind, the tongues of fire, these are metaphors that MOVE us.  These were actions that moved the disciples from inside their locked room into the public streets of Jerusalem.  Here they were, staring at the wall waiting for the next bout of instructions, when all of a sudden, Pentecost happens, and before they know it it’s noisy and chaotic and unifying and beautiful.  In those moments, they become the church. They become sent people, people who have been deeply moved and who now only can respond by moving out, seized as they are by this zest for life, this passionate fire.  What does it mean to live by the Spirit?  It means to feel that life-affirming, life-giving love of God like an overwhelmingly powerful wind in your gut, moving you to something unexpected and new.


Image note:  “Descent of the Holy Spirit” by Joseph Matar, a Lebanese poet/artist.  OBVIOUSLY, this combination required me to purchase one.

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