WEDNESDAY AFTER EASTER VII — 2020
Hello! I am Jim Jelinek with another in our series of daily meditations, which I am sharing with The Rev. Alan Neale, my colleague in ministry at Trinity Church, Newport, RI.
Today I want to do something a little different. I want us to imagine something together, particularly I want you right now to close your eyes and picture yourself in Trinity Church, sitting in one of your favorite boxes, and a comfortably warm but air conditioned Sunday morning, with the sun streaming in through the windows on the east wall. If you look across the shaft of sunlight, you will see tiny dust particles floating with the air movement in the building. Look around you, especially to see if some of your favorite people are there, people you will want to greet at the peace and chat with at coffee hour out on the walkway by the fountain afterwards. Remember how wonderful that was last summer when the fountain was happily gurgling underneath the sound of happy voices, and with children running around and playing tag or some other game. Take another look at the congregation: who among them remembered to wear something red? And how many shades of red are there all around you?
The liturgy is about to begin, and because it is Pentecost, Nick has got a big prelude for us that really sets us up to belt out the first hymn: “Hail thee, festival day! blest day that art hallowed forever; day when the Holy Ghost shone on the world with his grace.” We sing with great joy as the cross processes down the center aisle, followed by a server, the choir in their robes, and your two clergy Alan+ and +Jim. The celebrant, in a bright red chasuble, begins the liturgy and when we get to the collect of the day, this is what we hear:
Let us pray.
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As we are seated, the reader for the day begins that powerful story found in Chapter 2:1-21 in the Acts of the Apostles. Permit me to read just the first four verses, because they are so very exciting:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like that of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
The author goes on to name people from fifteen different areas around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and tells us that they each heard the word being spoken in his or her native language. Some are puzzled; some call out that they must be drunk, and then Peter stands up, says, of course they’re not drunk, this is like the prophesy that Joel wrote: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. . . . “ In other words, Peter is telling them, the prophecy has just come to life right here among us. The promise has been fulfilled!
Try to stay in church in your mind, and let me tell you how we wanted to do the gospel reading. The story is called the “little Pentecost,” for it is Easter night and Jesus breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins. Remember Jesus comes to just the eleven original disciples [John 20:19-23]. It begins like this:
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”
I am going to tell you what I was hoping to do in this liturgy, because I did it in all the parishes in which I served, and it was a powerful experience. We began with the Deacon reading those first two verses in English. And then, in order, we went around the church to listen to whoever was standing read those two verses in the language that each knew besides English. We almost always had Latin, Spanish, French, Greek and Southern. Other languages I remember from all those Pentecost Sundays were: Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese Mandarin, Ojibwe, Dakota-Lakota, Hmong, Vietnamese, and British. After we heard those first two verses, ending with “Peace be with you,” the Deacon began again, and this time everyone read the whole passage and they did it simultaneously. It was bizarre; it was cacophony; it was powerful, and we got a sense of what the apostles experienced on the day of Pentecost.
I had been thinking about this much of the winter, not knowing if you had ever tried it here before, and guessing we might have many languages because of your rich and varied backgrounds. And I was especially thinking of some people I wanted to do their specialty: Anne Oliver to do Southern, Miriam Smith to do Newport, and I was hoping to find someone who could do Brooklyn or Joisey and Boston. In all the times I did this, I found that the one who did Southern always ended last! Surprise!
Well, that was my fond hope until this quarantine stretched on and on and we are still not ready to gather together in big numbers. However, I have an idea that I would like to try if I can find a way to do it. I am proposing a zoom Liturgy of the Word, also known as Ante-(pre-)Communion at 10AM this Sunday. I choose that time so you can still watch your favorite liturgies from the cathedrals or elsewhere. My suggestion is that if you can read a foreign language, that you Google John 20:19-23 for yourself and print it out, and then call me and tell me what language you would like to read. And those of you who are hearing or seeing this reflection, if you know someone in the congregation who can read and fairly well pronounce a foreign language, call that person and suggest she or he read or listen to this and then call or write me if s/he wants to, shall we say, “play along.” My contact information is:
Text and phone: 202-222-8117 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you will leave me an email address, if you contact me the other way, I shall send you a repeat of how we shall try to do this. Frankly, I have never done this on a zoom before, because I did not need to. So this could be very powerful or maybe just a hoot!
I am looking forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, stay safe and God bless you and yours!