Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pentecost: the fire this time

I wrote this post on our church's Community Conversations Facebook page, but thought I'd share it here as well.

Today is Pentecost, the day Christians around the world celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believers gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus' ascension. Acts 2:2-3 describes it: "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them."

Today as we view images of anti-racist protest and harsh police pushback all over the United States, I think about that violent wind and those tongues of fire. An old slave spiritual called Mary Don't You Weep includes the words "God gave Noah the rainbow sign: no more water, but fire next time." (Black American writer/activist James Baldwin took his book title The Fire Next Time from this lyric).

I imagine this fire as the Holy Spirit. We often think of the Spirit somewhat tamely, as our personal comforter and guide -- but the Spirit is also the Advocate for the oppressed, the Truth that comes from the Father, the One who Testifies (John 15:26). Perhaps today God is sending the fire of the Holy Spirit to stand up for the oppressed, to reveal the devastating truth about racism, to testify that God is not pleased when his image-bearers are crushed by generations of violence and hate. 

God, may Your Spirit's fire come to rest on us this time, moving us to repent and empowering us to act for justice. We want to be on the side of whatever You are doing in this world.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Five Minute Friday: NORMAL

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. 

This week's word is NORMAL.


Two months into the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown, it feels like normal has taken on a whole new meaning. Back at the beginning of March we could hardly have imagined the things we wouldn't be doing: getting together with friends and relatives for birthdays and holidays or just a quick visit, going to school and church and camp, going out for coffee or lunch, gearing up for summer sports or travel. 

And we could hardly have imagined the things we would be doing: waiting in line outside a grocery store till the staff let us in, dropping off a package of yeast at the home of someone we've never met, asking neighbours for toilet paper, cutting our own hair. (Yes, I have been doing this, and so far it's working!) 

So it's a new normal -- but for us it has been a pretty manageable one, overall. Richard still works the same number of shifts; I'm still doing my online course work; Allison is finding it a bit tedious but not hugely disruptive; Jonathan's missing his structured activities but coping amazingly well for the most part. We are fortunate. 

But so many others have been hard-hit by this crisis: people who have lost loved ones to the virus and couldn't be with them when they died or honour them with a funeral; who have lost their jobs due to cutbacks; who have no choice but to go to work in high-risk settings; whose well-being was already precarious because of homelessness, poverty, or mental or physical illness.

And millions of people in the world were already living with the kinds of restrictions many of us are now lamenting as "deprivations," like empty store shelves, lineups for basic activities, lack of access to school and cultural activities. We're getting a very small taste of what normal looks like for the less privileged worldwide.

One great thing about these Five Minute Friday linkups is that they give us an opportunity to see the wide variety of ways people experience, interpret, and write about the same word. And the Covid-19 pandemic is giving us an opportunity to see what our definition of normal really is and whether it's worth preserving or needs to change.