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Life in the Spirit
Life in the Spirit

The Spirit Is for All

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Author Lisa Sharon Harper describes the diversity of the early church: 

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit rushed in and caused all those present to speak in languages that were not their own. Each person understood the others…. God established the confusion between languages at the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11). At Pentecost, God brought the languages together, but not in the way we would imagine. God did not unite the world under one imperial language. Rather, the power of God made it possible to have unity in the midst of diversity. God made it possible for people to speak languages that were not their own and to understand one another.   

And in the same way Jesus had broken gender and class barriers, this multiethnic, multilingual group turned its back on misogyny and economic favoritism. Peter [quoting Joel 3:1–2] explained to the crowd why women and slaves were prophesying along with free men:   

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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17–18)….   

In other words, all the cultural, economic, and gender barriers between them were broken down. [1]   

Theologian Luke Powery names how the Holy Spirit’s presence is given for all, not just some: 

Pentecost shows that the Spirit loves us so much that she wants to get inside of us, dwell in us, and commune with us in a bond of love. This divine outpouring is love for each person. The Spirit honors the bodies of all people—young, old, male, female, all human beings throughout the world.… The Spirit is an equalizer and holy resister to racism and racial hierarchical systems.  

That the Spirit fills all and rests on all, not just some bodies … provides an opportunity for those deemed nonhuman to reclaim their humanity in God. Pentecost shows us that the spiritual is linked to the material, and thus that all human bodies matter to the life of faith. The glory of God is revealed through all human flesh and is the “sign of special favor from the spirit.” [2] At Pentecost, each body and ethnicity is affirmed as sacred and of worth, a human being loved by God.… 

No human voice or body is denied the presence and fire of God. Humans, regardless of ethnicity or race, speak a multiplicity of languages to reveal the diversity of God from the beginning, which is the vision of the end….  

Pentecost… creates a new world. It is a new creation ignited by the Spirit. The Spirit may be “unsought” or “unwanted” but is “intent on making all things new.” [3] This includes new flesh, a new body for the people of God. [4] 

[1] Lisa Sharon Harper, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right (New York: Waterbrook, 2016), 183–184.   

[2] Zora Neale Hurston, The Sanctified Church (Berkeley, CA: Turtle Island, 1981), 91. 

[3] Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, The Holy Spirit (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), 35.  

[4] Luke A. Powery, Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2022), 70–71, 73, 75. 

Image credit and inspiration: Tim Zänkert, body of water (detail), 2017, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. Like sunlight on water, we cannot grasp or clutch Spirit, but its beauty is with us all the same. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’m so grateful that CAC is focusing on the natural world in the Daily Meditations. Sometimes, I feel frightened by how many humans seem to disregard God’s creation and prefer the artificial environments created by humans. For me, it is only when I am in a natural space that I really feel God’s presence and feel my spirits lifted. I believe if Jesus had lived through these times, he would be speaking out for the protection of the environment and other species. He is there weeping for the thousands of humans and non-humans who are suffering, and some dying, from climate change across the world—from India to California.
—Susan B. 

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