Pentecost – a truth hidden in plain sight?

when the birthday party’s over, and the pastors are home wondering how the festivities came off, I say two or three of us come back here and pray over this mess of confetti, and ribbons, and paper lace.

Has a great religion of the Spirit been obstructed by a Christianity of the flesh?

If the way of grace and truth bestowed by God’s Anointed was meant for the whole world, why after nearly 2000 years does more than half the world still remain aloof from its blessing?

I sincerely doubt those who say that this harvest shortfall was preordained. The tardy consummation of the church’s mission cannot even any longer be covered by the Son’s teaching regarding slow-growth (mustard seed, drop of leaven, etc) – because it is the number outside the church that is slowly growing.

The failure of the church cannot be of God, but of men. If the cause of all spiritual advance realized so far is of Christ, it stands to reason that the frustration of this advance is due to human errors which hang too heavily over that human institution which was charged with bearing God’s truth to the world. Can I get a pastor to agree with me here? I doubt it.

Instead of equating the human doctrines of Christianity with truth and orthodoxy, maybe we should check to see whether they have not been admixed with enough human error to obscure the whole truth revealed in Christ.

Instead of acquiescing in the church’s well-meaning attempt to symbolize the truth of Christ by sacraments, ritual, and old liturgies, maybe we should ask whether living truth has not been more deeply hidden, to less effect, by these mysteries.

The causes for the church’s failure might lie too close for us to see, “hidden in plain sight.” A good example is Pentecost itself, which the church has been pleased to celebrate as her own rather exclusive birthday party. She teaches that the Holy Spirit itself was given to her as a birthday present – always explaining that it is her members (only) who receive this gift. People visiting Jerusalem that day from other parts of the world, she says, were instructed about the death, resurrection and eminent return of the Messiah, and told it would be their doom unless they received membership with them through repentance and baptism.

I do not reject the idea that the church would have been unborn or stillborn without the aid of Christ’s new Spirit, but I think this Spirit can be limited in its effectiveness by false teachings which are alleged to determine its availability.

How well are we really able to see the true meaning of the day when the church insists on carrying on so? Tonight, when the birthday party’s over, and the pastors are home wondering how the festivities came off, I say two or three of us come back here and pray over this mess of confetti, and ribbons, and paper lace. Because I think the gift given on this day by God’s Anointed was meant to be a universal opportunity of atonement that transcends Baptism and orthodoxy.

If I’m right, it is the church’s failure to understand Pentecost that has curtailed her own effectiveness and obstructed the Kingdom.

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8 thoughts on “Pentecost – a truth hidden in plain sight?

  1. Perhaps it has been. A Christianity of the flesh?
    Now, I am biased because my research into Paul and successive understandings of “Christianity” and “Judaism” bias me towards embracing the “flesh” in so far as it is the body; we are to be a people of embodied spirit.
    The spirit expresses the body.
    Insofar as the “flesh” is unlawful sexuality… we are not to be repressed, but learn through deep conversation with God and intimate community how to surrender our desires and find ourselves fulfilled.
    Yes, any Church failure is human.
    Happy, thoughtful, pentecost.

    • Hannah, maybe I reached too far. By using the phrase ‘Christianity of the flesh’ I did not intend to diminish the idea that the church might yet be (someday) the home of a great family seeking an ’embodiment’ of spiritual truth. And certainly not with any reference to unlawful sexuality – although I guess that’s in the news these days.

      But your comment helps me take note of these other meanings that come with my loaded phraseology. My main thrust was intended against the weakness of the flesh for its ‘baubles’ of doctrine and rites and allegories and symbols. This is not a stance which can cut Judaism any more slack than it allows to the institutions of Christianity.

  2. Sergii Bulgakov would agree with you, I think. For him Incarnation and Pentecost are one single universal and ever continuing movement, one that includes the whole cosmos and operates outside those boundaries of grace that are ‘the institutional Church’ (for lack of a better term).

      • I mean, I’ve not even begun to explore him fully, but in The Bride of the Lamb he’s rather clear on this point of the universality of Pentecost. I’ll be posting a quote soon that would be relevant for you in some way at least.

        • I’ll check him out in the meantime. Actually I’m interested in looking at ways of treating the bestowal of Christ’s Spirit at Pentecost as his true act of atonement.

          But the kind of universalism I’m talking about is not universal salvation (which I reject as a form of predestination) but rather a universal grace, a universal ‘opportunity’ for salvation.

          Bride of the Lamb? (hear that, Hannah? 🙂 ) I think your expression – universality of Pentecost – makes Bulgakov sound useful. The God-relationship has to be made free of priesthoods and human authorities, free of sacraments or even right beliefs – subject only to faith in God’s approachability (and a genuine metanoia).

  3. There are a lot of things the church has gotten wrong, and it’s getting to the point where the only word I trust is the Bible itself. I don’t know if it’s a bad thing, but I’m starting to question a lot of orthodoxy, wondering whether it’s rooted in truth or tradition…

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