Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Pentecost Divergence

On the cusp of Pentecost, I found myself with an evening open to read for pleasure.

Usually, when this festival day arrives in the year of the church, I'm scrambling to find a way to say things about the arrival of the Holy Spirit that don't sound exactly like the things I'd said the year before.  Or the year before that.  Or the year before that.

But this year, the liturgical calendar and the annual schedule for my tiny little church created a conjunction.  It's Pentecost, the Fiftieth, the day when the Holy Spirit pours down like fire from heaven, and the church itself was born.  On this day?  The kids of the church will be running the show.  Sunday School Pentecost, it will be.

I'll bless and benedict, sure.  But the readings and the prayers, the singing and the sermon?  That's all for the younglings to handle.  This is a good thing.

So I got to read for pleasure.  The book I blazed through, in three long inhales, was the book "Divergent."  I hadn't ever gotten around to it, despite it being just about everywhere for a while.  I do my own thing in my own time, man.

And sure, it's Young Adult Fiction.  Was it serious fiction?  Honestly, I didn't particularly care.  Sure, some snooty folks might describe it as "transparently trashy," but a fun read is a fun read.

This wasn't hard sci-fi, or even a realistic portrayal of how a future society might intentionally divvy itself up for optimal efficiency and management.

Factions?  In which every faction member is the same and has the same gifts and cultural place?  What is this, denominational Christianity?  C'mon.

We Presbyterians would totally be the Erudites.  AND the Ravenclaws.  Like, totes.  Srsly.

Oops.  Sorry. for the clumsy youngspeak.  Too much YA Fic, evidently.

If you want a better and more complex vision of an intentionally structured culture, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World serves up a far meatier and terrifying reality.  Not because it's dystopian, but because Brave New World is a utopian novel.  It is.  Read it again sometime.  What could be more alien and horrifying than a culture that makes the vast majority of those within it completely happy?  And...spoiler...leaves space for those who transcend it to leave in peace, so that they can be perfectly free?  Utopian.  It is.

What struck me, reading Divergent's simple, entertaining narrative, was that it played interestingly off of today.  The point of Pentecost, the entire purpose of the day, is the annihilation of the boundaries of nation and ethnicity.

Here we have an event in the life of the Way that tears down the boundaries between languages and cultures, where the fires of the Spirit burn down the barriers between us.  The great gift of Pentecost was that tearing down, that radical shattering of human categorical thinking towards one another.

It is a day of Divergence, where we stop thinking about why we are different, and recognize that what matters is God's fire, burning in all of us.

Way back when, when the Pentecostal Movement began on Asuza Street in San Francisco, that was the true gift of that movement.  In that wild revival, a worship that ran for *years*, what was notable was not that they spoke in tongues.  It was that all of the boundaries that divided them were cast aside.

Women preached and proclaimed.  African Americans preached and led.  Asian immigrants came and  exhorted.  And children?  Even the children were brought to the front, and listened to, and truly heard.

In this crass market era, when we are divided not just by nationality and class, but also neatly segmented into a countless array of market demographics, that's the gift of Pentecost.

It reminds us not to replicate those structures of control and division into our lives together.  We can't do that, if we want our Way to look like the Reign of God.