Monday, June 01, 2009

Pentecost, Year Five

In the course of the church year, yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. And I was nowhere near a church building for it.

As I mentioned the other day, I'm in Florida. I can see the ocean from where I'm typing this; can hear the waves running up onto the sand and the voices of other vacationers out on the pool deck. Yep, just a horrible experience all around.

It certainly isn't that I wanted to skip Pentecost. Along with World Communion Sunday, it's my favorite non-Big Commercial Jesus holy day of the church calendar. I love the story of the disciples waiting, wondering what to do next, perhaps struggling with their identity and purpose, and suddenly being overcome by a rushing whirlwind that starts them on the next stage of their journey as a budding kingdom movement. Bystanders think they're drunk! When was the last time church was so Spirit-infested that you thought people were drunk?

So I'm sorry to have missed it, at least in terms of attending a worshipping community reading the story and singing songs such as "Breathe on Me, Breath of God" while decked out in their brightest red clothing. But if that were the only way to mark the day or become aware of God's activity around us, I truly would have been without hope. However, I can hear God in the water and surf. I can see God in Coffeeson as he attempts to make sense of this weird new place, and I can catch glimpses of God whenever I catch a glimpse of a dolphin peeking out of the water. I can smell God in the ocean air. God is all around me, and my act of worship this week is to enjoy that presence by enjoying what God created.

I also just happen to be reading Barbara Brown Taylor's new book, An Altar in the World, which explores this exact same theme.

So yesterday was a special day, and today is also a special day. You see, in terms of my ministry, this is the year of Fives: I graduated seminary five years ago. Near the end of this year, I'll mark five years at my current church. Early next year, I'll celebrate five years of ordination.

And today? Today is the day when I began in full-time ministry five years ago. Two weeks after graduating I packed up and headed back to my home church in Ohio to serve for two months while the pastor was on sabbatical. It was a good way to both get my feet wet in full-time work, and I also saw it as a way to say thank you to a church that had supported me all throughout seminary.

Lately, I've been thinking about how I got a little bit of everything during those two months. I officiated two funerals, co-officiated a wedding, argued with people about gay marriage, preached, visited, committeed, collaborated and delegated. And all of these things, even during this brief amount of time, helped me discover preferences and experiences that still have an effect on how I do things so many years later.

I love that this milestone happens so close to Pentecost this year, because it's a helpful reminder of where this calling, as well as the strength to carry it out, comes from. And so I'll take some time to reflect even as I enjoy the beautiful setting around me, realizing that God is present somehow in all of it.