I went to see Avengers 2: Age of Ultron this weekend. Without spoiling too much for those who haven’t seen it, I found something kind of biblical/Pentecostal about the quest to create a physical body for an alien/superhuman consciousness (Ultron). But no more of that for now. You can watch it yourself and tell me if you see what I saw.
We’re at Pentecost once again, commemorating the naissance of the Church and arguably its most dramatic day. Year B’s readings have us talking of tongues of fire, glossolalia, dry bones, and labor pangs — lots of physical (and, again, dramatic) imagery.
As a preacher, I always struggle with how to make this day, for lack of a better word, “fresh.” It’s one of those days on which we read the same texts describing the same event every year, which means you either have grown to look forward to it or it’s lost its luster after a while. Moreover, it’s a day that’s celebrated quite divergently throughout Christendom. I grew up in traditions with some Pentecostal leanings; we danced, we shouted, there was speaking of tongues in worship, etc. I now minister in a denomination in which the people are affectionately (or not) labeled “the Chosen Frozen.” Pentecost observances can look very different from what I was once used to, although I’d say no less powerful or Spirit-filled. Even within my denomination there’s a great deal of variance in how the day is commemorated; some of us have thawed! But given the physical and dramatic imagery of the texts, I often wondered what this day means to Christian communities that aren’t quite so demonstrative in their worship services.
Peter quoting the prophet Joel has always been my favorite part of the Acts 2 text. It speaks to the universal permeation of God’s power, which breaks down barriers and defies and challenges our human distinctions. For me, it’s the bone for the hermeneutical soup; it has the greatest potential to speak to us in our time. It’s a bold proclamation that God would no longer favor (if God ever favored) certain people over others and would be indiscriminate in the dispensing of the Spirit. We have to wrestle with what it looks like in our context for God’s spirit to be poured out over all flesh — female flesh, melanin-rich flesh, gay flesh, trans flesh, incarcerated flesh, undocumented flesh, working poor flesh. In other words, how is this event “fleshed out” in our 21st-century lives?
Even if the worship service isn’t as demonstrative as that first Pentecost day, how can our lives — where the worship is really performed — be evidence of the Spirit’s presence and prevalence?
Where are you going with these texts, preachers? Any fresh meat this year? What hermeneutical application(s) might you have for this week?