Pentecost’s Aural Lessons

Acts 2:1-21Pentecost – for Sunday, May 15, 2016

“Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2)

Illustration by Jessamyn Jade Rubio*
Illustration by Jessamyn Jade Rubio*

We were hunkered in a Wisconsin basement, watching water gush through the edges of a closed window. A summer storm raged, its straight-line winds** later calculated at 100mph. No tornado ever developed, but the brief ferocity caused destruction across our region. While the rain penetrating every miniscule fissure and flaw in the window’s frame was unnerving, the outside sound seemed worse.

The wind mimicked the proverbial roar of a freight train. It was as if individual cracks of thunder coalesced into a steady, unrelenting blur of noise. Louder became louder became louder.

The storm rampaged past our rented condo and neighborhood. Suddenly the basement filled with an eerie, startling . . .


My wife and I had scooped up our two cats with surprising ease in anticipation of the storm. Now they nervously meowed from a basement corner. Like us, maybe they wondered it there’d be more, and worse, in the next seconds.

It was over.

But I kept hearing the seconds-that-felt-like-hours roar, as if all creatures in creation were screaming at the top of their lungs.

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In the Acts of the Apostles, when Jesus’ disciples were more a band of uncertain stragglers, it was sound that first announced their shift into a community of faith seeking to transform the world.

Pentecost may be the least of the major celebrations in the Christian church, a shy sister compared to its brash and flashy Christmas and Easter siblings, but it helps recall an inexplicable, extraordinary event. Continue reading →

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Give Me the Bad Stuff, Too

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-22 – The 7th Sunday of Easter – for Sunday, May 8, 2016

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates . . .” (Revelation 22:14)

lectionaryWhen serving full-time in churches, I didn’t write on Sundays. If involved with a novel, essay, or newspaper column, I ignored the work-in-progress on the Sabbath.

It’s a day of rest, right?

Are you kidding? Not for preachers!

(Can I get an “Amen” from the bleary-eyed pulpiteers, please!)

Sundays and sermons have never created a restful time. Though no longer sermonizing, I still skirt the day of rest commandment by wrangling with the rowdy nouns and adjectives in various writing projects. Therefore, many Sundays are devoted to my weekly online musings about ye olde lectionary.

Frankly, all of the lectionary passages stank to high heaven this week.

If you’re a Biblical literalist—I’m not—Acts 16:16-34 may thrill you. Paul, not a Californian like me with the San Andreas fault several zip codes to the west, experienced a strange and shocking earthquake . . . but everything worked out for everyone. I hope Acts 16 wasn’t read in Ecuador or Japan during this April of 2016. It may not have been received too well after those country’s devastating earthquakes. Continue reading →

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The Woman in Purple (or Acts as a Movie)

Acts 16:9-15 – The 6th Sunday of Easter – for May 1, 2016

“One of those women was Lydia, a Gentile God-worshipper from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth.” (Acts 9:14)

A dealer in purple cloth . . .

They met down by the river, some Jews, a handful of Gentiles, and the usual suspects from other places beyond the city of Philippi.

Paul, with Timothy and Silas, ventured to the riverbank. It was Friday, the Sabbath. According to the 16th chapter in Acts, they’d been in Philippi only a few days. Their visit to this strange-to-them speck on the map of Rome’s empire was inspired by a vision Paul had one night.

In the vision a man of Macedonia urged Paul to come and help.

To bring the good news of Jesus?

To bring the good news of Jesus!

And so a dream with a mysterious man from a faraway locale compelled these spirit-fed, God-led disciples of Jesus to venture into the unfamiliar. They chose to trust a midnight hint, a divine nudge, a vision that lingered after waking.

Sometimes that’s enough. Continue reading →

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