Here are 21 songs that have come to the forefront this week of Pentecost in conversations with Emmanuel Philor Sr. and Stephen Bond. You can find this playlist on Apple Music and Spotify. It includes songs from Josh Ritter, Larkin Poe, Bri Babineaux, Jon Batiste, Nate Houge, and many more.
The readings for Pentecost Sunday, May 23 are: Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-35; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27, 16:4-15
Prior to last Sunday Emmanuel and I overcame a couple technical hurdles to get this conversation in…
In this conversation with Emmanuel Philor Sr. we chat about the readings and themes associated with Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021 from the Gospel of John and the book of Romans. You can read Emmanuel’s recently published article at https://bit.ly/gift-of-remembering and the Street Kyrie we recorded with Emmanuel is on lots of digital music services, will be featured in the 2021 General Synod of the United Church of Christ, and is available at our Bandcamp site.
Lastly, these scriptures and conversations brought out a sermon. Here it is, as given to the community at East Side Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD.
Quiero que Jesús camina conmigo. Quiero que Jesús camina conmigo. A lo largo de mi peregrinación. Señor, yo quiero que Jesús camina conmigo.
You may not have understood what was just sung either because you’re not familiar with the Spanish language or because my pronunciation was poor, but on the other hand, if you know the melody of that African American Spiritual then you likely know that this song is a prayer, a declaration and an invitation for the Spirit of Christ to walk with us.
We’ll get back to that song in a bit, but right now let me just say that there is an abundance of riches in these readings, and there’s just no way to begin to address all that is here without asking you all to take this week off from work so we can just read and discuss these scriptures together. I am mentioning this as an invitation. If there is a specific part of these readings which has sparked your curiosity then I really do invite you to start that conversation with me or someone you love because I am confident that the Spirit of Christ will show up in those conversations even if the discussion doesn’t take all week.
Because there are so many great points within these readings I want to focus even more broadly on the overarching themes here and leave the specifics for that next conversation. This Sunday of Pentecost is the end of a liturgical journey which starts with Ash Wednesday, journeys through Lent, then Holy Week, then all the Sundays of the Easter season, and culminates with the Pentecost arrival of the Holy Spirit. Consider those ashes which were sprinkled on many of your heads, which were cold and lifeless, still this ash is the exact raw material which the Spirit of Christ is now bringing to life in a flame.
One way to see the arrival of the Holy Spirit as foretold by the prophet Joel and the messiah Jesus is as a great reversal of the Tower of Babel when God confused the languages of all people. The Spirit comes into this room as a rushing wind and suddenly people from very different places with completely different cultures understand one another and experience a kinship that is profound. It’s almost as if the Holy Spirit is a melody which aids in our communal understanding and transcends all barriers: Quiero que Jesús camina conmigo.
The Holy Spirit binds both the people in our scriptures and us today into a new family that transcends all that divides us. This is not to say that what makes us different has somehow disappeared. On one hand nothing has changed. We are still the same diverse people we’ve always been AND our diversity no longer divides us just as it no longer divided the people in our scripture readings.
This gift of the Holy Spirit is ongoing. It wasn’t a one time event marked with a rushing wind, flames, and an understanding which surpassed practiced knowledge. Just because the Spirit shows up to those disciples at that time in that way doesn’t necessarily mean the Spirit has to show up in a similar fashion among us. Finding our unity within diversity means we get to be on the lookout for the Spirit in all times and in all places among all people. And this is good work… work that would benefit from a prayerful declaration of quiero que Jesús camina conmigo.
Here’s the other big theme I want to address that’s in all of our readings today: it’s suffering. The groaning of creation which is addressed specifically in the reading from Romans is present in all of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit does not free us from pain or loss or suffering. In some ways the coming of the Holy Spirit throws fuel into that fire and raises the heat because the ruler of this world doesn’t want diversity within unity. The ruler of this world wants uniformity in bending the knee which is a very different desire resulting in a very different end.
Hear this: whatever you’re going through, whatever pain or loss you’re experiencing, this is not God’s will for you. Even though God may well use whatever pain you are experiencing to bring the fire of the Holy Spirit more completely into your understanding, your pain is not God’s will nor is anyone who brings pain acting with God’s intent. Suffering is real, but it is not a sign of God’s displeasure. God’s enduring promise still holds, as it says later in chapter 8 of the book of Romans “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Martin Luther, when he wrote about the signs or marks of the Church, he mentioned “suffering” as a sign of the Church and therefore the Spirit’s presence. And standing with one another, in the midst of suffering, does exactly what is promised in the prophesies of Joel and the experiences of those who’ve encountered the Holy Spirit. Standing in suffering with one another brings unity while not diminishing diversity. Standing in suffering with one another is maybe most like a common melody which allows us all to hear the Spirit in our native tongue. Inviting us to join a diverse and uniting song in prayer and declaration and invitation:
We want Jesus to walk with us. We want Jesus to walk with us. All along our pilgrim journey. Lord, we want Jesus to walk with us.