BEING CLOTHED BY FIERY WAVES OF GLORY

You are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. (1 Peter 4:14)

The God of unknowing has made Himself known to us through Jesus Christ in Easter and will again through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

On this 7th Sunday of Easter, the Sunday after Ascension Day, and on this Mother’s Day, we are looking forward to Whitsunday, also known as the Day of Pentecost. We look back into the history of the church to experience the feast days of the church, over and repeatedly. We celebrate the rhythm of the seasons of the church. It’s a liturgy of time that has been passed on from one generation to the next.

The first followers of Jesus experienced a myriad of emotions; doubt, fear, joy, astonished sightings of Jesus, awe-filled meetings with Jesus, in open places and behind closed doors. Then they witness the ascension of Jesus from earth to heaven via a cloud of glory. On His way out, Jesus encouraged them to carry on in their witness and faith and are reminded that Jesus will come again in the same way he ascended.

Each generation experiences these same doubts, fears, and joys. In this last week of the Easter season, we revisit and remember the disciples waiting in the upper room, not really knowing what was in store for them, but by faith looking forward with anticipation and prayer. Unlike the early disciples we know the story of Pentecost, and how this group of believers are empowered with a baptism of fire accompanied by speaking in tongues and being clothed with the “shekinah” glory from God, wearing that glory like it’s a new wardrobe.

We too are waiting in this point of time in what we can say is “our upper room” experience. Our upper room is here in this place, and everywhere in this world where the church universal is remembering and looking forward to celebrating the birthday of the church, next week on Pentecost Sunday.

There is a story in Kaballah (a school of Jewish mysticism) myth entitled “Tikkum Olam”.  It is a myth referred to in a Midrash about the light created on the first day. This myth root can be found in many other Jewish myths and rabbinic texts about the Light of God, also revealed to be the Glory of God that is sent to earth (on the first day of creation) through special pipes. The pipes are not strong enough to handle this glorious light and they are broken open, and the Glorious Light of God is scattered all over the world.

There is another interpretation of this myth that the Light is brought to the world in 8 large vessels, (the “Myth of the Shattering of the Vessels”) but the vessels are unable to maintain this glorious light, the vessels break open, and the light covers the world, shooting out sparks like fire everywhere.

The Kabbalah story of scattered sparks of light is reminiscent of what went on the day of Pentecost. Just as God created the world and on the first day sent light into the world, so in the creation of the church, God sent the Holy Spirit into the Church in the form of bright lights of fire. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is compared to water, wind and fire. And, on the day of Pentecost the disciples are like earthen vessels that become containers for the fiery light of the Holy Spirit.

In Hebrew, there is a word for the special presence of God’s glory.  Shekinah (she-ke-na) glory means the “visible manifestation of God’s presence.” It is this Shekinah glory of God, poured into the containers of our hearts, and our hearts are only capable of holding so much. So, it spills out; like pouring hot water into a teacup on the kitchen counter, and when you get to the top of the cup you keep pouring, and it spills out and goes all over the counter and onto the floor. It’s quite messy.

It’s kind of like that when God pours out His Spirit into the Church. We all have containers in our hearts; empty voids in our soul those great theologians of the church such as Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and early church patriarchs such as Origen, and the testimony of Scripture in examples like Isaiah 55:1-3; emptiness in our soul that is designed to be filled with the Holy Spirit). Sometimes we fill it up with other things, but God really wants to fill that void with the radiant light, the fire of the “Shekinah of Yahweh”.

That cup only holds so much, and so when the first disciples met in the upper room, and the Day of Pentecost had come, there was so much of the Holy Spirit poured out that as earthen vessel containers, they could not contain it all, and it got messy.  The Spirit overflowed their cups and went everywhere and brought many other people together to share in that overflowing. And that’s what God wants to do with us. The dynamic is that we are earthen vessels and when God fills us with His Spirit, there is a joy and the fire of his presence. And, it’s supposed to be more than we can handle; something greater than who we are.

As we wait together this week in our “upper room” let’s let this be a time to recognize and allow the Spirit to work in our life, to make changes, to anticipate the promise of the power and presence of  God to come to us at Pentecost, just as this promise was made to the disciples of the first church to come: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. (Acts 1:8)

You are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. (1 Peter 4:14)

The God of Unknowing has made Himself known to us through Jesus Christ in Easter and will again through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

 

Amen

The Reverend Dr. David Madsen