The following column appeared in the Victoria Times Colonist on Saturday, June 5 2017
This coming Sunday marks the beginning of the Christian season of Pentecost. Our scriptures tell us the followers of Jesus were filled with the fire of the Spirit and began speaking in languages no Galilean fisherman should have commanded. Travellers to Jerusalem heard them speaking about God’s deeds of power in their own tongues, and they were mystified.
“What does this mean?” they asked.
Some went to find out. Others sneered: ‘too much wine in Galilean heads,’ and turned away. Some were ready to experience a miraculous turning. Others knew miracles were passé. At best the wine-oiled claims of naïve fishermen, at worst some fraudulent scheme.
The debate went on. Adherents of the early Christian movement sold their stuff, pooled their resources and went looking for others to help.
Their friends and families, not entirely onside, cried out against their foolishness. ‘Drunk in a Galilean peasant Rabbi’s message of love, care, and blessing. Look how he ended up.’
Church and state determined to snuff the movement in the bud. Did their best. Somehow, it survived.
Internally and externally, the conflict continues. At times a movement of blessing, nurture, care and miraculous, joyous salvation. At times a monolith seeking power and wealth for the sake of power and wealth. Sometimes a miracle, sometimes a fraud.
The early Christian movement was made up of communities of faithful altruists. On fire in the Spirit, certain they were called by Love to be Love in the world. Determined, as Gandhi said, to: “Be the change they wished to see.” Bridgeheads of Christ’s upside down world, smack in the middle of empire. Smack in the middle of a world in which the strong were valued, and the weak were harvested and husked.
It’s hard to say what our communities are made up of. From the outside, it looks as if we’re pretty altruistic. Look at the programs we support: Health, education, social services, hydro, public insurance, transportation, the list goes on. We pool our resources and share them out. A lot like the early Christians, aren’t we?
Look a little closer though, and see the ones passed by on the street, ignored in the shelters, or consigned to homeless encampments. Our homes have become luxury commodities, bought, sold and traded beyond the reach of our children. First Nations communities suffer the effects of colonization, children consigned to foster care and abandoned at age 18. Tonnes of plastic polluting our oceans, tonnes of carbon deposited in our airsheds, species going extinct under our care.
That’s us too.
We have before us, however, a rare opportunity for a course correction. That it comes in the days before Pentecost seems to me to be one of God’s synergistic moments. There is, at this time, a possibility of a renewed Spirit in our land. A Spirit of Love, a Spirit of compromise, a Spirit of compassionate care and blessing.
It might take root in our Legislature. That is possible, if people in every community lead the way and come together to ensure it. If we speak one another’s language and act in our own neighbourhoods in a Spirit of Love, grace and blessing, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
If a small group of Galileans caught up in the Spirit could effect a change lasting 2000 years, what can we do for our time? Let’s pass the cup and share the loaf and get on with turning the world upside down.