This morning I woke early in a dark tent to the song of chattering birds. I don’t know exactly where I was or if I could find the campground again – somewhere in the green hills a few miles off the Southern Tier Expressway near Allegheny State Park, between Olean and Jamestown, New York.
I’d left Ithaca late yesterday afternoon to get part way to Chagrin Falls, Ohio to attend my friend Hamilton’s church and to hear him preach this morning. Today’s Pentecost Sunday, the “birthday” of the Christian Church and I didn’t want to miss marking the celebration.
The story of Pentecost is a particularly strange story of the Spirit of God descending in a great wind and tongues of fire upon Jesus’ friends, gifting them with the ability to speak in the languages of the known world.
In his sermon Hamilton noted that whatever happened in this most amazing of stories happened because these friends of Jesus were “all together in one place.” His sermon, a call for us to take in the “miracle” of what might happen if we reached across all that divides us from one another – all our old stories, old grudges, familiar divisions and factions, beyond all our tweeting and texting – and find a way and place to be in the same place, present together.
These past two and a half weeks in my 3600 mile trek I have had the privilege of doing just that. I’ve had the privilege of being at friend’s churches and hear them preach. The gift of sitting down for a meal with people that have been an integral part of my life and shaping who I am and the story of my life. Some I hadn’t seen for a few years. Others its been 10 years… 30 years. I met again college classmates that I haven’t seen for 35 years and had conversations we never had had before. And yes, met with others I’ve never met but wanted to.
Yes, it has taken a journey, some early risings, and what felt at the time like some risky reaching out – to make the calls, send the message I’d been hesitant to make. And yes, already just a few weeks into this journey, a knowing that this is the work I want to be doing now – making these connections, reconnections, having these conversations. So far, no tongues of fire and no great winds, no speaking in other languages, but a transformation none the less in the meetings, the conversation and questions that we’ve shared.
I’ve told friends I’ve trusted that in making these connections, in having these conversations and doing this reaching out that something not only will be made, but is being made of whatever it is will come next in my life, vocation, work, call. And yes, perhaps not only for me but in those I have met with as well.
It’s for sure all too soon to know all the “difference” these connections will make but already I know this: in the being together, in the meeting and re-connecting there has been an opening to the present, to the here and now. Our conversations have not been about ruminating on the past and all we have done and failed to do – but about a meeting each other here, now, in this time and place. And because of this imprinting, this “presencing” of our connections there has been as well a putting down in the hands of grace and an opening to healing, releasing, empowering and renewing.
The story goes that on Pentecost Sunday something happened when the gathered friends of Jesus were together in one place. Some there in expectancy; others perhaps in exasperation that anything possibly was ever going to happen in their being together that day.
I left church this morning, heading west, curious and called to continue to reach out beyond all my considerations and make a connection. To extend a hand, step beyond my old stories and worn excuses into wonder and curiosity. Open to what new words I may find on my lips like those I found today – blessing, possibility, gratitude, grace.