Crabapple Tree... Northern Maine
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May 23... PENTECOST SUNDAY 2021
The following writing is adapted from one I wrote for this site years ago. I had wanted to publish a new, revised edition. This being the Day of Pentecost in the Church's liturgical calendar, I decided it timely to offer it today. I use terms common in Christianity, honoring the original context of the experience I share below. "Holy Spirit" signifies a Presence spoken of in many other ways, including in other religions - see, for an example, Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ, in which Hanh speaks of the Holy Spirit in likeness to the energy of mindfulness. I hope you not of the Christian faith and who may not identify with the language will read this sharing with a mind open to understanding it in a manner edifying to you. I encourage this with one affirmation - "Holy Spirit" does not signify natural energy, such as many would imply by "chi." Thank You!
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Today's Saying: When you are fully present with someone, there is one present.
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It is one thing to pray for someone,
another to be an answer of that prayer;
in Christian terms, to become Christ for the other
so, possibly, such prayers always point back to us
and "What are you going to do?"
We may not hear anything, or may.
Our doing may be more prayer or an outward act.
Regardless, to be Christian is to be the Christ
and to be Buddhist is to be the Buddha
and to be Love is to be the Lover
The spirit of Christ, or Holy Spirit,
is this coming, so becoming, of Compassion,
and this happens only in relationship with others
Persons respond to spirit aching - spirit deficiency - in varied ways. Any addictive behavior may evidence this need, including religious fanaticism. The inward ache leads persons to seek relief, as physical hunger leads them to physical food. We are of Spirit and yearn for union with Spirit - nothing else will satisfy. You would not say to someone physically hungry, "Here is some air to breathe; that should fill you up," or "Enjoy this television show, that should satisfy your hunger." My inner ache led me to explore another religious sect. It was a move in a direction that could not quiet the ardent yearning; yet, it left me with a most blessed memory of being comforted and interceded for by a dear friend.
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When a teen, a few of my friends were going to a church of another Christian sect, a holiness one called Bridgeford Church of God. I was Baptist. Baptists held in suspicion the holiness brothers and sisters - their dancing, shouting, speaking in what they called unknown tongues, talk of a "second blessing" or "baptism of the Holy Ghost."
Some of the Baptists thought the holiness worship was of the devil. The holiness, toward us, claimed we did not have and needed that second blessing, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In time, Ghost became Spirit, as persons began to read other Bible translations than the Authorized, or King James, Version. Ghost, to me, sounds less scary. I would rather meet a spirit than a ghost, even if they are the same.
My first memory of the holiness church was one night as a child. An aged man stood up from his pew during worship. He stepped into the center aisle. He began doing what we called in the South hooping and hollering. Along with this yelling, he ran down the center aisle toward the front. On the way, he ran into the side of a wooden pew and did not seem to mind - he kept running and dancing as though nothing had happened. When he had danced and hooped and hollered to the front, he did a jig before everyone. As a small lad, I was used to the sedate worship of Baptists, and this was scary, maybe as scary as that ghost I do not wish to meet.
When a late teen, my friends, ones not church-going or moral examples of good teens, were going to that holiness church and saying they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Well, I had long been ardently devoted to Jesus, but I felt something was missing. I wanted all of God I could get, even if it scared me. I was glad for my friends, and I wanted whatever they had gotten at Bridgeford.
Having decided I needed more than I had gotten at Philadelphia Baptist Church, I made plans to get to Bridgeford. We Baptists were saying the Spirit is received when one says "Yes" to Jesus; I decided we must have been in error.
One evening, our Baptist congregation was in revival meeting. I told my parents I wanted to go to the holiness church. They were not pleased. My dad informed me I had better not, and he had better see me that night at the Baptist meeting. They left for the sanctuary, and I was supposed to arrive later.
I did arrive later, but not at the Baptist church. I arrived at the holiness gathering. And that night, after the sermon, I walked to the altar, knelt, and supposedly received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I prayed, shouted, and spoke in guttural sounds. Other persons gathered around me, praying over me and rejoicing that the Ghost had branded me with the second blessing.
An older friend, husband of a co-worker, showed up at the meeting. He was a Freewill Baptist - unlike my church, which was Southern Baptist. He said he had received divine guidance to go there that night. He met me after I left the altar. We sat beside each other in the pew, and when the meeting ended, he accompanied me home and to my waiting parents. He concluded I would be in trouble, and he was right. I knew I would likely receive physical punishment.
When we arrived at my home, he went inside with me and interceded for me. I remained still and quiet. He explained how I was only seeking to fulfill the spiritual need I felt so strongly. He urged my dad to understand and forgive me. My friend was calm, and he spoke in love. And my dad was not simply concerned about my disobeying; he was trying to protect his son from being involved in something he held in suspicion. My dad listened to my friend patiently, and he would not have been so patient listening to me.
The friend left, and my dad and I sat alone. He did not punish me. I have no recall of him reprimanding me. We spoke briefly, both in kindness. The matter was over, and it was never mentioned again.
My dad's response to my disobedience was because a man followed inner guidance to come to my aid at the church and my home. He intervened in love, knowing I was only seeking something my heart was aching to receive of the Divine.
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Ironically, since this whole event was about a baptism in the Holy Spirit, in the Christian Bible, Jesus speaks of a Helper to be with us. The Greek is paraclete. This word means "one called alongside of," and it has been read "counselor" and "comforter." Paraclete referred to a defense attorney.
So, Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John 14.16ff -
I will ask the heavenly Parent, and that One will give you another Helper who will be with you always. That Helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Her [in Jewish thought, "spirit, Spirit" was feminine; though neuter in the New Testament in Greek], for it doesn't see or know Her. You know Her, for She lives with you and will be in you.
Jesus, continuing the same teaching, in the Gospel of John 14.18-19, appears to equate himself with the Spirit; so, the Spirit is experienced as a continuation of his Work and Being -
I will not leave you as orphans. I will return to you. Before long, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. You will live for I live.
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We could say the Holy Spirit is not a separate presence from Jesus, you, or me, but is not the same as us. The teaching of the Trinity in the Church seeks to honor this tension of differentiated oneness: no-separation and non-identity. I am not separate from the Spirit, but I - at least I as Brian - am not Spirit. It is best we accept the enigma of the Holy Spirit and acknowledge It, Her, Him in relationship. Anyway, we only know the Holy Spirit in experience with the Holy Spirit. We know sacred Spirit in intimacy with sacred Spirit; otherwise, whatever we say of Her is merely ideology, not knowing.
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Likewise, the Holy Spirit is referred to in Christian Scripture as interceding. This interceding is Her role as defense attorney. Romans 8.26ff reads -
[T]he Spirit, also, comes to help us due to our weakness. For we do not truly know how we need to pray; the Spirit Herself intercedes with God for us in wordless groans. And God, who sees into our inner being, knows the Spirit's mind, for the Spirit intervenes with God for God's people and in harmony with God's will.
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That night, at and after returning from the holiness church, the Holy Spirit manifested as and through a human being. He was my go-between. He saw through what I had done. He read my heart, and he lovingly, respectfully communicated my heart to my dad. He played the role of a paraclete of the Paraclete. His role is our role, too.
Now, forty-four years later, I give thanks for this paraclete. That night long ago, he was Christ to my dad and me. Oddly, while I had gone to Bridgeford to receive a baptism in the Holy Spirit, he had been Spirit-led to come to my aid in my weakness. And do we not all have times of weakness, when we are especially vulnerable, and we need someone to stand with us and present with and for us in understanding and compassion?
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On my home altar stands Kuan Yin, a central figure in Buddhism. She is an archetype of compassionate wisdom. She stands with a vase of water in one hand, pouring out the waters of compassion on the suffering world. This is a baptism. The Holy Spirit and Kuan Yin connote this tender heart of compassion and insight into the suffering of the world. Kuan Yin and the Holy Spirit signify that we need both to have insight and compassion wedded in a unity of self-offering for others. When having understanding of the suffering of others, how can we not want to act in compassion? In Spirit and Kuan Yin we see the feminine aspect so much needed in hyper-masculine religion and politics. Kuan Yin and Holy Spirit, likewise, indicate we cannot save ourselves from our suffering, we need an Agency greater than us, a redemptive Presence.
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As for that apparent baptism in the Holy Spirit at the Bridgeford church, after going home, the experience faded immediately. I see the behaviors at the church as caused by extreme emotionalism - my own and the church. I since learned that truly the Spirit had always been with me - not part of Spirit, but all of Spirit. I learned the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a journey, a living into a beautiful, compassionate Presence that is everywhere. This baptism never ends for me, and neither for those who continue opening the heart to Life, including all beings, seen and unseen, in the Heart of hearts.
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I invite you to remain silent and invite a response from the Silence.
If not of the Christian faith, how might this act of being Christ, of being a paraclete, be understood in your wisdom path? Have you ever been called alongside another, by Divine guidance, to intercede or bring comfort to her or him? Do you recall when someone became one-called-alongside for you? What does it mean for you to intercede for others? Intervene in some way for them? Is there a specific way(s) you feel called to be a Spirit-presence to bring healing to this world?
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.