Today marks the final installment of my summer blog series on Pentecost with a fabulous word from my seminary classmate and friend, Dana .Dana has a powerful story to tell and I’m glad to have her words to share with you here. If you’ve missed any of these posts, might I suggest catching up before you start with this post one explaining the series.
The Turning Point: How the Spirit Changes Everything
I was baptized on Pentecost by an ordained woman serving south of the Mason-Dixon line, a miracle for Baptist churches of the 1990s. At that time, only the most progressive worshiping communities were hiring female ministers to serve in a capacity other than serving as Christian educators.
That Pentecost morning, I was born into the Christian community with water and Spirit. But my baptism sparked a chain of events that would, ultimately, reach beyond the membership of Christ’s Church. It would lead to my early Christian formation, my decision to attend seminary, my ordination—and—an extraordinary turning point—my marrying outside the Christian faith.
Pentecost: A Promise Comes to Life
Pentecost marks a liturgical season in which the Christian Church celebrates exactly how she became Church: through the work of the Holy Spirit, received by the apostles and other followers of Christ in Acts 2.
At the ascension, Jesus told his disciples that “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5, NRSV).
Jesus’ promise manifested days later, when the followers of Christ were gathered for Shavuot the Jewish Feast of Weeks that commemorates the law given at Mount Sinai. Scripture tells us that “tongues of fire” rested on them, offering the power of God through the Holy Spirit.
It was their turning point.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Later, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we learn more about what this “turning point” brought to the Christ-followers: the empowerment to share Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection to all whom they met. We know that the power of this Spirit spread, and it bore the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-26).
But Paul cautioned the early fledgling church: “if we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Then and now, this means fostering a posture of love and humility.
But that is not how many people would describe the trajectory of the modern Christian Church.
As Christian minister married to a devout Hindu, I’ve seen first-hand the hatred Christians can spew toward non-Christians. And, that is not the work of the Spirit that was so graciously bestowed upon us in Jesus’ absence.
When we concede that we know all there is to know about God, sacred texts, and how religion should be run, we’ve neglected our Pentecost roots. We’re forgetting the “turning point” in which the Church was birthed. The Spirit was not given to us to spread dogma and draw lines between who’s in and who’s out. The Spirit was given to unite us.
Perhaps the “turning point” we need in 2014 is to re-visit Acts 2 and remember the “awe that came upon everyone” that day. It was a day of unity, not division.
One Spirit: Interfaith Marriage
Since marrying Fred, I find myself advocating for how the Spirit unites us across religious and non-religious boundaries. I believe in a God who is Creator of us all—not an exclusive God who loves and listens to a chosen few.
But, we often take the initial reaction the onlookers had at Pentecost. We assert that those who are eager to unite are actually “drunk” with ignorance. We have difficulty conceiving that there are mysterious forces that unites us, not divide us.
While my mixed-faith marriage challenges everything I’ve known to be “true,” living with a Hindu helps me see the unifying Spirit at work. Our willingness to learn more about one another’s spiritual journeys is how we reach the pivot: when we look closer, we discover connections we never dreamed possible. And that is our turning point.
J. Dana Trent is an ordained Baptist minister and the author of Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk. When she’s not procrastinating with episodes of “The Young and the Restless,” Dana blogs at jdanatrent.com and tweets @jdanatrent.