Pentecost, Reflectionary

In your camp (a Pentecost reflection)

We’re all aware of the level of exhaustion for clergy who have added active online ministry to their already full schedules. Conversations about that weariness online are less a gripe session and more a confession. Wow, yes, this is hard. My wife has been calculating how to get a break for her hardworking staff when all their contributions have become crucial to getting the weekly video worship service put together. We know that seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the pastors, music director, and C.E. director has been comforting to members of the church community, not just a reminder of what was but a promise that the church is the people wherever and however we connect. The crucial measurement is this, I think: to find the line between holding things together and thinking we are the only ones who can hold things together. 

In Numbers 11 we find Moses and the people of Israel in the wilderness, at a moment when the Lord gave a bit of the Spirit granted to Moses to 70 elders in the community, empowering them to prophesy. They were away from the main camp. Perhaps caught by the stray wind of the Spirit, Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, instead. Scripture tells us a young man ran to complain to Moses, but Moses did not mind.

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and the the LORD would put his spirit on them!”

Numbers 11:29, NRSV

Would that all the people were prophets! Or would that we could hear them.

In Acts 2, all the people were. Not only were they empowered to speak, they understood one another clearly. These Pentecost stories offer a promise to God’s people, and I believe they offer both a caution and a relief to faith leaders. We may all know colleagues who are struggling to find time for a break, but we also know some who relish having their indispensability amplified right now. (We may be looking at the latter every time we brush our teeth.) It’s more than okay to step back and let someone else speak. 

Who is prophesying in your camp? They might be healthcare workers, parents juggling work and schooling at home, elders with more time on their hands than feels helpful, new graduates whose lives have been paused awkwardly, or people living with higher-risk medical conditions. Within your faith community, or in your adjacent circles, consider whose voices would be meaningful for your congregation to hear.

Ask them:

  • How are you experiencing God’s Spirit in this time? 
  • Where have you seen the Body of Christ doing good in our community?
  • What dreams are you dreaming for the church in this new day?

And if technology precludes including their voices live or on a video recording, ask anyway and let the prophets in your camp inform your preaching this week. I feel confident the Spirit is at work among them. 

Preachers, my prayers are with you. I hope you can get a break, whether by sharing worship with a colleague’s congregation, or inviting someone else to lead worship some Sunday soon.

I also wrote about these texts for The Christian Century’s Living By the Word (about John 20:19-23 and the retaining of sins) and their Monday email, Sunday’s Coming (about 1 Corinthians 12 and the new gifts we are uncovering in this time).