The miracle of Pentecost, the miracle of the Holy Spirit is an issue of relationship with someone who is different. The gift of Pentecost is not the melting of cultures into one culture. It is the ability to hear another, to traverse the divide of differences.
America has adopted the melting pot as an image of what happens with our cultures. I'm a great example of a melted American. My heritage is English, Irish, Scottish, and German. And America has so melted my native backgrounds that I don't really have them anymore. There is a real critique to this melting pot imagine. I lament that my heritage has melted. I'm happy to be an American mutt but when I see and experience other cultures... particularly now in this new wave of immigration, I envy culture a little bit... the beauty of language, the flavors of cuisine, the connection to heritage. And the critique is not just my own – we as a culture have begun to question whether we want more of a salad bowl image instead of a melting pot.
A salad bowl has diversity in it but each part maintains its integrity. Does that make sense? There's something to be said about allowing cultures to maintain integrity while also becoming part of something larger together.
Language isn't the only differences we struggle with. What about our cultural differences or preferences in cuisine? What did you have for dinner last night? How about our political differences? Or the differences in our worldview based on age? Or Gender? Or sexual preference? How about this... are you a night owl or a morning person?
The miracle of Pentecost, the miracle of the Holy Spirit is an issue of relationship with someone who is different. Diversity is incredibly hard. God gave us the Holy Spirit to maintain relationship amidst diversity. The spark of God within us allows us to keep our differences but stay together. How are you seeing this miracle played out in your life these days?
Planted like a Tree
This image of a tree in the first chapter of the Psalms is a unifying image – it is a grand metaphor for life. The psalms are song lyrics passed down from generation to generation that captured the range of emotions found while people wrestled in relationship with God. The psalms contain every emotion known to humankind. Anger, despair, delight, hope, fear, love, hate... you name it, it's in there.
This first psalm sets the tone for the entire book – it also gives a rather black and white choice. Either we follow the advice of the wicked or we delight in the law of the Lord. Uh… I choose option B.
And then it says – those who choose option B are like trees planted…
So, let's take a journey with this tree – a tree planted perhaps planted by another tree – an acorn here or there, a pine cone, or a seed carried along the wind.
It's planted by moving water – the rise and fall of the tide - reaching its roots deep into the soil. Finding its nourishment as needed. This tree is not only planted by streams of water but it yields its fruit in season. Takes the raw nutrients of water, soil and sun and transforms it into roots and branches and leaves. Its trunk grows thicker and stronger. It yields its fruit not early, not late – in season. And that fruit of course is for the growth of something or someone else. Right, an acorn to make another tree or an apple for anothers' meal.
Are you still following the metaphor? This tree is not only planted by streams of water, it not only yields its fruit in season, but its leaves do not wither. Have you ever watched leaves before a rain storm? They turn upside down in expectation of the rainfall. Getting ready for a drink – to keep from withering.
The psalms begin with this rich, detailed, picturesque metaphor for life. Content are those who are like this tree. Noting again that the lyrics speak to a plural understanding of the world. The Hebrew people would have no notion of an individual trying to do all of this on their own. The tree is an image for the community. They are like a tree, one solid, strong tree.
Contented then are they. Contentment is the mental or emotional satisfaction with the way things are. Contentment is assenting to or willing to accept circumstances. Contentment is peace of mind. But contentment is not immovability. Right? Contentment is actually the realization that movement is inevitable. Movement, change, modification is a thing of life.
A tree is not immovable. Contented are those who like a tree – seek nourishment, grow deep and wide, adjust to the surroundings, spread out and produce fruit. There's nothing immovable or stagnant about that. In fact, that's a fairly active life.
This tree is as a wonderful metaphor for spiritual growth. We’re still growing. And they don’t just mean outwardly in new programs or missions or in members – they mean internally as well. So like a tree – how do we adjust to our surroundings? How do we find a way to continue growing amidst life? What if the water dries up? Well, we dig a little deeper. What if we can’t sustain ourselves? Maybe a larger modification is needed, or maybe a season has ended. Death is part of the life cycle too. What if the water rises and floods us out of worse yet – causes us to mold or rot? What do we do if a snowstorm robs us of the fruit that we’ve grown? How do we respond when things outside of our control break us in half? How do we accept or embrace our pruning?
This first psalm is about ethics and lifestyle and choices. We will make a thousand little decisions all the days of our lives. Those choices grow us spiritually.
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