Some years ago I wrote a Readers’ Drama for Pentecost, called “The Feast.” It is set in a small rural Kansas town at a shelter house in the city park. The people have gathered for a covered dish dinner. Before eating, however, they wait for the Holy Spirit. The drama is an imaginative exploration of the meaning of the Holy Spirit. Here is a scene from The Feast.
Act Three: He Breathed on Them and Said Receive the Holy Spirit.
Scene One: The Inhalation
Breath of God
Spirit of God
The wind brought the dust, like a thick dark cloud. It came up the hill and clung to their arms and legs, the backs of their necks, and drifted around their ankles. The dust knew its own. And with the dust came the seeds, pollens, spores, insects, and all manner of boring, digging, thrusting, grasping things, all looking for a place to root.
Across the world from the shelter house someone was weeping. The wind brought the sound. It carried the earth’s suffering – the scrapings, the debris, the underbrush, the grass cuttings, dandelion fluff, paper cups, plastic milk bottles, and old newspapers – scuttling down alleys and streets of cities and villages.
All that was loose came whistling up that hill, swirling around the shelter house:
a severed hand
a letter that said: Where were you? I waited as long as I could.
an invoice: Amount due – $30.00 for services rendered. This is our last notice.
a grocery list someone had scribbled on the back of a Time Magazine subscription card: apples, bread, quail, milk, honey, Easy-Off
a live chicken riding in a red plastic wastebasket with the words, “You’re in good hands with All State,” on the side
and a trailing scream like a long red scarf.
On the end of the scream like a long red scarf was a story of children with flies in their eyes who propped themselves like tinker toys against mothers whose breasts sagged empty as yesterday’s balloons.
And from the throats of the children came the sound – a rattle of dried seeds in a pod, a wail of sirens in the night, a whine of chain saws cutting living tissue.
Edith and Ethel and John and Maxine and Charles, your children are crying. They are weeping through the long winter night huddled on the stony ground, no covers for their thin legs, bones clacking in the chill, dreaming of rice and goat meat.
The scarf wound tighter around the shelter house. People, your children are calling for you! They lay in bloody heaps like rags in back alleys, motels, living rooms, battlefields, jails, and camps. Beaten, raped, shot, hung, strangled, poisoned, drowned, electrocuted, the rags writhe in terror’s arms.
People, don’t you hear their sobbing – in hospital beds, around kitchen tables, in automobiles on their way to work, their shoulders hunched like dustpans over their broken hearts?
The wind blew and the waiting disciples called the wind Spirit of God. That is important – getting the right name for things. Recognizing who is blowing into town. Is this a gust out of the south bringing a lot of the neighbor’s trash into your yard, or is it the breath of divinity declaring that my neighbor’s trash and grief belong in my backyard?
The truth about God’s ravishing Ruah is that she is not rude. She comes only where she is invited, where there is a welcome and room made for her. God’s Spirit enters into emptiness, fills lack; she is the mirror image of a black hole, the inhalation after the exhalation. She flows into hollows and crannies and searches for expectant openness. Those gathered sat and waited, like people holding their breath out until the need for air was so great, so deep that the lungs sucked in the breath quenching the vacuum with life.
The key is learning to hold the breath out, not to gulp the spirit, but to wait for her to rush into you, to wait until the body of Christ draws the spirit out of its own deep thirst.
Then we no longer breathe, but are breathed.
In this Pentecost season may the Holy Spirit blow
something wondrous into your being.
And may you have the courage to inhale.