Commentary, From the Editor

Crash helmets and crash cymbals

I couldn’t find anything red to wear when getting ready for church this morning. I always like wearing liturgical red on Pentecost. But it’s not a common color in my closet.

Pentecost is a great festival in the church. It is celebrated as the birth of the church, when the Holy Spirit, as promised by the resurrected Jesus, attends the community of his followers, giving them courage to preach the good news with such vigor as to add thousands to their number in a single day.

Pentecost Sunday is a wild day, a day of chaos.

Bob Hulteen

After being assured in 1 Kings 19 that God was not in the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire (but God was in the silence), the Festival of Pentecost reminds us that God can indeed be in the rush of winds or the tongues of fire, as recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

Pentecost Sunday is a wild day, a day of chaos.

I am reminded of Annie Dillard’s recommendation that Christians be adequately prepared for Christian worship: “Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”

God is in the silence

After the Pentecost service at my parish, congregants met near the church’s rain garden to listen to a jazz combo comprised of students from Minneapolis South High School. This quintet played some familiar licks to catch the listeners attention. Then these enterprising students let their eyes slip off the page and their ears and fingers do the walking.

They began to improvise.

Christ the King Lutheran Church, Bloomington, is hosting a jazz festival on July 9, giving all comers a chance to appreciate the chaos. (For more information, see the Events Calendar.)

Jazz improvisation normally is not totally unstructured, but it does allow for a great deal of freedom of expression by the performer. The musician is not tied to the constraints of a composer. Instead she or he can add a personal interpretation to the notes (form) provided by the piece’s composer.

Such freedom can feel like chaos. (And, sometimes, it is chaos.) Rim shots and ascending riffs by drummers and trombonists can be noise or they can be inspiration. Or they can also be like the Spirit descending on the community.

Notes and rhythm are essential to a good jazz solo. But so is the silence, the time between the notes. And God can indeed be in the silence.

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