On a recent Sunday as I was waiting to meet a friend for coffee, I rummaged through a stack of magazines in the coffeehouse. One cover caught my eye—with a fascinating photo of the sun with molten gaseous matter erupting from its surface like 3-D fireworks. Inside was a story on the massive solar storms expected to affect our planet Earth next year.
I was feeling the need for the consolation of a cup of coffee, and hoped my friend would arrive soon. I put down the magazine, sat back, and took a breath.
Here we are, I thought. We’ve got a world that’s in an absolute mess, according to any news media you might turn to. And now we have a solar doomsday to worry about, and the prospect of power grids—regionally or even worldwide—being knocked out. How would I get my coffee then?
What in the world is God up to? I wondered as I waited. It wasn’t lost on me that this particular Sunday, when I was deep into such musings, was Pentecost. So I knew I couldn’t get away with framing the question in just that way. The whole point of Pentecost is to bring us, with fiery courage, closer to the heart of the matter: We are now co-heirs with Christ in the Holy Spirit, and therefore co-stewards in God’s redemptive mission. We have work to do.
Which is to say: The whole point of Pentecost is vocational.
Yes, we live in a world that in many ways is an absolute mess. There is anguish in this world that defies description and even imagination. There is injustice, degradation, neglect, and heartless disregard for all that God holds as lovely and worthy of dignity and purpose.
Part of our calling as baptized men and women is to first of all notice what in the world is wrong, to actually wake up and take notice of the injustices, the degradation, the neglect and abandonment and heartless disregard.
And what comes next? Our next vocational step is to expose our own hearts to what breaks the heart of God. This is not easy work. Each night, before I turn out the light, I enter into prayer and earnestly intercede for all those who will die this night and in the coming day—especially those who will die through torture, through abuse, through neglect or outright negligence, those who will die through profound discouragement, or through violence of any sort.
And while I turn out the light when I’ve completed that prayer, I know that vocationally this is not the end of my work. Pentecost reminds me that I am anointed and gifted for a purpose: to take action, yes. But preceding any action is the need to understand, to really understand, that I am anointed and gifted to actually insert myself in this world in the place of Jesus himself.
The Ascension was real; Jesus the risen Lord has physically left this world. And Pentecost is real. The Holy Spirit truly has been given to us, for a purpose. Not surprisingly, that purpose is precisely the twofold mission of the Church: to enable every person on the face of the earth to encounter Jesus the risen Lord, and to transform every dimension of society through the power that flows from Jesus’ resurrection.
Are you wondering what your vocation is? It’s not the safe and predictable work you imagine you will do for the rest of your life. It is the work you will do at that frontier edge of your life, at that place where you have not yet gone but where the Holy Spirit is waiting to engage you.
Solar flares are coming. But the Holy Spirit already is here, that vital force of God’s life within us, already at work, already moving us to that edge where our twenty-first century world encounters redemption.
Copyright 2012 Mary Sharon Moore, M.T.S.