Sunday, May 23, 2010

Celebrating the Day of Pentecost at St. Dimitri

Posted: 23 May 2010
Updated:  29 May 2010

At St. Dimitri Sunday morning (May 23), Fr. John Hennies, now in his new role as occasional visiting priest, gave a stirring sermon about the meaning and power of the Holy Spirit suddenly coming upon and changing believers gathered from many countries over 2000 years ago. "The Holy Spirit comes and goes where It wills", Fr. John reiterated, "and is not bound by the limitations of man-made religious institutions." Continuing this theme he declared that this same influence continues to this day with "All of us here today are called by the Holy Spirit to our own unique ministry."

He then illustrated how the Holy Spirit manifested in his Episcopal parish decades ago when he served in South Dakota. A small blond girl foster child once came to his parish brought by her Indian mother and became a disruptive presence. She would make obtrusive sounds at inappropriate times during the sermon, which would irritate the congregation and embarrass the mother. When the mother expressed her dismay about the child's behavior to the priest and offered to stay away from then on, Fr. John expressly declared that by no means should the child be deprived of experiencing their church community. "All are welcome here", he exclaimed, "and the child is an important part of our community."

These are Fr. John's gifts, I thought to myself and then expressed later to him--the gifts of SEEING and ACCEPTANCE!

In subsequent years this foster child blossomed into a gifted teacher on the Lakota Indian reservation, where her students have won tribal and state awards for their creativity. To see the spiritual essence of another is a gift of the spirit, which Fr. John and his now mature former Lakota parishioner so beautifully exemplify.

I, too, have been richly blessed by these gifts, which originally inspired this very blog tree. And it continues. At the moment of celebrating the Eucharist this morning as I approached the Chalice, Fr. John quietly and with a smile addressed me by my Orthodox name and added what he has been saying in recent weeks: "Arseny Pavel, Singer of Israel, receive the body of Christ." It floods me with pleasure and gratitude every time I reflect on that event and those words.

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