The Church Ought to Be Feelin' Good
#TheChurchOughtToBeFeelingGood is the podcast for June 4, 2017. Nina Simone’s rendition of “Feeling Good” is a great way to look at Pentecost. It reminds us of the empowering nature of the Holy Spirit in times when the world is beating us down. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Pentecost #NinaSimone #FeelingGood #BirthdayCakesFortheChurch #DomesticatedGod #Fire #Moses #MountSinai #Power #HolySpirit
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/4/2017 Pentecost Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read Acts of the Apostles 2:1-21.
Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when the day is done, that’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
And I’m feelin’ good!
Those words from the hit song sung by Nina Simone should be taken with seriousness by us in the Church this Pentecost and every Pentecost. [I have posted the video of Nina Simone singing this great song above the podcast at MySpiritualAdvisor.com]. Yet, most people do not know that the song itself was a protest song from a musical called “The Roar of the Greasepaint and the Smell of the Crowd”.
The musical is about the inequalities of class in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. One character called simply “The Negro”, which certainly dates the show, is the recipient of bad treatment by a lower class white man who received poor treatment from an upper class character named “Sir.” The song “Feeling Good” is the response by the character called “The Negro” to the poor treatment. It is a rejection of the intended shame.
It is appropriate that Nina Simone made this song famous, too, for the same reason. As Eunice Kathleen Waymon, her real name, she was rejected from entering as a classical artist to a music school in Philadelphia in the 1960s because she was black. Waymon responded by changing her name to Nina Simone so that her mother wouldn’t hear her singing the “Devil’s Music”. She went on to write protest songs and sing in popular clubs, especially in Greenwich Village. Yet, the one song that is most identified with Nina Simone, is the response to poor treatment and desperation given by the character called “The Negro” in “The Roar of Greasepaint”.
This Sunday we find the Apostles in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. In fact, all Jews of the Diaspora were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks following the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. If we stopped the story there, it would be abandonment. It is not the end of the story, in fact, it is just the beginning of the story. Yet, for all intents and purposes at this point, the Christians were seen as just another Jewish group that was left leaderless because the Romans did the dirty work of the Jewish authorities. There had been some hubbub that Jesus, their leader, had returned from the dead and that they were sent to await him.
There they were, sitting amongst all the other Jews when the Holy Spirit descended on them with the same rush of a mighty wind that accompanied Moses on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments (lightning not included). They were overcome by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and started doing crazy stuff. Speaking in ecstatic speech, speaking in different languages, preaching the Gospel to people in the languages of the people, and they were doing it all with new found power. It was not a display of a people who had been lost and abandoned. It was the action of a people who were renewed and given power from on high.
The people who were not of Christ looked and said, “They must be drunk.” Yet, Peter stood up and said, “Fire from the sky, you know how I feel.
Healing for the world, this is how it feels.
Mission from on high, with power for everyone.
The old world is a new world
A bold world
And I’m feeling good.
Well, not exactly that, but he did say that there was a new order where everyone would be included in spreading the Good News. That good news is that God has forgiven the sins of everyone if they just turn and accept it. There is renewal of life, no matter how we are treated. For The character called “The Negro” to Nina Simone to Christians everywhere, Pentecost is about the renewal of life, the giving of purpose, and a recognition that the Holy Spirit has descended upon us. He has given each of us gifts to make the renewal of the earth happen.
I have a confession. I am against birthday cakes on Pentecost. I know, I know. It is not popular to be against birthday cakes on Pentecost, but I am. I am because a birthday cake to celebrate the church’s birthday on Pentecost is the equivalent to a booth at the Transfiguration. A birthday cake is the domestication of a predictably wild, transformative, renewing, and powerful force called God, Father, Son, and especially the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is a reminder to us that the Holy Spirit will not be domesticated. He will go where the proper, clean, domesticated church will not go. The Holy Spirit will give life in places that National Geographic or the series The Planet Earth has never seen or been. The Holy Spirit looks into the eyes of the prostitute who is a victim of sex trafficking and says, “You are worth more to me than anything. You are mine and I love you.” The Holy Spirit looks into the heart of the person called by God that faces one trial after another and says, “They don’t understand the work I am doing through you.” The Holy Spirit goes to offices of the corporate executives, the housewives, the working mothers, the men who feel forgotten, the people who are in abusive relationships, the people in dysfunctional families, the people in good relationships, the people in families that love well, and he says, “Come, look within. I have given you a talent. I have given you a gift, a charism. Come. Let us use it for the renewal of the earth and the building up of the kingdom, here and now.” In short, the Holy Spirit IS the Lord and He is the Giver of Life and he is speaking to you.
When your back is up against the wall, when you seem leaderless, when you are treated poorly, when you are discounted, it is God who gives you five smooth stones to put in your slingshot to fire at whatever miracle it is he is about to work in you.
On this day, Pentecost Day, we wear red for fire. It is not a tiny little fire. It is a blaze. It is like one of those columns of fire from the wildfires in the American West after years and years of drought. The Holy Spirit fire starts like the beat in Nina Simone’s rendition of “Feeling Good”. Then, like Nina, the Holy Spirit fire builds within us making our body move at our desk, causing us to sing out loud right there in the kitchen, and maybe even dance in the grocery store isle. Whatever the mission is that the Holy Spirit approaches us with, it is embued with fire, power, passion, and His purpose.
We know it is from the Holy Spirit when it calls us to renew, heal, speak words of comfort, alleviate pain, sorrow, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, sickness, clothe the naked, and fight for justice for the poor. We know it is from the Holy Spirit when it calls us to sing praises, rejoice, rise up from despair, and move mountains of pain away from within to move mountains for the Lord in worship. Pentecost is the Great Fiftieth Day. It is the end of the season of Easter and the beginning of the season of fire, power, passion, and renewal. The old world is a new world, is a bold world, for you. Are you feeling good? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian