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Spring syrup

by davesandel on May 23rd, 2021

Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021                   (today’s lectionary)

Spring syrup

They were all in one place together and from the sky came a noise, like a strong driving wind. It filled the house, and tongues of fire parted and rested on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

Frederick Buechner, who grew up as an indifferent Unitarian, eventually attended the Union Theological Seminary and ordained as a Presbyterian “evangelist,” mostly wrote stories, and still does. He’s 95 years old this year, and he says that upon further examination, the smallest moments become the most important in weaving together the story of God with the story of me.

Taking a moment to remember, I think of the moment in high school that turned my heart warm and then cold, and then warm again, that I wrote about, that I have never forgotten.

Now on this Sunday when tongues of flame heated up the world fifty days after Jesus’ death and resurrection with a fire that has never gone out, I’d like to tell the story again.

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

It was a dark and stormy night (of course), months before the 1956 Chevy my dad found for me refused to go any direction but reverse. Nancy and I rode thirty minutes up Route 66 to Funks Grove, a tiny forest preserved in the cornfed prairie. The rain stopped and we walked down a path into to a woodsy chapel with log pews and  hollowed out trunk for a pulpit. The sky reached down to us through this break in the maple trees, and we sat together. We were in love.

If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

We were interrupted. A heavy man with a heavy coat carried a heavy shotgun and walked into the clearing. What are you doing here? You can’t be here at this time of night. This place is closed! Go away. Leave. Don’t come back till morning. Don’t come back at all! He pointed the gun at us, and so we left.

Call that a caretaker? Who took his job with us seriously, but wasn’t listening? I was sure God was clenching his fist. We didn’t say anything, we were scared. Nancy stood behind me, and I didn’t say a word. All our hearts were beating fast. In the sudden silence I heard everyone’s breath. Probably he had his coat on over his pajamas, but he took his gun and shoved it in the direction of our car. Go!

The rain came again soon after that. I rolled down my window and wanted to get wet. Nancy was crying. My heart was angry and cold and bursting and broken as we drove back to Nancy’s house in Lincoln on Pulaski Street. We sat outside for awhile in the car, windows rolled up now, not talking or kissing or anything.

In the evening when the doors were locked, Jesus came and said, “Peace be with you.” He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

“Well.” We walked to the lighted stoop on the front of her house. She held my hand. “He’s probably not such an awful man,” she said. And she kissed me, and then in the moments before midnight I drove home.

No, I suppose he was not such an awful man. And anyway, he only thought he was in charge, just the same as me. Even in our late-night confrontation, which seemed so important at the time, the maple trees dropped their sap all night.

I am sure that the man in his heavy coat collected it the next day and boiled it into the maple syrup Funks Grove is still famous for.

(Acts 2, Psalm 104, 1 Corinthians 12, Veni Sancte Spiritus, John 20, John 15)

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