The Day the Holy Spirit Came to Church, by Rev. Debra Juarez

The day the Holy Spirit came to church

Acts 2, word image created at http://www.tagxedo.com

It wasn’t Pentecost the day the Holy Spirit came to my church. There was no sound like the rush of a violent wind. Divided tongues of fire did not appear among us or rest on our heads. That day the Holy Spirit was ushered in with peals of laughter; the kind of laughter so strong it buckles your knees and makes you feel weak. The kind of crazy laughter that causes those around to smile or shake their heads, wondering what is so very funny.

The source of the hilarity was my son Drew, thirteen at the time, who at that age was often filled with giggles and gut-busting glee. Drew was to be baptized that morning and while I’ve seen tears on both young and old at baptisms, the laughter was something new.

Not new for Drew, though. I’d often find him laughing alone in his room and I wondered just what he found so funny. You see, Drew has cerebral palsy and has never had the ability to tell us in words what he feels. At age thirteen, he was recovering from an infection that led to a coma which caused brain damage, leaving him to learn everything all over again – from walking to swallowing. He even had to learn to laugh again.

And that laughter filled the church. Part of the reason for his mood was the short flight of stairs leading up to the chancel area of the church. Walking was still difficult for Drew. Two years of physical therapy had helped him walk with assistance, but he’ll never run like he used to. Stairs were a particular challenge for him and for some reason the effort to climb slowly up each step made him laugh. Loudly.

So Drew and I climbed the five or six steps together and with each step he became more excited. We’d stop and let him get his balance, calm down a bit, then try the next step. When we reached the top he laughed and yelled and was having a great time. As his mother, I was not. I wondered how I’d ever quiet him for this serious sacrament of our church. Would this continue through the whole service?

We stood together, along with his grandparents, at the top of the stairs with 100 plus people watching from all directions. It was a joyous occasion and Drew was certainly joyful! I tried to settle him down with a whispered, “Shush,” and a pat on the hand. Neither helped. I hugged him lightly. Drew moved past laughter and onto yelling. I doubted I’d ever get him calmed down. Turned out, though, calming him wasn’t up to me.

The minister began, “Brothers and sisters in Christ: Through the sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.” In that moment, Drew quieted. His body and his voice stilled and he looked up into the minister’s face as if he heard and understood every word being said. The change was almost instantaneous. The sanctuary was still and all eyes were on Drew.

I can only explain what happened as the action of the Holy Spirit. Again, no mighty wind, no tongues of flame, only the quiet overcoming of a child of God by God’s Spirit. I don’t remember details of the rest of the baptism. Water was placed on his head, I’m sure, and there were probably tears in my eyes. I heard later that the choir was passing a box of tissues back and forth down their pews – I wasn’t the only one witness to the holy in that moment.

The day the Holy Spirit came to church

Drew Lathrop, Rev. Debra’s son, taken Christmas 2014

This wasn’t the first instance of Drew’s special connection to God and wouldn’t be the last. I’ve learned much about God from my son. It did, however, change how I am present during baptisms and confirmations and even ordinations. I look expectantly for the presence of the Holy Spirit, knowing it is moving among us in these holy moments even if we can’t always see evidence.

What might it be like to be enveloped by God’s Spirit in the way that Drew was that day? To hear clearly and know it to be true that we are indeed God’s beloved child? To be truly present in Christ? To let go of the world around us, even if only for a moment, and dwell in the heart of God.

Pentecost is coming. Holy miracles are moving all around us. May you be filled with the Spirit in a way that changes not only your life but the lives of those around you.

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