May The Spirit of the Lord rest on you—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and awe of God
— Isaiah 11:2
We know we are related to each other by God, and seek ways to discover our connections in life. Genealogy is about connection across time. There is also connection across space. A popular parlor game called “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon” is based on the notion that any two people on earth may be connected by no more than six other people. In the game, you name someone in a movie with actor Kevin Bacon. Then someone who was in another movie with that second person. Then someone connected by a third movie to that person, or maybe a TV show, or perhaps who went to school with them (you are now “three degrees” out from where you began). And then someone who knew someone from that school, until you reach your neighbor who knew the principal there, or maybe their dentist, and voila! You are within “six degrees of Kevin Bacon.”
For example, I was once at a workshop on “God and Creativity” where someone wrote a book which Kevin Bacon’s wife later optioned for a movie, which makes me four degrees removed from KB (myself to the author, the author to KB’s wife, his wife to Kevin). And you know me through church, so congratulations, you are five degrees removed from KB! Didn’t know you were almost famous, did you. (And anyone who knows you is six degrees from KB!)
I mention this thinking of Pentecost this month (Acts 2), and the many ways the Spirit connects us. We sometimes think of church as being the place from which spirituality emanates. But it is into the world that the Spirit sends us, and so in the world that we should expect to recognize links of the Spirit as well. Church may be where we share awareness of our connection in God. But here nor anywhere can we limit God’s Spirit.
So, the school’s recent Community Clean-up day brought some familiar faces to the church grounds. Some you will know from being raised in our pews – Confirmation class members Libby (pictured) and Zoe (not) were here. Colton (also pictured) is Sarah’s brother – you know her especially from kid’s time, of course, and Sunday School too. Her grandfather was Poof. Great storyteller and local historian. Also learning to call out hymns up front during hymn-sing these days is Lucy, who comes in with Brian and Deb – who added the Easter Lilies to Martha’s marvelous silk arrangements. In the picture too is a young man taller than when he made his first hike up at Horton Center on Pine Mountain with us for Vacation Bible School a couple of years back. And yes, that is our dog Maya, already being optioned for play with others new to our church family.
All of these connections – some simple and obvious, others deeper and less well known – are given us in life and in God. Some we know easily and some we may never realize. Some may be made manifest here and others elsewhere. Some we learn of from a picture, and some we learn of helping with Sunday School. Some we deepen in a conversation shared because we spent time together in God’s garden. Some we further by our giving that helps a church continue its witness of God’s welcome and Christ’s love. There’s simply no containing God.
The connections we see, as well as those we do not, are given in God and given in life. We miss things hurrying on the way to something seemingly more important. We push to the front seeking something profound for ourselves. We drive past the garden and do not see the bud in bloom, the branches growing yet before us. Is this not God’s gift too? Is this not a pearl of great price? (Matthew 13)
There are six degrees of separation of any one of us from any other of God’s human beings, it seems. Seven gifts of the Spirit given to guide us (Isaiah 11:2). Seventy tongues of the spirit given expression on Pentecost. Gifts of the Spirit everywhere. And sometimes we even see them. Thanks be to God.
Pastor Bill Jones
The Gorham Congregational Church
United Church of Christ