From time to time I like to have the experience of a good kerfuffle. Pentecost seems just the right time. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be available all the time to motivate people, set us straight, remind us of what is important, activate our highest aspirations and enthusiasms. Pentecost not only highlights what the Holy Spirit can do. It provides many opportunities. Our world fills with new life and an environment conducive to activities of all kinds. We can work with hours of daylight. We can feel the warmth of the sun. We can enjoy the invigorating waters. All good opportunities for kerfuffling.
The Spirit brings people together and moves people to face each other and work together openly and honestly. We do not have to hide our feelings or our past failures or our present weaknesses if the Spirit of God is present to help. When we see each other as we are and recognize our need to join in animated confrontations and open exercise of our abilities we have a chance to grow. Just like siblings who must engage in horseplay and rivalries we must work through the things that bother us. Though gentleness and courtesy are always needed, the process may be neither quiet nor relaxing. It can be a kerfuffle.
O.K. Kerfuffle is a word I learned a long time ago, but, good as it is, I seldom use it. Like “googol” that became popular a few years ago when the capacity of new computer memory seemed to be reaching for infinity, or at least to 10 to the 100th power. I first saw “googol” used in Ruth and Lewis Ita’s Christmas letter twenty-four years ago, as they described the number of gingko tree seeds that had fallen onto their lawn during their autumn season. New words can be useful, and they can sound even better than anything we have now.
Worship can be solemn and meditative, thoughtful and centering, all of which are important and useful experiences. It can include one speaker, one performance, one actor, to whom everyone else pays close attention. It can be organized and ritualized to the point that we know what to expect almost every minute. But worship can also be surprising, enjoyable, unexpected, exciting, involving, and out of control– to the point that spontaneous breakthroughs of humor and participation and liveliness engage everyone’s spirits. Then we can be on the edge of a real kerfuffle.
It was a real kerfuffle on that exceptional Pentecost that followed Jesus’ crucifixion, according to the story in Acts. The noise distracted casual observers and some guessed that the kerfufflers gathered there were drunk. Perhaps that was and should remain exceptional in our life with people who may misunderstand and misinterpret what we are doing. But once in a while, shouldn’t we get carried away? Into a kerfuffle?
Lest it be artificially limited to those who consider themselves Christian, let the Sufis, the Hassids, and other people of good will join in, and we’ll have a truly universal kerfuffle.
I can’t say that it will be easy for me. Keeping myself and my emotions and impulses under control has been a major discipline of my life. But if I do not quench the Spirit, and let Spirit take control, I suppose I will create a kerfuffle with the best of them.