sounds of Pentecost
His name was Patricio
Reyes. When I was growing up in the early ’60s there were
many Hispanic men like Brother Pat in my church. Brown faces,
gracefully aging, stoic though kind, quiet yet friendly, and each
permanently married to happy, perfume-scented, frozen-haired,
abundantly dressed women. These men worked hard and outdoors mostly
and they took the day of rest as seriously as they took the six
Brother Pat died in
1998 after a tough battle with disease, but he taught me profound
theological truths without uttering a doctrinal word to me. I
think of him fondly when our church celebrates Pentecost Sunday.
Nobody celebrated like Brother Pat. He marvelously introduced
this third-generation, Assemblies of God pastor to “the
sounds of Pentecost.”
The Sunday night worship
service was conducted in Spanish at Tabernaculo de Fe Asamblea
de Dios in South El Monte, Calif. The songs were loud and lively;
the piano and tambourines competed with the passionate voices
of men and women. The small church reverberated with a pulsating
rhythm that had to resemble Sunday night in first-century Jerusalem.
And then there was
I was accustomed to
seeing Brother Pat at his regular aisle seat at the middle of
the church, and this Pentecost Sunday there he was, standing and
worshiping. Then it happened. Here was this quiet, even shy, man
with his neatly pressed collared shirt and slacks and laundered
powder-blue cotton wind-breaker, laughing at the top of his lungs.
Laughing! I mean howling in a voice that sounded like nothing
I had ever heard before in church. Head back, mouth wide open,
eyes closed, laughing hysterically, not unlike the carnival joker
at the entrance to the funhouse.
An energy I can’t
describe came over the church. It was strange yet somehow normal.
The adults didn’t react like I’d known them to when
there was a disruption during the service. Not even Brother Paul,
that strict, scowling hawk of a deacon, dispatched himself to
quiet Brother Pat. I stared in bewildered admiration. While still
spilling his high-pitched laugh over the church, Brother Pat began
to move and shake.
His keys and pocket
change made wonderfully playful and rhythmic sounds, the sounds
of Pentecost. He pirouetted somehow in the small space between
pews, eyes shut tight, laughing joyfully, bouncing up and down
frenetically, gently bumping the pews he was between before moving
out into the aisle, his pocket-maracas still keeping loud, rhythmic
pace. Without the impediment of the pews he began moving toward
the front of the church. Then he moved backwards toward the exit,
laughing all the way. He repeated his route several times, back
A simple glance at
the radiantly bemused faces of my worshiping parents, their hands
floating in ethereal wonderment, indelibly validated what Pentecostals
have come to describe as a normative Holy Spirit experience. At
9, I was incurably set to argue the validity of the baptism in
the Holy Spirit and the signs that follow. Over the years Brother
Pat would continue his lovely signs and sounds deep into my teens.
I miss those sounds and I miss Brother Pat.
What a wonderful heritage
we have as Pentecostals and what lovely sounds come from that
time in my life, the sounds of laughter in church, keys and pocket
change making a wonderful and ecstatic chorus of praise to the
One who promised us power from on high. Striving as a pastor to
be more relevant in the postmodern world, I also know that I need
more Spirit-anointed sounds in my life. Give me that old-time
religion and bring on the sounds of Pentecost.