What THEY’RE Having

Santuario de Chimayo, Chimayo, New Mexico, William Aranda (WikiMedia Commons)

Santuario de Chimayo, Chimayo, New Mexico, William Aranda (WikiMedia Commons)

While in New Mexico this summer my friends Lauren and Amy and I drove into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to attend Mass at the historic Santuario de Chimayó.

It was Pentecost Sunday. The small chapel was filled to capacity and hot as an oven, so we stood near the door where at least a hint of a breeze was stirring. The priest read from Acts Two, the part about the Spirit blowing life and courage into that first gathering of believers. Then from John Twenty, where Jesus breathed on his friends and said, Receive the Holy Spirit.

After Mass we went for lunch at the nearby Rancho de Chimayó, a restored century-old adobe home with a garden terrace. As we waited for our names to be called, a party of six older Hispanic adults walked in. Lauren, Amy, and I halted our conversation in mid-sentence as we watched them walk past. All six were wearing something red. A Pentecost parade!

A tall man in a hat wore a skinny red tie with his white Oxford shirt. One woman was wearing red everything—pants, skirt, shoes, socks. But best of all was the seventy-ish woman wearing a long, red satin cape, like Superwoman, trimmed in white lace all the way around. On the back of the cape was a large golden dove with the word Come stitched beneath.

What_Theyre_Having_smI was thrilled when we wound up seated next to their table. Trying hard not to stare, I couldn’t help but watch them throughout the meal. They talked and ate with such joy. They lifted glasses of sangria into the air with a hearty toast to the Lord: “Thanks be to God!” And oh, man, they laughed. Not restrained giggles. Not tempered chuckles. I’m talking deep-from-the-gut laughter that shook the water glasses and had all of them wiping their eyes.

When their food came they all joined hands while the man in the skinny red tie offered a passionate prayer, calling on Holy Spirit to “hold us and guide us,” upon which they all bellowed Amen! Everyone sitting near them in the restaurant seemed blessed by the overflow and maybe even a little wistful, in a When Harry Met Sally way: “We’ll have what they’re having!”

These dear Catholics took themselves lightly precisely because they took Holy Spirit so seriously.

There’s something marvelous and mysterious about the presence of the Spirit in a church. As Jesus observed to Nicodemus (John 3), we can no more explain the work of the Spirit than we can pin down a breeze. But we’ll know the Wind is blowing when leaves in the trees—and even friends around a table—are shaking with something like joy.


Julie Pennington-Russell_smJulie Pennington-Russell has served as the pastor of First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia, since August of 2007. Julie previously served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, California. She earned a B.A. from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, and M.Div. from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Religion Department at Carson-Newman University and has been a trustee for Mercer University. Her sermons have been featured on the television broadcast 30 Good Minutes, Day-1 Radio, and the Festival of Homiletics. Julie is married to Tim Pennington-Russell, a website designer and sometimes poet and bass player. They have two young adult children, Taylor and Lucy. Julie blogs at juliepenningtonrussell.com.

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  1. It was 3-ish in the morning, and I awoke fretting over an article I had read on Facebook.i began to pray to the Father through my Jesus to help me know what to do…if I should do something to work on this. I open up ky iPad to make me go back to sleep, and read your article about, I’ll Have What They Are Having. Thank you Lord God for answering my prayer.
    Re: I had read on FB that the Pope was planning on making Mother Mary the fourth Trinity. I read direct quotes from some of hi dialog in speeches/sermons, and it was scary. The article was under the heading …Rapture was Imminent, and this Pope thing was the beginning.
    Both of my children were raised in Baptist church and were saved and baptized accordingly. Both married Catholics, and both have converted, because they asked me early on how to settle this. I told them to keep their Baptist hearts, and keep their family in church together.
    After the article, I was so afraid I had steered my children and my 6 grands into a lost situation. Your article at 3-ish in the morning took away my fear and agave me the faith that my Lord God sent this to me in answer to my prayer.
    I still believe that the Baptist who choose to be saved and want and ask Christ to come into their hearts is the most beautiful of moments for a new Christian, and the heart’s desire of a Christian parent. I am going to follow your blogs, and look for your wonderful stories.
    Thank You.