Monday, May 17, 2021

The Art of Pentecost: A Reflection

The descending Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles


Simon Haider, Descent of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit descends on Mary and the Apostles

This wood relief sculpture, courtesy of Vanderbilt University, portrays Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, the Sunday that celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. The story of Acts 1-2 describes what it means when the power from on high rests on the followers of Jesus. Mere disciples become apostles. They are sent out, to Jerusalem and beyond, to proclaim the good news of repentance and forgiveness.

The sculpture of the gathered disciples is a lesson that Pentecost is continuing. It is a picture of the church at prayer. To pray is to wait on God the Holy Spirit. God, who renews the face of the earth, is also the One who refreshes, remakes, and redirects God's people.


Pentecost cannot be a one time event heard once a year, like a textbook on ancient Egypt. That kind of reading can lead churches to reenactments of Pentecost, complete with readings in many languages, or dressing in red, the liturgical color signaling the Holy Spirit. Interesting, however, not much use when I'm too tired, bored, sick, depressed or disillusioned to pray.  To be sustained in a long and searching journey, I don't need more spectacle. I need to renew my strength from a Pentecost that shatters the walls I have constructed and the limits I have imposed on God, myself, and others. One that is over-abundantly supplied by the Lord, the Giver of Life. 

What remains for us because of Pentecost? How can it be that redirection comes as I wait on the Spirit in prayer. For me, waiting is listening, remembering the words of Jesus, quieting my mind, noticing small insights, blessing others as they come to mind. Continuing to forgive myself and others. I find endurance by asking God for it.  God, lead me to what is enduring and sustainable. What is a waste of time? What are things I need to wait out? Or act on? 

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