When I was in ministry in the parish, Pentecost seemed to be a big Bold Celebration…broad swatches of red, images of fire, forceful kettledrums and swelling organ sounds. If we were fortunate, members of the congregation who had a mastery of another language would read Scripture in another tongue, intimating, if not imitating what the first Pentecost sounded like.
This year, however, as a person in the pew, someone whose role in the Church and whose way forward is not completely clear, I felt more like one of the gathered disciples in the room, praying, wondering, managing fear, and I wasn’t quite sure I would be glad if indeed I suddenly did find myself crowned with a tongue of fire. My own interior did not feel very flammable, and even though there were kettle drums and chimes, and a favorite passage read in nine different languages, I felt unable to join the band. Until I stopped paying attention to the Big and the Bold, and to watch for the Spirit in the littles! Rather than looking to a swiftly descending dove or a bright red, orange and yellow conflagration, I began to be aware of the embers of the Sacred Fire, the Holy Spirit, planted in me by the Risen Christ, continuously setting off sparks of energy, imagination and love, and companioning me through the darkness of solitude, of anxiety, of bafflement and of despair for the world.
The Holy Spirit was virtually left out of my early curriculum in the Church, but as an adult learner I have encountered Her Presence in Scripture, in creation, and in the lives of those in the world who are on a journey of Spirit with tenacious power. And so, I was able, with my lens re-focused, to see in that Pentecost worship last Sunday the embers of Spirit Presence in small but important ways: familiar words of an old hymn provoke a memory of aha moments when I trusted that the Spirit was my friend; imagining the stories of the nine readers of Scripture, pondering the way they had been Spirit-led to be in this place on this Sunday; the particular syntax and subjects of the pastoral prayer that carried so much of my own concerns; the gentle inclusiveness of the preached word; the quiet offerings of grace as the plate was passed–all sparks of Spirit, not incendiary on the surface or always feel like something to write home about, but leaving me with renewed love for the Mystery of the Holy and for the people who chose to celebrate together that morning, and with hope for this tattered world which invites and needs those hot coals of Grace that the Spirit keeps aglow.
Home alone i am aware that those embers of Spirit are always glowing in me, and that as one person in the Church I live out Pentecost in my daily meandering–wrangling the dog, reaching out to friends and neighbors, watering my garden, writing a letter of care, reading new thoughts that challenge me, sharing my good and heart with those who suffer, sit in a committee meeting–the spark of Spirit is passed along, and the power of the Spirit is let loose in the world. It only takes a spark–of Spirit! from the embers that rest in my heart.